Luxury Wedding Cakes in Devon and Cornwall: Wedding cake toppers and decorations explained.

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.

wooden cake topper
A wooden cake topper that can then be kept

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.

wafer paper flowers
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.

sugar flowers with a resin cake topper
Sugar flowers with a resin cake topper

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.

flamingo cake topper
This flamingo couple are a good 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.

sculpted wedding cake
An example of using a framework to get the effect

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.

edible metallic painted wedding cake
This one was painted with edible, metallics

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!

To enquire about your wedding cake click HERE 

Wedding Cake Design: How to get ‘the one.’

You’re starting to think about your wedding cake design. You’ve seen a wedding cake online and you’ve fallen in love! It’s ‘the one’ So you save it to your Pinterest board and screenshot it to your phone. You show this pic to your cake maker and they shake their head. You’re devastated! We want THAT wedding cake! But you get the same response from every cake maker you show it to. Why???

Now I adore Pinterest and all the other platforms, I spend far more time than I should looking at all the prettiness on there. They are great places for inspiration. But really that’s all they are, they are not a shop window. And that can be a little misleading, because it gives the impression that whatever you see there, you can have.

I get shown a lot of images at wedding fairs and at consultations, with ‘can you make this?’ Well yes, I can technically make it, I mean I have the skills. But no, I won’t be able to reproduce exactly what you’re looking at in that image. And this is for several reasons.

cake pic round up
a few cakes from 2019

Copyright

Yep, it’s a thing even in the cake world. Most of us don’t bother to copyright our cake designs, working on the ‘there is nothing new under the sun’ theory. But some cake designers do, especially if that cake has been created for a cake decorating class. Or if it has been designed for a client who insists on exclusivity, I did once have to sign an NDA before creating a cake.

A few years ago a cake took Pinterest by storm, it was everywhere! And, inevitably, cake makers were being asked for it by clients. One cake maker did her due diligence and went to the original creator and asked if she could recreate it for her client. She was told, in no uncertain terms, that NO she could not, and that action would be taken if she tried. Turns out the cake design in question was for a class the original designer was charging for, and so she refused to allow anyone to copy it until well after the classes were over. Fair enough when you think of the time and energy that goes into designing these creations, and then turning them into a class. Now, of course, it would be hard for that cake designer to track down everyone who had copied her design. The internet is worldwide after all. And a lot of people wouldn’t have even asked her permission in the first place, because they may not know who to ask. Once a cake (or anything else) is ‘out there’ on the web, it is no longer exclusive. However we put a lot of time and effort into designs, and so we hope that this will be respected.

One reason I can no longer design your wedding cake in full and as an on paper sketch before the booking is made, is because of having designs stolen. Sadly, a few times, I have spent time and a lot of effort sketching out a couples cake, only to then be ghosted by them. A few months later, there’s my cake design on Instagram, posted by the same couple!! They had just taken my hard work and given it to someone who had offered to do it cheaper. It’s a shame when this happens, and thankfully it is rare. And I know none of you lovely people reading this would even dream of doing such a thing. But it does make us cautious, once bitten, twice shy.

Now, of course, these are the extreme cases. And mostly we just shrug and get on with our day, because there are lots of us out there. Inevitably we are going to come up with a similar design to another caker, especially if it’s something that is ‘on trend.’ I have had a few ideas that I think are new, only to find similar already out there.

Lakeland catalogue left. My cake from a year before on right. Hmmmm….

Translation

By this I mean translating a flat, one angled photo, into an actual, 3D cake. Not always as easy as it seems. Especially as you can’t always tell from a photo exactly what techniques and materials have been used. This is always an issue when the cake has been posted by a designer in another country. Every country has different food laws and that can affect what can and can’t be used on and in your cakes. Often when looking for recipes I will see one and then realise that I can’t make it, as certain ingredients aren’t available in the UK.

It can also be tricky when there is a stencil, or a cake lace pattern used. Tracking the right stencil or lace mat down can be difficult. Again they are often only available overseas, or may have been a custom design created just for that cake. I have hand cut a stencil a few times to match up a design from the wedding stationary for example.

wedding cake with hand cut stencil
A hand cut stencil to match the wedding stationary.

Techniques

Every cake maker will have a certain skill set that they are stronger with, and that is generally reflected in the cakes you will see us producing. You’ll notice that I don’t do the sculpted novelty cakes for example. Not because I can’t, but because they aren’t really my thing. I love seeing them done, but I’m not really interested in doing them. In the same way that a specialist in those sculpted cakes probably won’t make you a delicate cascade of sugar flowers. We all have our strengths and preferences. Personally I will spend days happily making sugar flowers, and often do.

We also all do the same things differently. Going back to cake classes. If you look at the photos instructors post at the end of a class, with all their students showing their cakes. You’ll see that every one of those cakes will be different, even though they are the same design, made at the same time, with the same teacher and using the same materials.

So what do you do? How do you get that dream cake from your phone into reality?

Well you might get lucky and find the original cake maker who made it. It’s a long shot though. Or your cake maker might know them and be able to liaise with them, also a bit of a long shot. Sadly tags and watermarks are often removed from wedding cake photos, making it almost impossible to know who made it. I have one wedding cake with flamingos on that gets pinned a lot. I know that by the time it’s been pinned and shared a few times, no one will know it was one of mine.

flamingo wedding cake
THE flamingo cake that’s all over Pinterest

When I get shown a wedding cake and get asked if I can make it, I always explain that, although I can’t copy/paste someone else’s work, I can design something just as beautiful. So I will ask what it is about that cake that is drawing you to it? Then I ask to see what other ideas you have been saving for other elements of your wedding. And this is actually way better anyway. I’m sure you’d much rather have a cake that has been designed for you, and with you, than one that’s identical to someone else’s wedding cake? We all know that feeling of horror when we turn up to a party to see someone else in the same outfit! You really don’t want someone saying ‘Oh I’ve seen this cake online a few times.’

