Are you totally over the little plastic bride and groom sitting on top of weddings cakes? I know I am. This post is going to be a little bit different. If you have always seen the custom cake toppers made on Etsy and have always wondered how they do it….this will teach ya how. It’s relatively easy and only takes a couple days to get a cute cake topper personalized just for you and yours. So let’s start with a few basics.
Most of the cute little toppers you see on Etsy are made of clay. The pic above is a close up of my cake topper peeps. We chose a bunny and a bear because of personal significance to us and because they are just different than what you usually see. I think the total cost to make my cake topper was about $7 (I already had the air dry clay left over from another project and several bottles of acrylic paint). If you decide that you want to attempt your own DIY cake topper then below are some helpful hints to help you do this…..
- Decide on a theme or style. Do you want animals or people? Maybe just initials. Or perhaps you like flowers. Decide on a look you like and then you can build a concept from there. It may help to sketch it out first to get better idea of how you want it to look.
- Air dry or baked clay. I personally like air drying clay because I find that it is softer to work with. However there are two draw backs to using this type of clay. 1) It takes a whole lot longer to dry. Like 3-5 days to fully set. If you aren’t in a hurry then it will work just fine. 2) You have to paint it AND seal it because if the clay gets just the tiniest bit moist it will get all gooey again. I put 3 coats of acrylic paint on my little guys and then two coats of acrylic sealer. I prefer the paint on to the spray on because it doesn’t drip or run. Below is the clay I used to make my bunny and bear figures. It’s just Crayola air hardening clay that you can purchase from any craft store (use a coupon to make it even cheaper). You can use Sculpey or Fimo oven baked clay if that suits you better but I find they are much stiffer to work with and they shrink quite a bit after baking. Plus, if you have to paint oven baked clay after the fact I feel the paint doesn’t lay down as nice as it does on the air dry clay. Just personal opinion.
- How big do you actually want it? A good rule of thumb is to ask the person that is making your cake how large the base of your topper should be. My fabulous cake lady (Jenn Heflin of Carolina Charming….her link is on my vendors page) told me that my base could not be more than 4 inches because the top tier of my wedding cake will be 5 inches. Easy enough. I found a topper base that measure out to about 3.5 inches to make sure that I would have plenty of room. Also keep in mind the height of the topper. It’s a good idea to visualize how high it will sit above the actual cake before you finalize it to make sure that it isn’t too ridiculous.
Decide that this is right for you and you want attempt your very own cake topper adventure? Great! Below is a list of supplies to get you started. Some of this you may already have at home so check before you buy to pinch pennies.
- Air dry or Oven bake clay
- Acrylic paint. Have several different colors on hand.
- Assorted paint brushes
- A base for your topper to sit on (mine was a wood one I purchased from Michaels). Wood works well for cakes just make sure you don’t paint or seal the underside that actually touches the cake. The paint could leach into the frosting and we definitely don’t want to poison our guests!). You could use metal if you like but I find that wood is more user friendly.
- Acrylic sealer. I like the kind you can paint on versus the spray on in a can.
- Any other adornment or decoration that you would like to use. The heart I made behind my bride and groom figures was actually some old bailing wire from my horse barn that I clean and sanded to remove the coating. Be resourceful and find things meaningful to you. The fact that the heart is made of barn wire ties in the fact that I have a farm and how much DF and I love animals. I also added a little bit of tulle for the bride bunny’s veil and some bling to the back from some left over jewels I had from another project. Try to use things you already have rather than buying to save costs. Repurposing helps both your budget and the environment!
- Epoxy glue (if needed)
After you have decided the look you are going for, form your clay into whatever shape you like. If it is air dry clay then let is harden in a dry place free of moisture for 3-5 days, depending on the size. If you are using oven bake clay then follow the directions on the clay package.
Paint your clay if that is what you have decided that you want to do. I put about 3 coats on my figures and dried the paint with a hair dryer between each coat (this saves time and helps cure the air dry clay even more).
Seal your pieces after you paint them. Make sure the sealer is totally dry before you start assembling the topper or it could cause the acrylic paint to lift away from the clay. I let mine dry overnight to make sure this didn’t happen.
Paint your base and seal it as well. Make sure to leave the bottom part exposed and unfinished as this part will actually rest on the cake. No paint leaching please!
Assemble your topper. To get my barn wire heart to stand up behind my bride and groom, I drilled a hole into the wood, used a little epoxy glue on the base of the wire, and twisted it down into the drilled hole until it was tight and didn’t move any longer. I then let that sit up overnight to dry before placing and gluing down my figures onto the base. Make sure to position your figures several different ways until you find a stance you like. Once they are glued down with epoxy they will be very difficult to move without doing damage.
Here was the finished product of my cake topper musings. All in all it took about 5 days to get everything just the way I wanted it.
Very pleased with the end result! Not to mention it’s unique to only us. Can’t wait to see this on top of our wedding cake!
Best of luck in your own cake topper adventures!