I really like cakes with a lot of texture, like the popular ruffle cakes and rose cakes. I don't know how to make ruffles (and I hear they're fondant), but I have made a rose or two from buttercream icing before!
Googling led me to this tutorial by I Am Baker on how to make a rose cake.
It's pretty simple! Make some cakes, stack them up with buttercream layers, frost a base layer, frost some roses!
I spent about $10 on two boxes of cake mix, fresh eggs, and two 2-pound bags of powdered sugar. Being a diligent Southern baker, I already had the crisco. I found the cute cake stand for $25 at TJ Maxx.
I made the first box of mix according to directions, and made two 8" round cakes. To the second box I added several drops of red food coloring so I'd have some pretty pink layers inside my cake. It took about an hour and a half to mix and bake the cakes. I let them cool overnight (this is important! I tried remove the first one from the pan, still warm, and it was a disaster! I glued it back together with frosting...)
The next night, I made up the buttercream frosting recipe from the link above. It sets up nice and sticks well, preventing massive frosting failures on the sides of the cake. I highly recommend it!
I put a layer of buttercream between each cake layer, and alternated the pink and white cakes. Then I coated the entire cake with a base of frosting. This helps cover up all the cake, preventing pieces from getting into the "good frosting". I didn't bother making it very smooth, since the roses should cover up most inconsistencies.
Then I set to work making the roses. You need a 1mm star tip for making roses. To make a rose, you start in the middle and swirl your tip around, making a rose shape. I started in the middle and worked my way around the top, then did the sides. If there were any blank spaces, I filled them in with lines of frosting along the same arcs as the roses. I kind of winged it on this cake, but would be more exacting on wedding day.
The frosting (including layers, base, and roses) took about an hour to complete.
All in all, about $10 and 2.5 hours of labor for a cake that should feed 25-30 guests. Sure beats $200!!!