Happily Ever After:
Cake Toppers From the Collections of the Douglas County Historical Society

 

Early cake toppers were made from eggs, sugar and gum paste. The bakers would use a technique known as pastillage to fashion the figures by hand. Bells, flowers, and bases were made by hand or pressed into molds available from early bakery catalogs. Moisture and excessive dryness caused the disintegration of many of these pieces. The sugar used in these cake toppers could caramelize from the heat and consequently parts of the item would turn dark, especially the part that came in contact with the icing.
 

Wax was used to form hands and figures that could be used on a cake top. These were rare and didn’t survive well over the decades.
 

Fine bisque wedding figures were supplied by German companies from 1890 until the mid-1950s. The details were exquisite and the pieces were stunning.


The first cake decoration company in America was established in 1926 when Edwin Pfeil and Otto Holing, former cake decorators on German steamships, opened a factory in New York City’s Soho district.


When sugar was rationed and supplies became scarce, wedding couples had to resort to creating their cake toppers from crepe paper and pipe cleaners.


In 1941, the Coast Novelty Company was founded when Robert Murdoch’s wife challenged him to make a better cake topper than those she had to choose from for their wedding. That company is still in existence and remains one of the most prolific producers of cake toppers.


Other well-known U.S. companies included Levinsohn, Marblelike, Lefton, High View Doll, Rainbow Doll, Bakery Craft and Wilton.


These companies used Plaster of Paris, known as chalkware to create their early molded figures. The quality varied from coarse to fine detail. They were mostly hand-painted and the painting quality depended on the expertise of the artist. These companies later switched to producing plastic and ceramic cake toppers.


By 1960, Japan had become a major producer of china and bisque cake toppers. A collector can find a cake topper marked “made in occupied Japan” and compare it to a figure marked “made in Japan”.


Military toppers include the groom in uniform and American flags at the base. They are difficult to find, both because of sugar rationing during the war and also because many war brides forfeited a reception for a quick ceremony during a weekend furlough.


Altars, ministers, chuppahs, crosses, prayer books, and cathedral windows could be added to the cake topper to reflect a couple’s religious preference.


Wedding cake toppers were often personalized to reflect the wedding couple. Prior to the 1960’s, interracial couples were left to their own devices to paint the couple to reflect themselves. Soon after, bakeries would offer special orders to accommodate the wedding couple.


Today, wedding cake toppers come in every size and shape. They can be personalized to fit the lifestyle, occupation, interest, and dreams of the wedding couple.

Examine these unique pieces of history by composition or check out photo from our exhibit:

Bisque Celluloid Ceramic Chalkware Composition
Crepe Paper Glass Gum Paste Metal Miscellaneous
Paper Pipe Cleaner Plastic Porcelain Resin
Saltstone Wax Wood Exhibit Photos