In some corners of the cake world there are those who would say that adorning a beautifully handcrafted cake with a plastic toy, rather than an equally handcrafted sugar masterpiece, is an act of sacrilege, laziness or an example of a lower standard of workmanship. I don't see it this way, and here are three reasons why.
1) Because I don't want Disney to hunt me down and sue me
And yeah, this actually happens. Did you know characters like Elsa and Mickey Mouse are the property of Disney (and obviously other characters are trademarked by other companies)? While it's perfectly legal to buy a plastic toy that's sold by that company and use that on a cake it's against the law to reproduce that character... even through the seemingly innocent medium of modelling paste.
It's more than just not getting sued. If something's illegal, I would rather not do it for the sake of it, to do the right thing, not just out of fear of getting caught!
So if someone requests a Super Mario cake or Frozen cake for their child, I will either design a cake that doesn't include a handmade sugar character, or I will offer to source the plastic toy topper at cost. BONUS: your kid can then keep and play with the toy for as long as they want!
2) Because ain't everybody got money for that
It might be lovely to have a completely handmade cake, but sugarwork is the most costly part of cake decorating. I can now ganache and cover a cake in fondant in around half an hour if that. It takes hours to fashion little characters, features and accessories. Think of the number of different colours and the tiny details. And that kind of word is charged at a premium labour rate because it's so skilled.
I don't want people to be prohibited from buying a Three Little Birds Cake because I insist on only making handcrafted toppers. I want them to have options.
3) Because sometimes it's just better
How? How could it be better? Well, sugarcraft can be delicate. It can not set quite right or it can need propping up against something to ensure it makes it to the venue safe and sound. I once tried to make rugby goal posts out of modelling paste and it's a task I'm never going to attempt again. Or perhaps it's a super tricky character that I'm not sure I've got the skills to make look just so and I don't want to ruin a perfectly good cake with a shoddy topper.
Sometimes a plastic toy is structurally and aesthetically just the best option for a cake.
Of course the proviso with all of this is that anything that goes on a cake should be clean and food safe (which goes without saying, but I thought I should say it anyway).
What do you think? Would you go for a plastic topper or prefer everything to be handmade?
To order your own cake or macarons, with or without a plastic toy on them, in West Yorkshire (Keighley, Bingley, Bradford, Saltaire, Skipton, Ilkley, Menston, Guiseley, Silsden & beyond!) visit: