How Many People Will Your Cake Serve?

Wedding cake
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Cakes come in many sizes, shapes, and configurations. That can make it tricky to know what cake design is appropriate for the number of guests you expect for an event. Fortunately, you can get a general idea of how many portions you can cut from standard cake sizes, whether it's a sheet cake or a tiered wedding cake.

Cake Size, Shape, and Type

Round, square, and heart-shaped cakes each produce different numbers of portions. A square cake will yield more portions than a round or heart-shaped cake. Unusual shapes—octagonal or hexagonal cakes, for example—yield a similar number of portions as their square counterparts.

While sponge cakes are most popular and pretty standard for events, the type of cake will also determine the number of portions you can cut from it. For example, traditional fruit cake is firm and can be precisely cut into very small pieces. On the other hand, an ice cream cake often begins to melt before it’s completely served, so you'll likely want to have more on hand.

Portions for Sheet Cakes

When you choose a sponge cake, you can use the size of the cake to determine the average number of pieces to expect from a single layer. The chart offers an approximate portion based on slices that are cut 2 inches long by 1 inch wide.

Approximate Portions for Single-Layer Cake
Cake Size Round Sponge Square Sponge Heart Shaped
5-inch 8 8 6
6-inch 11 18 12
7-inch 15 24 16
8-inch 20 32 24
9-inch 27 35 28
10-inch 38 50 30
11-inch 45 56 35
12-inch 56 72 40
14-inch 64 98 45

Tiered Wedding Cakes

Most ceremonial wedding cakes are made with two or more layers of cake, with icing between each layer. Slices are typically 4 inches high and 2 inches long by 1 inch wide. When estimating the size of a wedding cake, assume the serving size will be at least that big and then figure out how many are needed for the guest count. Always add extra servings because you may end up inviting more guests than you initially planned for or people may want second helpings.

Additionally, consider whether the portions are meant to be a dessert or the cake-cutting is more ceremonial in nature: Dessert portions should be bigger than the traditional 2-inch by 1-inch piece of cake.

Cutting different tiers of a cake to get the correct number of portions can be confusing, especially with round or heart-shaped creations. Before the reception or event, create a plan for how the cake should be cut to avoid running out or having too much cake leftover. Exclude the top tier from your calculations because you may choose to remove it and keep it for the couple's first anniversary.

Professional cake decorators use a specific cutting method to ensure neat, uniform pieces, depending on the cake's shape:

Round Cakes

  1. Remove the top tier if it's meant to be kept.
  2. Cut a smooth, evenly spaced circle about 2 inches in from the second tier's outer edge.
  3. Cut the ring into slices that are about 1 inch across.
  4. Cut another circle 2 inches farther in and slice that ring into 1-inch pieces.
  5. Continue this process until you have only a small circle of cake left in the center. Cut the core into pieces that measure approximately 1 inch along the outer edge.
  6. Remove the cake board and dowels and repeat this process with the next tiers until all the cake is cut.
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Square Cakes

  1. Remove the top tier if you're keeping it.
  2. Cut the second tier straight across, approximately 2 inches in from the outer edge of the cake.
  3. Slice the 2-inch strip into 1-inch pieces.
  4. Continue cutting 2-inch wide strips and cutting those strips into slices that are 1 inch across until the cake is completely cut.
  5. Remove the cake board and dowels and repeat this process with the next tiers until every tier is cut.

Portions for Tiered Cakes

Using those cutting methods, you can estimate how many pieces of cake your tiered creation will produce. The chart can help you determine what size to make your cake based on the number and size of your tiers. When planning a tiered cake design, make sure your smallest base size is a minimum of 10 inches. Otherwise, the cake will not be stable or proportionate.

Approximate Portions for Tiered Cake
Cake Sizes Round Sponge Square Sponge Heart Shaped
6-, 10-inch 49 68 42
8-, 12-inch 76 104 64
6-, 8-, 10-inch 69 100 66
6-, 9-, 12-inch 94 125  
8-, 10-, 12-inch 114 154 94
6-, 8-, 10-, 12-inch 125 172  
8-, 10-, 12-, 14-inch 178 252  
6-, 8-, 10-, 12-, 14-inch 189 270  

Opt for Cupcakes

Sometimes, no matter how carefully you plan, you end up with either too few slices or too much cake. To be perfectly accurate with portions for an event, a good backup plan is to serve cupcakes instead of cake. Cupcakes can be configured into an elegant configuration on stands and you can bake only the number of cupcakes you need for each guest. No cutting or math required! Of course, you'll want to make a few extras for those who want seconds.