I know the words "cake tasting" sound like the making for a perfect day, but the truth is a bit fuzzier. It's not all buttercreams and smiles. First, there is very little cake present at a cake tasting; I did three tastings in four hours last weekend and I didn't get a half a piece of cake over the whole thing. What there is lots of is pictures of other people's cakes. It's like somebody printed out a corner of Pinterest for you to browse. Second of all, they're not always free. $25 gets you the same two bites of cake as the free tastes give even though you could order 4 full pieces of the same cake from the same bakery for that price. 3rd, red velvet is a lie. It's just chocolate cake with red food coloring.
You also won't be tasting what you're actually buying. Everybody lets you sample little plugs of cake which don't give you a very good idea of how dry your actual cake will be, aren't in the same ratio of cake to filling (which is so crucial), and don't come with the gelatin-and-sugar-paste covering that you might be encouraged to cover your cake in that will cost you an extra $300 and your guests will pull off and throw away.
And let's talk price. $500 seems like a ton of money for a cake, but what is cake for 100 supposed to cost? I have no idea. It retails for $5 or $6/slice in most bakeries, so that's not a crazy amount of money. That's the whole game of the wedding business; how are you supposed to budget for things that you couldn't possibly have a cost reference for? Quick, name a fair price for renting chair covers. The only things I've ever rented before are an apartment and an economy car. I have no frame of reference for rentals.
But back to cake. We tasted three price ranges in a row, $300, $600, and $900. Maybe I should have seen this coming, but the prices didn't seem to correlate to... anything. Some people are very concerned with taste, but the more money you spend the less that matters. $300 will feed 100 people a great cake. $600 will get you more interesting flavors and fancier design but it's still mostly butter and sugar. $1,000 will get you the most beautiful cardboard you've ever eaten.
The more the cake costs, the less is included, too. A $300 cake comes with delivery, but a $900 cake doesn't. That's $50. A $600 cake will also cost $25 to rent a cake stand (what's the cake stand market like these days? Should I rent or buy?). If you provide your own flowers, the top two will still charge you $25 to stick them on the cake, a service the $300 bakery is happy to provide for the reasonable price of free.
Clearly $300 seems like a better deal. I love good design and artistry, but I love $900 even more. And if for some reason the cake isn't great, the guests will just have to console themselves with really comfortable chair covers.