Something that has come up recently is the question of wedding cake toppers and decorations. And if they are edible or not?
This is an interesting question. And so I thought we would look at that today.
A lot of wedding cake toppers, and cake toppers in general, are wood/ceramic/glass/plastic/resin and so are clearly not edible. They are meant to be a keepsake. They will be made of a food safe material, but that’s to make sure they don’t contaminate your wedding cake.
But what about wedding cake toppers and decorations we cake makers make out of sugar?
As I’m sure you know I’m very partial to sugar flowers and wafer (rice) paper. And yes, these materials are technically edible.
I remember being fascinated by rice paper as a child. And my great aunt gave me sheets of it to eat when we went to visit. I was eating paper!! What was this madness??!! Although it actually doesn’t really taste of anything much.
And gum paste/flower paste?
Well yes, you could eat it, if you really had to. It is sweet and sugar based, but sets super hard. Which is what we need it to do when making flowers and models. However, this means you risk breaking a tooth if you did decide to take a bite!
This is assuming, of course, that there are no internal supports.
These are what will render your sugar flowers or sugar cake toppers into non-edible decorations.
Let me explain.
When you are making sugar flowers or any topper or decoration, there are a few things we must take into consideration.
1/ The style you are going for. This determines what will be used to make the decorations. If you wanted very real looking flowers, then flower paste is the best option. But if you wanted something more stylised, then we could do wafer paper flowers instead. And if you wanted to keep them forever, then a cold porcelain can be used to make flowers.
2/ The way they are to be arranged on your wedding cake. This will determine how we make the flowers or decorations. If you want them to cascade down the side of the cake, and not just sit on top, then we will need to factor in a supporting stem. And this is made with florist wire.
3/ Weight. Anything made with any form of sugar tends to get quite heavy. Dozens of sugar flowers or decorations will add a lot to the weight of the cake. However, wafer paper is much lighter. So if you know the cake is going to have to be moved then this might be a better option. And wafer paper is also a lot less fragile to transport too. Worth considering.
With cake toppers and models its very similar. On the outside they will be sugar. But they will almost always need some kind of internal support. Especially with standing figures of the happy couple for example.
What types of internal supports do we use?
1/ For many sugar and wafer paper flowers we will use a polystyrene cone or ball on a florist wire. We can make the cone or ball out of more paste, but they take a long time to dry out, add unnecessary weight, and will still need the wire. We must add the wire in order to secure the flower to the cake.
This wire becomes the flower stem, and is inserted into the cake in the same way as a real flower would be.
*Note: No flower stems, real or wired, can be inserted directly into the cake. It’s not allowed. We use posy pics, food safe tape or food safe wax as a barrier.
2/ Cocktail sticks are often used in smaller models. Usually to secure a head or limbs to the body (goodness that sounds grim!) These are food safe and you can pull them out and then eat the model (which sounds even more grim, lol)
3/ Bamboo skewers. These are used as larger cocktail sticks, and for giving a ‘spine’ to larger models.
4/ Armature wires. This is where it gets fun for us doing the making! Anything on a larger scale will need a skeleton. And any models that are posed will need this too. The armature wire is first wrapped in aluminium foil tape to make it food safe. But you can’t really eat these models unless you were to strip all the sugar paste from the wire.
5/ Florist wire. Used mostly in sugar flowers. A florist wire is often inserted into individual petals and leaves before assembling the flowers. Because of the delicate nature of this, the wire is inserted directly into these petals and leaves, no food safe protection first. So any wired petal or leaf won’t be edible, even if you pull it from the wire.
6/ Full cake frames. These are used for the large, sculpted and novelty cakes you see. They are a skeleton but for the entire cake. When these are used they are always a food safe structure.
So that’s the inside. But what about the outside?
On all cake toppers, decorations and sugar flowers you’ll see the various colours and maybe even some sparkle. There are several ways we do this.
1/ Edible paints. I use these a lot. Especially with the beautiful watercolour effect cakes I do. I make my own paint by mixing edible gel colours or dust colours with alcohol, usually vodka. Some of the metallic paints I buy ready-made, but the are still 100% edible.
2/ Airbrushing. Not actually something I do that often. But, as with the edible paints, airbrush paints are a mix of edible food colour and an alcohol carrier.
3/ Dry dusting. This is used a lot for sugar flowers to add the tones and realism. Personally I always tint the actual flower pastes myself with edible gel food colour, but the petal dusts always add the details. Again these are 100% edible.
4/ Lustre dusts. Similar to petal dusts. They are 100% edible and can be used over a whole cake to give that pearlized sheen.
5/ Cocoa butter paint. This is similar to the edible paints. Instead of using alcohol we use melted cocoa butter to mix with the petal dusts/dust colours/lustre dusts.
6/ Edible glitter. This is where it can get tricky. When you are buying glitters for cakes there will be two kinds. Edible and non-toxic. If we know the glitter will be going directly onto the cake, then it will always be edible.
7/ Non-toxic glitters/colours. These are only used on toppers and decorations that will have already been rendered non-edible by the use of wires etc. Your cake maker will tell you what elements of the decorations should be removed before serving the cake. However, if you were to consume any, it’s non-toxic, so won’t do you any harm.
Really the main point of the wedding cake topper and the decorations isn’t to eat anyway. They are there to look amazing and wow your guests. And they will keep surprisingly well if you follow a few rules. I always say treat sugar work like gremlins: don’t get them wet and keep out of bright light!
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