wedding cake

The Fascinating Story Behind Wedding Cake Toppers
Wedding cake toppers remain a popular way to add a decorative touch and personal style to wedding festivities.

Wedding cake toppers remain a popular way to add a decorative touch and personal style to wedding festivities.

Cake toppers have stood on the summits of multilayered sugary wedding confections for several decades as both decorative touches and symbolic representations of happy newlywed couples. While sources disagree on when their use became widespread, they’ve become a staple at many nuptial gatherings both south of our border and here in Canada. This custom has remained as both an enduring tradition and an opportunity to express each couple’s ethos and personal style.

Origins in the United States 

When did the first toppers grace wedding cakes in North America? It depends on who you ask. In their book “Cinderella Dreams: The Allure of the Lavish Wedding,” authors Cele Otones and Elizabeth Pleck mentioned that pairs of figurines representing newlywed couples came into use during the 1950s and were intended to embody the value of togetherness. Meanwhile, blogger Donna Sundblad places their origin before the United States Civil War, noting that affluent families were the first to adopt the trend.

According to Sundblad, the very first toppers usually consisted of flowers, bells or other small objects that represented the newlywed pair. They were typically handcrafted by a member of their families or sculpted by a professional baker with frosting, icing or plaster of Paris. The Smithsonian’s Museum of American History website exhibited a pair of figurines manufactured sometime in the middle or late 20th century, adding that they were more sophisticated and detailed in design than simpler toppers created in the early 1900s. As these decorations became more complex, they expanded to include versions with monogrammed initials, short phrases and shapes such as hearts, bells, bows and even half-moons.

Modern Interpretations of Cake Toppers

As times have changed, so have cake toppers. Sundblad gave one example in her blog post of groom figurines in military uniform becoming widely available for weddings during World War II. Also, the legalization of marriage equality in our country in 2005 translated into more LGBTQ individuals tying the knot. According to a Statistics Canada report, census figures from 2006 and 2011 revealed that the number of same-gender wedded couples almost tripled, rising to 21,015. With the changing demographics of Canada’s citizenry, merchants slowly began selling customized toppers to reflect the racial and ethnic backgrounds of the couples purchasing them as well as to provide options for same-gender wedded pairs.

These greater customization capabilities have also given rise to some new trends. Enterprising couples have gotten creative, using inspiration from pop culture and working with their bakers to craft unique cakes. As a result, many of them also pick toppers that integrate with or match the cakes’ designs. For example, it’s not unusual to see figurines dressed in Starfleet uniforms or Jedi robes. You might also see cake designs borrowed from popular fictional franchises such as Doctor Who, with its iconic time-traveling blue police box sitting atop these multilayered delights.

Top Tips for Your Toppers

Thinking of including a decorative touch on top of your wedding cake? The experts over at The Pink Bride dispense some important planning advice:

  • Pick objects that complement your dessert’s overall look
  • Make sure your topper fits your event’s theme
  • Silhouettes, monogrammed toppers and food-safe flowers can be great choices
  • Go for timeless over trendy if you’re saving the topper for future generations

Whether as a mode of quirky personal expression or as just one detail in a wedding’s overall theme and style, the popularity of cake toppers doesn’t appear to be diminishing anytime soon. Both brick-and-mortar and online vendors offer a wide range of products and personalization options from which couples can choose. While picking yours probably won’t be difficult, it’s vital to remember your cake’s design and your wedding theme when making your selection.

 

 

For a Unique Wedding Cake Option, Try a Croquembouche
A French Croquembouche can be a delicious alternative to a traditional wedding cake.

A Croquembouche can be a unique wedding cake option.

With the number of French contributions to our culture, you probably won’t be surprised to find a croquembouche at a Canadian wedding. However, you might not be familiar with the history, details and preparation behind these fascinating pastry desserts. Whether you’ve adopted a French theme for your festivities or just want a different type of wedding cake for your reception, this delightful tower of goodness might be just right for your crowd.

Origins in 19th Century France 

While much of Canada was still under British rule, a young Parisian baker began crafting a pastry creation that would become his enduring legacy. In January 2017, the U.S. media network National Public Radio website published a piece on legendary French chef Marie-Antoine Carême, the famed inventor of the croquembouche. Born to an impoverished family around 1783 or 1784, he was presumably orphaned by social turmoil resulting from the French revolution. Carême began working in a Paris kitchen at the age of eight, and by the time he was 15 years old, he’d landed a position as an apprentice to top-rated pastry chef Sylvain Bailly.

As Carême honed his craft during his late teen years, Bailly regularly displayed Carême’s stunningly elaborate pastries in his bakery shop window. By the late 1700s, this young sensation had fashioned a tower of small, round cream puffs called “choux” festooned with spun sugar. A recipe for this dessert, which he called a croquembouche, was published in his 1815 cookbook “Le Pâtissier royal parisien.” Meanwhile, Carême continued to rise to culinary stardom, designing lavish, beautiful sweets for the likes of Napoleon, Russia’s Czar Alexander I and prince regent George IV of England.

The Croquembouche in the Modern World

While there are many modern variations on this delicious pastry, they still follow the same basic format: a tall mountain of cream puffs covered in spun sugar and other wonderful edibles. You’ll probably have no difficulty finding bakers in any province to supply one for your special day, and it’s an appropriate wedding cake for many types of wedding themes. Wedding Bells Magazine showcased a French vintage matrimonial affair in a 2012 piece on its website, adding that the couple chose a croquembouche to add a delicate grandeur to their festivities.

If you think that such a spectacular wedding cake should get its own entrance and fanfare, you’re absolutely right. In fact, contributor Kim Petyt on The Good Life France blog revealed that a croquembouche is usually not presented until dessert time. With the lights dimmed and celebratory music playing, guests typically begin chanting “Le gateau! Le gateau!” as the star of the hour is brought out to the dining hall while decorated in small, sizzling fireworks. Once the display is over, the staff serves each guest three or four of the sweet, creamy choux to enjoy.

Flavorful Possibilities Abound

In both exterior decorative touches and inner fillings, the croquembouche presents a wide variety of lovely flavors. Traditionally, each choux contains vanilla-bourbon crème in the center. Nevertheless, bakeries offer several popular filling choices which can include favorites such as caramel and chocolate, or less common tastes like rose, pistachio or orange blossom. Besides spun sugar or pastel-tinted icing, a croquembouche wedding cake can be decked out in sugared almonds, chocolate, candied ribbons or even edible flowers.

A Delicious Wedding Cake Idea for Your Nuptial Affair 

The croquembouche is a distinctive and delightful wedding cake that offers a complex combination of aesthetics, French culture and flavor. Its name appropriately translates to “crunch in the mouth,” and your guests will enjoy the taste and texture of this now-classic sweet treat. Add to that the customary celebratory fanfare with which it’s presented during your festivities, and your croquembouche will certainly be a memorable part of your wedding day.