The Cake Is A Lie: Cake Decorations

There are two schools of though in decorating wedding cakes (or other wedding bakery items!).  There’s the “less is more” crowd, and the “more is more” crowd.  I myself belong to the former and prefer understated elegance if you will (it helps balance out my attraction to ridiculous colors), but everyone has their own thing.  Nevertheless, regardless of which camp you belong to, you have a variety of decorating options available to you that you can incorporate in an endless number of combinations.  The following are some of the ways you can personalize your cake.  This is nowhere near a comprehensive list.  Obviously just about anything you can think of can be done, so let your creativity run wild!


Ribbons can be used as a trim around your cake tiers (and it doesn’t have to be just around the bottom; you could do it around the middle, or even the top!), run vertically down the tiers for a graphic effect, or tied in a bow and placed on top or on a side.  Ribbons can either be real or can be made of fondant (even if you don’t have fondant as your main cake base).  If you have a buttercream frosting, I recommend using the real ribbon.  If you have a fondant covered cake you can really use either form.  If  you use a real ribbon, usually the baker will ask you to provide it so that way you get exactly what you want.  Be sure you ask what they prefer in terms of width and wired or unwired.  They may have material requests to, such as preferring satin over organza, but this is usually less of an issue.

Cake Shape

You actually even have a couple of choices of cake shape.  There’s the traditional circle and the less traditional square, but cakes can also be made in a variety of other geometric shapes.  Octagons are starting to make an appearance, as are heart-shaped cakes.  People are also starting to take a less strict approach to tiers and are having all of the edges line up and the cake as a whole shaped a particular way like a sculpture.  These range from the simple like a pyramid to the complex.  Keep in mind that complex translates to more expensive, so be careful when getting overly creative.  If you pick an angular shape, you can add some extra interest by offsetting the corners from each other.


Believe it or not, these orchids are actually made of gum paste!

Flowers are one of those cake staples that seem to appear on just about everyone’s cake in some capacity, but with so many flower varieties you don’t have to worry about running the risk of your flower covered cake looking like someone else’s flower covered cake.  You have 3 different choices when it comes to flowers before anything else, and that’s real, silk, or gum paste.  If you want a heartier flower, real is the way to go because it’s typically the cheapest.  If you want something more delicate that may not survive well without water, silk or gum paste will be the better choices.  Silk flowers run the risk of looking fake if you’re not careful.  Gum paste flowers are rather expensive since your baker has to hand craft each one from scratch, but hold their shape and look amazingly real.  The bonus to gum paste is you can have a flower made in any color you want, and you can get a pretty good shade match if you have a specific hue in mind.


Scrollwork is a freehand design applied to the sides of the tiers of the cake.  While the name implies and typically means sweeping scrolls, it is also generally applied to most any other freehand work done, including straight lines, dots, lattice patterns, etc.  You can also have text written.  This is done is buttercream (even on fondant cakes, though sometimes fondant can still be used for this purpose) by hand, so it isn’t perfect, but professional bakers do have magnificent reproducibility in copying the design over and over again on your cake.  Scrollwork can be done in either the same color as the base for a subtle effect, or done in a contrast color to stand out more.  For the sake of not overloading the visual aspect of the cake, if you choose a contrast color it typically looks cleaner if you have more sparse scrollwork.  When requesting this type of work, it’s important to be specific about what you want it to look like.  Pictures are incredibly helpful here.

Cake Topper

Some people just like to have a gathering of flowers or a ribbon sitting on the top of their cake.  Some even leave it empty, or use the space as a canvas for some written text or a picture.  Others use the space as a platform and will select a cake topper to place up there.  Here you really have a wide array of choices from a simple monogram to a custom-made figurine.  If you want something a little outside the box, searching Etsy is really a great way to go.  There is such a variety of the types and styles of toppers that people make on there.  If you’re having one custom-made somewhere, remember that the devil is in the details, and you need to be incredibly specific about what it is you expect the final product to look like.  Typically bakers do not have cake toppers for you to buy, request, or rent, so this will be an “on your own” kind of deal, but bakers will place/attach the topper to the cake for you.

You can really run wild with your cake and make it as traditional or as quirky as you want.  More design work means more money, but you can sometimes be surprised at what you can get on a cake.  Be clear in what you want, but be open to suggestions.  There’s a reason they are the professional, and they likely have the experience to tell you what will and may not work in your grand plan (and may have suggestions for better ways to convey your ultimate vision!).

And with that, I leave you with two of my favorite nerd wedding cakes of all time.


Posted on February 2, 2012, in Food, Wedding Planning Isn't For Sissies and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I love the XKCD cake. Cracks me up… I am a fan of cakes that are meaningful to the couple. Not necessarily busy cakes but still, I’d rather have a cake that says something about the couple – you know like the XKCD cake… obviously those people are nerds… 😉

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