Gum Paste vs. Organic Fresh: Timeless Wedding Cake Toppers
Figurine cake toppers go in and out of style, but topping your cake with flowers is a timeless tradition that’s always appropriate. For an elegant wedding cake, the two most beautiful options for flower decorations are organic fresh flowers, or gum paste (aka sugar paste) flowers. Why might you want to choose one over the other?
If you’re looking for a keepsake, gum paste is a great choice. It’s a dough made from sugar that dries hard, and keeps indefinitely when stored in an airtight container. When crafted by an expert, you’d be hard-pressed to distinguish a gum paste flower from a fresh one. From a green perspective, there are far less resources used in making the gum paste than in growing fresh flowers over a period of months. However, as one flower can take hours to craft (for example, one rose can take three hours from start to finish, not including several days’ drying time), expect to pay a premium for gum paste flowers from an accomplished cake artist.
As far as fresh flowers go, you must use organic flowers only on food. This is because commercial non-organic flowers are grown with lots of pesticides to keep the blooms beautiful, at a huge environmental and human cost. Not only do the pesticides make the workers on the flower farms incredibly ill, but they also frequently cause serious birth defects in pregnant workers’ children, and also pollute fresh water supplies near the flower farms. If non-organic flowers come in contact with food, you run the risk that toxic pesticides will be absorbed by the food and ingested with the potential of making someone seriously ill. Heaven forbid that an elderly, pregnant, or very young person eats these poisons!
Fresh organic flowers are a lovely option for your wedding cake. There is a definite softness to fresh flowers that can’t exactly be duplicated, probably because of the way they open up and relax over time in a warm room full of people. Their fragrance is unmatched, and some are even edible. Any edible flower can be crystallized in superfine sugar as well, creating an effect of the blossom being left outside and covered in new-fallen snow. But, the only way to preserve fresh flowers as a keepsake is to dry them. In doing so, their appearances changes completely as moisture is removed and colors become muted. If you are using fresh flowers for your wedding cake, have your cake designer coordinate directly with the photographer on all the details.
Whether other cake toppers are in or out of fashion, you can always count on a flower cake topper (whether gum paste or fresh) as an appropriate style statement for your wedding cake.
—Chef Marney White, owner of Marneycakes, Inc.
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