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Top Tier

Flavor, filling and icing are nice, but it’s the topper that takes the cake!

A wedding confection by Susie’s Cakes, complemented by a family heirloom topper.

Janda’s single-letter design with snowflake cascade and fondant drapery.

A five-tier treat with sugary bouquet on top, both by Who Made the Cake.

When taste-testing wedding cake, a bride thinks about many things. A five-tier confection or a cupcake tower? Fondant or buttercream? White almond or double chocolate? But the topper is the crowning detail—a decoration that personalizes the cake by reflecting a couple’s style, personality, heritage or interests.

Originating from a medieval tradition of brides and grooms leaning over stacked cakes to kiss, the tradition evolved into wedding-cake toppers by the 19th century. The traditional bride-and-groom ornaments gained popularity in the 1920s.

While a topper passed from generation to generation can make the ultimate “something old,” wedding planner Nicole Macaluso of Event Solutions (281.781.7676), says there are options galore, from bride-and-groom figurines and flowers to monograms. “While a traditional bride might use her parents’ cake topper,” she says, there’s a growing trend of hands-on brides designing their own toppers. “The modern-day DIYers really showcase creativity and fun details with things like love birds, silhouettes and banners.”

Most brides want the cake to reflect the theme of the wedding, whether a grand affair or a casual daytime fête, and the topper is vital in carrying the wedding theme from the invitations, flowers and décor to the dessert table, says designer Jenny Janda of Sugie Galz (832.661.3197). “The cake has to stand on its own like a piece of art, but also fit in with the wedding as a whole,” says Janda, who often uses monograms to personalize cakes for couples. “The topper is a great way to tie in all the elements from the wedding—the icing on all of it.”

Recent Houston bride Kelly Brown Homer used a silhouette atop her cake, while also honoring tradition. With the silhouette as the focal point, she displayed her grandparents’, parents’ and her aunt and uncle’s toppers around her cake. “I wanted my wedding to be romantic, vintage and personal,” she says.

Edible toppers made of ornate, lifelike sugar flowers are another option. Janice Juckers, co-owner of Three Brothers Bakery (713.666.2253), says these works of sugar art have surprising shelf life in the name of posterity. “I’ve seen sugar flowers last 50 years,” Juckers marvels.

Though a topper isn’t a new concept, it’s an easy detail to overlook in the hustle and bustle of big-day planning, Macaluso says. But no matter the style—even real blooms added last-minute—a topper is essential to the canvas that is the wedding cake. It puts the finishing touch on the design and often ends up serving as a tangible remembrance of the day, long after the cake is gone. “As every sundae has its cherry,” she says, “every wedding cake, cupcake and pie deserves its perfect finishing touch!”