Far from the days when one size cake fit all, modern wedding confections are as much an exercise in artistry and personality as they are in taste.
Bright and bold, pastel or plain, delicate or ruffled … they serve as genuine showstoppers on a day when looks come to the fore. And part of their growing appeal has been the rise of artistic cake toppers, a must-have accent that gives truth to the idea good things come in small packages.
Kathryn Porritt, founder of online wedding store Pink Frosting and author of The Party Book, says cake toppers began to surge in popularity about five years ago. But in the past 12 months, she’s noticed a dramatic change in trend.
“Once upon a time, our most popular items were novelty ceramic cake toppers, but during the past year tastes have switched to be very much focused on the acrylic toppers,” she says.
Part of that appeal is the adaptability of the material, which can be transformed into everything from love hearts and love birds to silhouette-style brides and grooms and favourite words and phrases.
“The wonderful thing with acrylic toppers is they’re just so versatile,” Kathryn explains. “You can do them in glitter, you can match them to colours, you can make them transparent and you can even personalise them. So you can have your own message or you own name featured, which means the whole trend around personalising your wedding can be completely bought to a wedding cake now without having to spend a fortune.”
It also ties in perfectly to the ever-evolving style and personality that is the wedding cake.
“The lovely thing these days is that couples are really able to bring their personality into the day, which extends to the cake,” Kathryn says. “So, instead of being tied to a traditional fruit cake with white icing, brides and grooms can go crazy with the myriad gorgeous designs and flavours made available by artists.
“Then, with unique and bespoke cake toppers, it really adds that final perfect touch.”
Kathryn – whose stylish, keen-eyed crew embarks on scouting missions to Asia, Europe and the Americas several times a year – says one cake topper trend starting to grow in popularity is bunting, or beautiful paper tassels.
“These kind of designs are very popular for weddings which are a bit more casual or rustic,” she says. “We’re talking something like a country wedding, which is a little less structured.
“They’re also incredibly popular for bridal showers. Because you don’t really want to use candles, but you do want to have something pretty, that’s a bit more dressed, which tassels and garlands can do without going over the top.”
The crafty looking toppers also serve as a spectacular hero element on an otherwise understated confection.
“You see this quite a lot, particularly with smaller or second weddings, where you might have a family friend making the cake for you, not a professional cake designer,” Kathryn says.
“So you end up with a lovely looking cake, but not a centrepiece as such.
“That’s actually what I had with my wedding. My mother-in-law did our cake, which I was absolutely delighted about, and we ended up with a very simple creation that tasted delicious. And then the cake topper became the standout element looks wise.” And a stunning anchor point for photographs.
Multicultural elements also come into play these days, recognising the desire of couples to reflect and incorporate elements of their backgrounds in their day.
“We cater, in particular, for Indian weddings and Asian weddings, and both of those have some beautiful cake toppers to suit, both modern and traditional,” she says. This can be anything from the Asian symbol for double happiness to a bride in a traditional sari.
Not that cake toppers always have to carry a strong emotional weight – or even be that serious.
“By the time they get around to cutting the cake, the formality of the wedding is virtually over, and it’s party time, so often times brides and grooms will opt for novelty cake toppers,” Kathryn says.
This is where designs such as a bride tackling her footy playing groom, a bride holding her groom in her arms, or a ‘couch potato’ watching TV while his bride looks on unimpressed come to the fore.
Even something like a cheeky replication of Marie Antoinette’s invitation to “Let them eat cake” can strike a fun note, with acrylic toppers offering the freedom for further theming and personalisation.
“It doesn’t matter whether your styling is gold glitter right through to something simple like an aqua; you can virtually cover all colours,” Kathryn says. You can also play with fonts and messages, whether it’s featuring your names or initials or coming up with a unique welcome for guests.
“Fly away with me is one that’s pretty popular at the moment,” she says.
Then there’s diamante and rhinestone toppers, which feature monogrammed letters with a hefty dose of sparkle. “These are particularly popular with a simple cake, where you want to add a bit of bling.” she says. “So you can have the two initials with an ampersand or a heart in the centre and they look amazing and photograph superbly.
“Basically, if you can dream it, we can make it with acrylics.”
With organic and rustic-style weddings sparking inspirations such as wedding cakes made out of cheese rounds, elements such as fresh fruit, photos or cut flowers can help turn a cake topper into a statement of romantic intent.
But for more traditionalists, there’s always the classic ceramic brides and grooms. Only these days, it’s all about the bespoke approach.
“The wonderful thing you can do now with bride and groom figures, which is incredibly popular, is to mix and match them to reflect the actual couple,” Kathryn explains. “So you could have a blonde, fair-skinned bride with a darker-skinned balding groom, whereas once you just had to stick a standard coupling on top of the cake and hope people thought it looked like you.
“I think it’s such a gorgeous and specialised offering because, after all, you want the cake to reflect you, to look like you and to reflect your personalities.”
And the best thing is, they make wonderful keepsakes.
“The thing with toppers is they’re very durable,” Kathryn says. “You could pull them out in 50 years and they would still look good. And how beautiful would it be to reuse them on an anniversary cake down the track to remind you of such a special day?”
Here’s four other trends to consider
- Timber veneer toppers: Add a lovely touch of rustic charm with real warmth.
- Chalkboard toppers: Ranging from small ribbons to larger shapes, these allow a handwritten chalk message perfect for a theme such as shabby chic.
- Metallic toppers: The glint of gold or sheen or silver enhances a luxury feel.
- Memory driven toppers: Something like a mini Eiffel Tower can be a love ly reminder of adventures you have shared.
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