Photo Cakes & Cake Toppers
It’s a special occasion, why have exactly the same thing as someone else? Here at SPONGE we are all about making things personal.
- Sponge Cake Toppers: A History
- Design Your Own Topper
- What Occasions are Photo Cakes for?
- Photo Cakes Online
It’s a special occasion, why have exactly the same thing as someone else?
Here at SPONGE we are all about making things personal. We have an extensive range of options for personalised cakes so whether it's a mini bottle of Prosecco, a card, or some fun fountain candles, you can add that little something extra to make someone’s day.
By far our most popular option is the ability to personalise the top of your cake or create a photo cake. Our team has spent hundreds (perhaps even thousands!), of man hours researching and developing our cake toppers to try and make it the best way of making your cake uniquely yours, while still getting a great SPONGE cake experience underneath.
Because of their unique proposition, we’ve drawn all sorts of customers seeking to customise their cake, running the gamut from personal messages and inside jokes, celebrating a parkrun milestone, professions of love and marriage proposals, all the way to big well-known companies like Fat Face or Nespresso, sending out their logo on top of a cake to their best employees, suppliers, customers or outlets.
Here are some of our personalised toppers for Fat Face on some of our Sponges for 16 last year. As you can see the toppers didn't quite reach the size on our larger cakes, however we now have the capability to products toppers that cover the entire Sponge for 16!
You can take almost any of our existing ‘For 8’ or ‘For 16’ Sponge Cakes (Please note as of 2022 we have changed how our photo cakes are created. You can find our new photo cakes here) and add your very own personal cake topper to them. It could be with a photo, your own message, or if you’re in a rush and not feeling too inspired, we’ve come up with a big range of seasonal and one-click predesigned toppers for you to choose from (see our Valentine's ones from last year below).
If you do wish to send a large quantity of topped photo cakes, then get in touch with our corporate team and we can discuss all the things we can do for you. We have a range of flexible options, such as sending employees a cake on their birthday each year, to large quantities for a new store opening, and much more.
Keep reading to see how our cake topper journey has developed over the years, and how our newest topper designer provides the best ‘cake topping’ experience yet, and is still getting better!
Sponge Cake Toppers: A History
Since our humble beginnings back in 2009 we have offered the ability to add a simple personalised message to your cake orders. When we first started, we used to cut each individual letter of your message, or the shape of your logo, by hand from fondant icing.
As we grew this became much less sustainable and we began to explore more automation in our process. After much consideration, we came to the conclusion that our toppers needed to be ‘printed’ instead of manually cut from icing, which would allow us much more flexibility in the long run.
One of the biggest advantages of this new approach was we could offer a range of pre-designed toppers, widely expanding the ability of our customers to customise their order.
Our first attempt at bespoke toppers with a message, took your message and sent it through to our bakery. A member of our team would then manually create a topper in a specially designed piece of software, print it out and hand it over to another member of the team to top the cake.
This was a big move forward, but there were some drawbacks. The software we were using had limitations and our team found it difficult to use, and we were vulnerable to errors as the message had to be re-entered from the order in to the software. Whilst it was still much quicker than cutting each letter, it was also quite time consuming and labour intensive.
We decided to invest some of our development time into creating our own system. Our aim was to stay with the existing design, but to automate the entire creation process so we could click a button and the topper would be printed, no manual intervention required.
We also wanted to allow the customer to see an accurate preview of what would end up on top of their cake.
This was another big leap forward, but it too had a few drawbacks. This design used curved text at the top and bottom of the cake, which looked great when the words used were reasonably short, but there would be some very unattractive overlapping and size contrasts when longer words were used. So we had to limit the number of characters that a message would contain.
Our longest text block would allow for just 10 characters! This would mean commonly used words such as ‘congratulations’ would not fit. Surprisingly this didn’t cause too many problems and our customers graciously adapted and used ‘congrats’ and variations on words that wouldn’t fit.
Our next big leap forward was the addition of photo cakes. We had dipped our toes in the water of photo uploads with the first version of our cake card product, so we had a base of knowledge to work from with that, but the toppers had their own challenges. One big example they were circular, not the portrait images we could much more easily print for cake cards.
We decided to make a trade off of simplicity and take the photo and simply layer it centrally underneath the existing message. This had the advantage of being very simple to use, but did not really allow for any adjustment of the image, and we still had the character limits of the message itself.
