New trends and refreshed traditions crown wedding cakes — and yes, you can make your own handsome topper

New trends and refreshed traditions crown wedding cakes — and yes, you can make your own handsome topper

Perennial favorites:  Flowers have been popular cake decorations for years, but Rebecca Martin, owner of Sweet on You Bakery in Stamford, Conn., says brides are choosing a wider variety of blossoms. Orchids and hydrangeas are frequent stars. And colors are warming up. “They used to be pastel-ly,” Martin says. But now, she notes, “People are more bold – they’re venturing into reds.”  Sweet on You makes its own blooms of pastillage, a type of sugar dough that dries hard. Four brilliant 4-inch daylilies will cost between $100 and $130, Martin estimates. For a dozen 2-inch flowers to use with them, add about $240. That’s for primary blossoms. The finished cake will require more decoration, of course. (Go to www.sweetonyoubakery.com.)

Bows or the beach:  Martin says pastillage bows are becoming more popular. Seashells, also created from pastillage at Sweet on You, offer another way to add a bit of nature to a rather formal day. 

Feeling fluttery:  Simple and elegant, butterflies can soar above your cake without pushing your budget into the clouds. We found charming butterflies made of white feathers at a local craft store. The borders and other decorations were piped in royal icing, which sets very hard. Royal icing is good for a finished look but not for eating. If guests want to nibble the flowers, use buttercream.

Make your mark:  For a really personal touch, top the cake with a monogram or single large initial. This is another opportunity to keep costs down by doing it yourself. We printed out a large initial on a computer, then sculpted it in model-and-bake compound and covered it with glitter.

Update a tradition: The traditional bride and groom figurines are still quite handsome, but they had become almost a yawn. Now they’re back in nonwhite versions or with big helpings of humor. Many are available at party and craft stores. Online selections include a groom with an expectant bride and a bride kissing a frog (www.bridestuff.com; www.weddingmountain.com; www.wilton.com). But Rebecca Martin’s most unusual wedding project was a show-stopper: a suitably scary four-tier vampire castle, starring Dracula and his bride as the nuptial couple.