Gone are the days where every couple intends to have a three tier wedding cake, and thank goodness for that as life would be so boring if we all made the same choices. That’s not to say that three tier wedding cakes are out; far from it. It’s just that the choice is up to you and there aren’t any rules on how many tiers your wedding cake should have.

Understanding Tiers and Layers

In case you are reading this and thinking to yourself ‘but what exactly is a tier?’, here is a brief explanation…

A tier is a single level within a structure of cake. You can have one or many tiers (levels) of cake in an individual cake structure. Multiple tiers are usually stacked on top of one another, and usually decrease in size with each upward level.

Each and any tier of cake can contain multiple layers of cake and filling. This is an important point to remember as it can lead to some confusion — a tier is not the same as a layer. A two tier cake, for example, could consist of a total of six layers of cake and four layers of filling, divided between the two tiers.

Layers of Wedding Cake

So, back to the question of how many tiers a wedding cake ‘should’ have? Well, as I’ve already said, there are no hard and fast rules — this is your wedding so you get to decide. However, there are some practical and aesthetical considerations that might help you decide…

How Many Portions of Cake Do You Need?

An obvious practicality when thinking about the number of wedding cake tiers you should have is the number of portions you need. If you are having a very intimate wedding with only twelve guests you probably aren’t going to want (and you certainly won’t need) a seven tier extravaganza. On the flip side, if you are inviting three hundred friends and family, and their plus ones, then a small single tier isn’t going to stretch very far. Likewise, if you are serving your wedding cake for dessert and want guests to be able to help themselves to seconds then you might need to allow more portions than if you are serving your cake after a ten course banquet.

Needing a multiple tier cake for a large wedding and a single tier for a small wedding isn’t necessarily a definitive choice though. Many cake designers offer a variety of options to ensure you have the correct number of portions whilst still having the number of tiers you desire.

Lavender and Cool Grass Two Tier Cake

For example, if you appreciate quality but you’re working to a tighter budget, you might choose to invest in a professionally designed smaller cake but then have a ‘cutting cake’ for additional portions. A cutting cake is a minimally decorated (if at all), basic cake. It isn’t displayed for guests to see, merely cut up ready to provide extra portions. A cutting cake is usually less of an investment than a beautifully decorated tiered cake as it requires less time for the cake artist.

It’s also worth noting that a large single tier (12 inch, for example) will provide more portions than a small two tier cake (e.g. a 4 and 6 inch). This is where a professional cake designer can offer help. They can guide you through the different options to find the best choice for you and your wedding.

How Many Portions Does a Cake Tier Provide?

Now you’ve worked out how many portions you think you need (or at least made some rough notes and arranged to speak to your professional cake designer for advice), you’re probably wondering how many portions you can get from each tier.

Unfortunately there is no definitive answer as there are many variants. These include how accurately sized the cake is, how careful and precise a person cuts the cake, and whether you want to serve any iced edges.

Modern Silver and Lilac Multi-Tiered Wedding Cake

Wedding Cake Size Guide

Each cake designer will have slightly different numbers they work to, depending on their preferred method of calculation, but below is a rough guide for a few wedding cake sizes using the figures I work to…

  • A small single tier wedding cake (6 inch round) will give you approximately 16-24 portions
  • A large single tier wedding cake (10 inch round) will give you approximately 60-68 portions
  • A small round two tier wedding cake (4 and 6 inch) gives approximately 20-36 portions
  • A small square two tier wedding cake (still 4 and 6 inch) gives approximately 20-52 portions
  • A medium three tier wedding cake (6, 8, 10 inch round) will give approximately 108-136 portions
  • A round five tier wedding cake (4, 6, 8, 10, 12 inch) will give approximately 200-260 portions

*Note: all figures are for 1 x 1 inch finger portions. 2 x 1 inch dessert size portions would yield a lot less.

Consider Your Venue Choice

A practical and aesthetical point to consider is your venue. More specifically, your venue’s space and style.

If your venue is very grand, with high ceilings, and plenty of space, then a small single tiered cake will likely get lost in the room. However, a multiple-tiered cake (four or five tiers) could look as impressive as the venue and make the perfect statement.

Ivory and Gold Luxury Multi-Tier Wedding Cake

On the other hand, a small two tier wedding cake might be the best feature in a more modestly sized and less formal space such as a private-hire room in a blank canvas venue, where a larger cake might overpower the room and feel a little inappropriate.

Your Personality Can Play a Part

Perhaps less obvious, but your personality might influence your choice when it comes to the number of wedding cake tiers you choose…

In the same way the style of venue can play a part in your decision, so can your own personal style. A very romantic and style-focused couple might want to add a touch of tradition to their day with a multiple-tiered wedding cake, and the design then bringing out further elements of their personality whether that be artistic, nature-inspired etc. Or, if you are a more creative and modern couple, you may prefer doing something a bit different and choose more than one cake structure.

Three Wedding Cakes with Varying Tiers on Table

Multiple cakes are a wonderful way to go for a modern and style-focused personality. There are so many possibilities. You could choose a three tier, a two tier, and a single tier triptych — all designed to look amazing together and displayed on a single cake table. You could even go for five individual, three tiered cakes standing side by side making a statement.

Remember, There Are No Rules

As I keep saying — this is your day. The number of tiers you choose for your wedding cake should be up to you. Deciding how many portions you want/need is likely to be the most impactful consideration, but it shouldn’t be a limitation. A professional cake designer can guide you and give you more advice, but ultimately the sky (or just four inches, if you only want a single tiered cake) is your limit!

Guest post by Kerri Channell of Brambleolai

Images from…

Cake Layers: MonAnnie Cakes, Image by Maxeen Kim Photography

Lavender and Cool Grass Cake: Brambleolai

Modern Silver and Lilac Cake: Sugared Saffron

Luxury Ivory and Gold Cake: Cakes by Krishanthi, Image by Pippa Mackenzie Photography

Cake Table: MonAnnie Cakes, Image by Stuart Wood