So when it came time to take another look at our toppers, we had all these years of lessons learned, and big ambitions for what we thought cake toppers could do.
In the back of our minds we still had all the same niggles from the previous versions, we had specific aims for this new version, and we wanted to remove as many of those artificial limitations as possible. Those aims were as follows:
- Allow as much (or as little) text in the message as desired.
- Move to a new, cleaner, and more readable type face
- Allow adjustments to the photo framing (zoom, nudge etc).
- Must still be simple and easy to use
We got cracking, and after a long slog, a few false starts and dead ends, and lots of rounds of tweaks with the team and our friends and families, we came up with our new photo cake designer.
Design Your Own Topper
We have launched a brand-new topper designer, and we think it’s a massive leap forward and a really fun way to make a cake special!
After a long gestation period, we think we’ve achieved our aims, and creating a photo cake is now a lot more straightforward. It's now a lot easier to print a picture on a cake.
Here’s what's new or improved:
Brand new look
We’ve tried to create an intuitive (and therefore easy to use) interactive designer. It is clean and clear, and the available options are deliberately kept simple. We aren’t trying to create Photoshop!
A range of backgrounds
You can choose between your own background or one of our predesigned ones. This gives you the flexibility to pop a message on top of the cake even if you can’t quite find that perfect photo.
We will tweak the range now and again, mainly to keep track of the seasons, but we’ve gone for a fairly simple range with a mix of fun and colourful designs that we think should cover most occasions. There’s plenty of options to choose from.
If you’re uploading your own photo, we’ve made things really simple, all you need to do is drag and drop or click on the design tool to upload your photo. When you initially add an image to the designer, it tries to find the best framing automatically.
We think it’s a pretty effective option that works the vast majority of the time, but it can be a bit tricker with landscape photos. It may not be able to fit everything in without leaving blank spaces at the top and bottom of the topper due to the orientation, so we recommend using a square or portrait images where possible for the best results.
Not all images are made equal and you may not agree with the choice the algorithm has made, so for that you can easily drag your image until it sits nicely in the circle.
There are some controls to allow you the ability to tweak the framing of the image. You can drag the positioning of the image up, down, left, or right. You can also expand or shrink the circle into the image (see our ‘How can I get the most of my own design?’ in the frequently asked question section below). We think this should provide enough flexibility to get your image just to your liking.
You can now get so much more message on your cake! Say congratulations, or floccinaucinihilipilification, write a poem, or whatever you like! The photo cake design tool allows you to add the message that you want. Just click the ‘annotate’ button in the builder to add shapes or text to your photos.
Once you select the text option you can change the colour, font type, style, size, line height, and alignment to suit your photo.
You can choose where the message appears on the topper (either your own photo or a pre-designed one) as you add a text box to pop the message into. Then we recommend you click off it and hover over it until the blue box highlight appears and click on it. When you hover over the now white line with three dots a cross with arrows will appear allowing you to move the text box as you wish. Tweak your positioning to fit the photo, (or adjust the photo to fit the message!) it’s your choice.
All those filters you love on Instagram? Yep, you use those in our builder. Okay, they may not be EXACTLY the one from Insta, but they do a lot of the same things. For instance, if you want to go for a classic look you could opt for one of the black and white filters. There lots of options, some that will brighten your images, and even sepia if you are going for an old timey wild west feel.
If you want to go one step beyond, there’s a fine tune option that allows you to manipulate various different elements such as brightness and contrast. This is a great way to perfect your photo cake toppers, but if you’re not too tech savvy, we’d probably recommend to just use a filter which should help you achieve what you need.
More to Come
This is the basis of our cake toppers for the years to come, and we’ve got a few more ideas in the pipeline which we think will make it even better.
What Occasions are Photo Cakes for?
Any occasion, there are no limits to when you should or can have a photo cake, even if you wanted a photo cake just because… we won’t stop you! But here are the most common occasion they are ordered for in our experience.
Birthday Photo Cakes
Birthdays are a great reason to get together and have a fabulous party. When you are celebrating your own birthday it’s great to know how loved you are with friends and family joining you on your special day. If you are planning someone else’s party, then you’re probably thinking about their birthday cake!
