1910 Wedding Cake Topper Artifact Highlight #4

This ornate white wedding cake topper was donated to Placer County Museums in 1980. It was used at the wedding of Adeline and Anthony Perry in 1910. It is made of gypsum plaster and depicts a cupid blacksmith forging a ring, a symbol of love and marriage. Behind him is a candleholder covered in ornate floral and scroll design.

Decorating wedding cakes became very popular during the 19th century. Early cake toppers included flowers, bells or other small objects. They were often made of sugar or non-edible materials like glass, paper, wood or gypsum plaster, which is similar to clay. It is lightweight and easy to shape, and sometimes still used in making classic plaster orthopedic casts.

Our cake topper is full of symbolism. At the forefront is Cupid, the god of love, attraction and affection. He is usually portrayed with a bow and arrow that cause love at first sight when shot through the heart. In our case Cupid is a blacksmith forging a ring, a sign love, fidelity and commitment.

Cupid is often portrayed as a mischievous little boy, playing with people’s hearts as if playing with toys. He also has wings, perhaps a symbol of fleeting love or love that has no boundaries.

An anvil is also a symbol of romance, made famous in Scottish Gretna Green, a little village known as one of the world’s most popular wedding destinations. A law enacted in England in 1754 made marriage legal only of it was performed in a church and with parental consent. The law did not apply in Scotland where almost anybody had the authority to conduct the marriage ceremony. The blacksmiths in Gretna became known as “anvil priests” and lasting symbols of Gretna Green weddings.

Cake decorating and sugar sculpting became easier with the design of the temperature controlled ovens and the production of baking powder in the mid-1800s. White wedding cakes became popular after Queen Victoria’s wedding in 1840. Wedding cake toppers became popular after WWI and American retailers like Sears and Roebuck started to market and sell toppers showcasing the bride and groom. The 1927 Sears catalog had an entire page devoted to wedding cake ornaments.

Today there are practically no rules about wedding cakes. All we can hope for is that they taste good!