A cute customized topper goes a long way in making cupcakes that your friends and family will rave about! Learn the secrets to successful toppers to help you turn your next set of cupcakes into something that’s almost too good to eat. (Because seriously, who is going to pass on a cupcake?!)
The top tips for making Instagram-worthy cupcake toppers
1. Know your number
How many toppers do you need? That will make a big difference in the design you choose!
For example, if you’re making a single topper for one cupcake, you can focus on small, intricate details. But if you’re making dozens of cupcakes, you’ll want to choose an easier-to-make design. You can also combine the two and make one or two showstopper toppers and smaller, easier toppers for the remaining cupcakes.
2. Pick Your Medium
What do you want to use to make the toppers? Fondant, gum paste and modeling chocolate are all great choices.
- Fondant is easy to color and work with, and it’s readily available and versatile. But the long drying times can make thicker figurines a multi-day, involved process.
- Gum paste is ideal for 3D figures because it dries harder and faster, but isn’t really enjoyable to eat.
- Modeling chocolate is delicious and does not require any drying time, but won’t stay rigid if exposed to heat.
3. Choose between flat and 3D designs
Can you make them 3D? Absolutely! Should you? Well, that’s totally up to you! Ask yourself: How do you plan to present the cupcakes? Will you be able to see the toppers? And will the icing on your cupcake hold up a 3D topper? If not, you may want to go with flat toppers.
4. Decide if you want to use a disc
A disc made of fondant can be a great canvas to build your topper on. Use a 2¼” round cutter to cut out a flat disc as the base of your design. Not only can you easily attach decorations to these discs, but they can also offer uniformity in a collection.
5. Understand your skill level
Whether you want to make 3D or flat designs, keep your skill level in mind. If your’e just starting out, consider use shaped cutters to help you create appealing toppers. They work with nearly any medium you choose and also are great when making a large number of toppers. Or, start with easier figures and work your way up.
6. Size matters
Not too big, not too small! An oversized topper will dwarf (or crush) the sweet treat below. A tiny topper could make your cupcakes look sparse.
In general, your design should be a little smaller than the width of the cupcake. A standard cupcake is just over 2″ (5 cm). When making your design, sketch a 1″ circle on a piece of paper as a template.
If you do make a larger, heavier topper that stands up, add toothpicks, skewers or other supports as you’re crafting them. (And don’t forget to tell guests they’re in there!)
7. Make repeats
Repeating a design cuts down on your time designing and lets you work in an assembly-line fashion. Changing a few details — like the background color — makes them feel even more varied.
8. Think about theme broadly
If your theme is character-based, don’t feel like you have to recreate the character on every topper! Consider the overall theme. Instead of representing each character in a 3D figure (which would be very time consuming), make one character topper and then recognizable, yet simpler designs to tell the rest of the story.
Stumped where to start? Invitations, party decor, plates and napkins are a great place to look for inspiration.
9. Bring on the texture
Add visual interest with minimal work! Use texture mats, piping tips or other tools to give your toppers more dimension in a snap. But don’t overdo it: Since cupcake toppers are so small, a little texture goes a long way.
10. Add variety with words
Increase the number of adorable designs and decrease the level of difficulty by adding words and sayings to your fondant toppers. Simply roll out fondant, gum paste or modeling chocolate and use small alphabet cutters to create dynamic, engaging on-theme toppers or personalized messages.
11. Let the toppers dry and store them properly
It can take 2-3 days for fondant toppers to dry, depending on how thick they are, what material you used and the climate you live in.
Flat toppers dry quicker since most of their surface is exposed to the open air, while 3D figures take longer because of their thickness. Gum paste toppers dry quicker.
Modeling chocolate does not dry, but hardens as it sits and will firm up quickly, especially if in a cool climate or when placed in the fridge. Modeling chocolate will melt, however, if exposed to any type of heat or hot weather.
If you want your fondant toppers to remain pliable, store them in airtight containers. All toppers, regardless of what they’re made of, should be stored in cool places away from direct sunlight to prevent the color from fading.
12. Put the toppers on at the last second
Waiting as long as possible before topping the cupcakes with fondant toppers. Of course, many factors can affect this decision (like the weather, delivery time, icing consistency, etc.). But as soon as the fondant touches the icing, it begins to absorb the icing’s moisture and, in turn, begins to soften.
Learn to Make ALL These Cupcake Toppers!
Get step-by-step directions from cupcake instructor Lynlee Beckett.