If your celebration calls for cake, you'll save a bundle if you make it yourself. Store-bought cakes are expensive, and they don't usually taste better than cakes made at home from scratch or from a mix. What you're really paying for is fancy decorations. Pastry bags and special frosting tips -- often sold right beside the cake mixes in the grocery store -- make it easy to add frills and a personal message to your cake.
To get gourmet taste from your homemade layer cake, spread lemon curd or raspberry preserves -- instead of frosting -- between the layers. Frost the top and sides as usual.
If you're feeding a large crowd, skip the stacks and make a sheet cake. It's easier to decorate, and you'll be able to get more servings out it than a layered cake.