You can get a delicious cake that you can also put a special edible image on that would be perfect for their birthday! Whether you want to create your own photo cake with your favourite picture of the birthday person, or want to use one of our ready-made designs, we even that some themed TV, Game, and Film photo cake toppers that could be perfect for their birthday.
Wedding Photo Cake
Wedding days are always unique, we all have our own idea of what our perfect wedding day will look like. Some have big elaborate affairs, inviting hundreds of guests to celebrate their big day, others have smaller more intimate engagements with just a handful of loved one’s present. Whatever size wedding party you are having you’ll need to make sure that your wedding cake has a bit of a wow factor about it. Whether you are looking for something that’s simple yet effective or a cake with a bit more pizzazz, your cake is an important part of the day.
We think photo cakes would create a wonderful thing to talk about at a wedding and we have had people order them for their wedding in the past. Photo cakes are wonderful as a centrepiece for any celebration. You get to choose a delicious cake and have a personalised photo placed on top of it, and they are more affordable if you want a bespoke wedding cake without the added cost.
Kids Birthday Photo Cakes
A child’s birthday is a wonderful experience, they get so excited at the fact that it is their special day. We always want to do our best for our children and make sure that their birthday party will be memorable for them. Theming a party around their favourite thing is often a go-to solution to making it wonderful and magical for them. Obviously, as time goes on their tastes and interests change but, at that moment, when they are still passionate about one particular thing you want to create a memory for them that will stay with them for a long time.
Theming a party comes with its own challenges, do the guests dress up to fit the theme? Are the decorations all in the theme, including the plates, cups, and napkins (where possible)? And of course, possibly the most important element for the birthday celebration, the cake. The cake needs to be on point for the theme.
Now you could pay out lots of money to have a cake made into the shape of their favourite thing to fit the theme, but it is possible to create a wonderful themed cake on a budget. A delicious cake that fits your theme does not have to cost the earth. You can do it with the steps we told you about above.
Anniversary Photo Cakes
Anniversaries are such special occasions too; they are a day when we celebrate a momentous day with our partner. Whether it’s the anniversary of the day you met, when you first started your relationship or your wedding anniversary, there is a lot to celebrate! And a celebration is complete without a cake!
It’s important to make sure you have the right cake to suit the occasion, making sure the flavour is right, but also the presentation is key. What could be better for an anniversary for two people in love than with a photo cake to mark the occasion?
Photo Cakes are just as the name describes; they are edible photos that sit on top of a delicious cake! Our Photo cakes are hand-made, and placing your photo cake order online is easy with our handy Photo cake topper design tool. Why not choose your favourite photo from your wedding day to enjoy on top of your anniversary cake? Or choose one of our pre-designed anniversary cake toppers to create your perfect centrepiece cake.
Photo Cakes Online
Bespoke cakes; what it means is that they have been made especially for you, and should be one-of-a-kind designs tailored to what you want. If you’re after something very specific, you may actually get a bespoke crafted cake, but most of the time the baker has probably made something very similar, if not the same before. Another thing about bespoke cakes is that they can be quite costly, and they are out of reach for a lot of people due to this.
But we think that personalised cakes should be available for everyone, and they should be budget friendly too. A great way to create your own bespoke cake is with a photo cake topper, it allows you to be creative and come up with your own design without the huge price tag that comes with a fully bespoke cake.
If you want to create your own photo cake, you can do so without leaving your house, and without even leaving your comfy chair if you don’t want to. You can order photo cakes online with Sponge. Whether you want to make a full design by yourself or you want to use a pre-designed topper and just add a photo to it, we’ve made it simple to create your own photo cakes.
You can place an order for your photo cake in advance for a special occasion using the calendar at our checkout!
Frequently Asked Questions
We get asked a few of the same questions now and then, so we’ve collected them here.
How are they made?
Once we receive your order and it is ready to be sent through to our bakery team for processing, your cake topper will go through a three-step process.
Step 1: Print
The first step is to print your design (or perhaps one of our many predesigned cake topper options).
For this, we use a specially modified printer that uses food-safe edible inks (made from food colouring) instead of regular inks which contain all sorts of inedible chemicals. The design is then sent through the printer, printed on an edible icing sheet made from various starches and sugars which your design will be printed on.
Step 2: Topping
The second step is for your design to be added to the cake you have chosen. To do that we first roll out some fondant icing, and then carefully place the printed disc on top, using a little water to adhere the two parts. We trim off the edges and the design is then ready to go on top of the cake.