Top Tips

So here are the top tips to make sure you get that perfect wedding cake.

1/ Reference photos are great, they are very useful. But don’t be offended if your cake maker isn’t willing or able to simply copy that photo.

2/ Take a good look at that dream cake photo and make a note of what is really drawing you to it? The chances are it’s not necessarily the whole, complete thing. So is it the colours, the shapes, the textures?

3/ Isolate those key elements and discuss those with your cake maker.

4/ Don’t be offended if your cake maker won’t give you a sketch before you’ve booked with them. It’s nothing personal! However how do you know that they will be able to create your vision? Have a good look through their website, Pinterest, Instagram etc, look at their past work to make sure you like their style.

5/ Arrange to meet with your cake maker and have a good chat with them. Develop a relationship with them. When you find the right cake maker, you’ll know. And then you will know that you can trust them to produce your perfect wedding cake for you.

To enquire about your wedding cake and how I can help you design it, click HERE

Three go to Cake International.

Two weeks ago I was in Birmingham at the NEC with Jackie Curtis from Jax’s Cakes N Bakes for the biggest cake show in the world, Cake International. This involved sitting in a van at 6am waiting to be allowed into the car park behind Hall 17 to drop off out competition piece in the collaboration class. This cake making lark really is glamorous……

Three of us came together to create our entry, myself, Jax and Sarah from The Cornish Cakery, you’re allowed up to twenty people!! So only having three was going to make it a challenge. Especially when you know that we had the space of two trestle tables pushed together to fill! That’s a lot of sugar. And as we all run our own cake businesses, it all had to be fitted in around orders and school holidays. We had to keep telling ourselves that this is fun…. Yep, we were enjoying ourselves…

So why did we put ourselves through this? A question I found myself asking while sitting in that van at 6am in the rain. But there was a good reason behind our madness. And that reason was to create more awareness of mental health, something all three of us suffer from. And it’s something that sadly still has a stigma surrounding it. Which is crazy (see what I did there?) because mental illness is so common. I can guarantee that you know someone who suffers from some form of mental health issue. And so we thought it would be a good chance to turn those thoughts and feeling into a visual display that might get people talking.

One side of our piece

Of course it was also a competition piece, so we had to make sure we produced the best work we could. Not easy when you’re having the busiest wedding season so far. And that six months between deciding to do it, and getting it onto that formidable black tablecloth just flew by! Where we happy with it? Yes, although it wasn’t exactly how we first imagined, but not in a bad way. I think it’s great when designs and concepts evolve artistically. And one exciting thing about working in a creative group is that you bounce ideas off one another.

Eventually, after lots of hours and a few changes of direction, we got it finished literally on the morning we were leaving for Birmingham from my studio in Clovelly. I have the space and bifold doors, so it was the perfect place to work on such a big project (it’s still there, we can’t decide what to do with it!) On the Thursday we argued ‘Nelly’, as she’d been named, into the van we had to hire in order to get it there. It took three of us (we borrowed Karren from the gift shop next door) to get her into the van, but there was only the two of us going….. hmmmmm….. this was going to be interesting. What were we going to do on Friday morning trying to get her back out of the van and into the hall? We decided to order room service while we thought about it.

Friday morning the alarm went of at 5.30am. Now I’m the first to admit that I am NOT a morning person, at all, ever. There have only been a very selective number of times I’ve been up at that time of the morning, if you’ve ever lined the red carpet for a film premier then you’ll know the drill. So I was a tad grumpy, poor Jax. Luckily we had stopped on the way and I’d got some of that chilled, ready made, coffee. Plus Jax was driving, so that helped. But we still had the issue of how we were going to get Nelly onto her table. Of course the collaboration tables were as far away from the Hall doors as they could be! Not helpful when our class has the largest and heaviest pieces!! Anyway, the car park guy took pity on us and allowed us to get quite close to the doors. And after a bit of swearing we got her to the tables just inside the door used to make repairs etc. Phew! But now we had to get her all the way across Hall 17 to the display table…..

The other side of our piece

However we were saved by the cake angel that is Cali Hopper. Now Cali is cake word royalty, she’s one of the most talented sugar artists I’ve ever come across. Anyway, she was at a neighbouring table and we were chatting (I’ve known her for years). Her husband Martin was with her and she offered him to us to help carry Nelly! Saved! It just proves that there’s so much love in the cake world. The # collaboration over competition has never been more relevant. And the name of our group was ‘Kowethegeth’ which is the Cornish for friendship. Very fitting.

Cutting the rest of the story short, as a lot of it involves food, coffee and sleep! The next morning we went to see if we had ‘won’ anything. After all it was a competition. Although that’s not why we entered, it was still something we wanted. And TADA!! We got a bronze medal! Not bad considering we were all creating our elements in our separate work places and bringing them together.

Our Bronze certificate
Our Bronze!

Will we do it again? Well if you’d asked us on that Friday then I’d have said HELL NO!!! But now? Let’s just say there are already Pintrest boards filling up.