The wonderful world of wedding cake toppers

Published date: 23rd January 2019

They’re one step above being the icing on the cake, but who’d have thought cake toppers could be so weirdly fascinating? The world – the wonderful world – of cake toppers has moved on more than a little from the one-size-fits-all bride in white dress and groom in wedding suit models of yesteryear. They may not be the most important item in your wedding planner (they’re not), but it’s a detail that for good or ill may live in the collective memory of your big day, and even become a family heirloom.

Nobody is really sure when the custom started. There’s a story that a baker made some to meet his daughter’s request for something new for her cake when she wed, but that may be a myth. Some say it was the 1890s, others that they’re 20th century, but if we broaden our definition they go back much further – take Queen Victoria for example, atop whose cake (14 inches high, but nine feet across and weighing 300lb – that’s 136kg) were roses and an ice sculpture of Britannia.

Plenty of vintage models have survived, the 1940s and 1950s for some reason yielding particularly marvellous examples. Specialist dealers offer some absolute doozies – glass sculptures, porcelain, figures in a glass, kewpie dolls, wooden figures, grooms in wartime uniform with veiled brides… No wonder that some people collect them. We’ve heard stories of grandmothers handing the toppers from their cakes on to favoured grandkids, and if you have that option it seems nice to say yes – unless the topper is hideous.

But if you aren’t lucky with an heirloom, you won’t be lacking choice. Before considering some of the interesting ones, it’s time for a touch of the sensibles. Before shelling out for one remember your baker will probably have a selection. And bear in mind that the cake has to support whatever you choose (though clever touches like support layers above the real cake can be used if needs be), you don’t want the balance to go and it to all end in tiers on the floor. If no support layer is used, great care needs to be taken to place as the design dictates, and to avoid it sinking inexorably into the icing and beyond.

Now for those choices. First is nothing at all – fine if your cake is simple and perfect as is. Or nothing that rises above the icing – stencils can be obtained to write your names or a loving message on the top surface. Instead of models you might prefer your names to be entwined in a scroll, with suitable decoration or plain as can be – messages like Love is All, or All You Need is Love are popular too.

It’s those models though that somehow capture the imagination. The conventional design works well, but there’s scope for a bit of imagination if you wish. Why not have them made to look just like you (ish). Though the David and Victoria Beckham nude versions seem a bit OTT. Speaking of which, naughtier versions can be found quite easily – from a glimpse of suspender on the bride to bum pinchers, her (clothed) astride the groom, and even (think very carefully) a Kama Sutra couple.

Whole dioramas can be bought for those seeking to capture a moment from their joint lives – sports events, historical incidents, hobbies… but they do seem self-indulgent somehow. Safer, though, than some of the humorous ones unless you’ve agreed on them in advance: man with ball and chain looking gloomy; woman with fishing rod reeling him in; even (am I missing the joke?) a bride about to stab her chap.

In the end it’s about your wishes and your choice. We love the 60s ones that ooze period style – the hair! But there are more important things to worry about – and what was on our own cake eludes the memory, which says something.

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