Using a little buttercream for ‘glue’ we stick the icing and topper to the cake and smooth it all down.
Step 3: Wrapping and Dispatch
Your finished cake is then checked by another member of our bakery team, before being sealed and packaged in our tried and tested postage packaging, and then handed off to our delivery partner along with all of the other cakes going out that day.
How can I add a photo or topper to my cake? I can't see the option!
Photo cakes can be found in the ‘personalised cakes’ option under the products heading, once you get there you will see a choice between either photo cakes or numbers cakes and you’ll see the available flavours.
Simply select the cake (flavour and size) you wish to top, and when you click ‘Buy’ then the process of customising your cake will begin!
Why is some of my photo cut off?
Photos by their nature are rectangles, and sometimes, squares. In order to fit them on top of our round cakes, we have to round the edges off any photo in order to make it look right. If you have anything at the edges of the image, then these are likely to be cut off.
As you can see in the following image the area in red (the fork, the cranberries etc) won’t show because we’ve had to ‘carve out’ a circular area of the rectangular image.
Our topper designer offers various tweaking options, so we’re pretty confident you can frame your picture, or at the very least find an area within your picture, to make it look great but not all photos will make for a good cake topper. The beauty of our designer is that you can keep experimenting with a few different pictures and see which one looks best!
You’ll also get to review your image whilst in the design tool, and we’ll show you what it will look like on the cake. There will be a message that pops up to ask you to confirm you are happy with your image at this point, as once it’s submitted we can’t change it.
If I want to add my own specially designed image or company logo, what size photo/image should I use?
Our designer functionality should be able to adapt to most sizes. Please also bear in mind the best practices (featured below) when you do use your own imagery. But if you are looking to place an order for a corporate photo cake take a look at our corporate at the corporate gifting page – or get in touch with one of our team members who will be able to help you.
How can I get the most out of my design?
1. Use high quality images
Our designer will allow you to use images that perhaps will not result in the best quality possible end product. This is a pragmatic trade-off after years of seeing the different shapes and sizes of images that our customers send through to us. The designer will warn you if the image you want to use may result in a poor quality end product.
When we decide which images are suitable for a cake topper we judge it on the shortest side of the image, so if you have an image that has a width of 1000 pixels, but a height of 500 pixels, we would consider the size of that photo to be 500 pixels.
We have a hard minimum of 500 pixels. So even if your photo is 2000 pixels across, but only 499 in height, we would not allow you to use that image in our designer, and it will reject it with a message saying as such.
Our recommendation for the best results is using images with a minimum of 1500 pixels on its shortest side. You can of course go higher than this if you wish, but only up to a maximum total file size of 4MB.
2. Cake size matters
Related to the above, if you are topping a ‘Sponge for 16’, they are larger than our ‘Sponge For 8’ cakes, so you may need better imagery for the larger circumference of the ‘For 16’. If you stick to the sizes above then that should easily accommodate both sizes of cake.
3. Use the zoom function sparingly
Our designer allows you to move and zoom into the image, but the more you zoom into the image, the more the quality will degrade. We would only recommend zooming a little bit. If your image is particularly high quality (e.g 2000 pixels or more) then you may be able to zoom further in without any quality loss.
4. Use your own images
As tempting as it may be to search through google images for that perfect image, these images are usually of dubious provenance or may have copyright issues attached to them, but most likely will be of poor quality.
We find that ‘meme’ images are particularly bad for this, as they are usually of low quality and a shape that does not transfer to the circular nature of our cake tops (see ‘Why is some of my photo cut off?’ for more info on this).
4. Try not to crop or resize your images too much (or at all)
Our designer will allow you to ‘frame’ the image using by dragging it around. We would recommend using this instead of cropping the images yourself. If the image you use is an odd shape or size then it may be much more difficult to find a framing that will work well.
5. Only add a message using the text option in the designer
Want to add a message to the top of the cake? Great! The designer will allow you to place text on your cake topper.
We don’t recommend you adding the text yourself using an image editor before uploading your photo, as this will be ‘burnt in’ to the image and you would be unable make any changes to it once that’s been done. If you use the design tool to add your text instead, you can easily correct any spelling errors or reposition the text before submitting it.
Can I top a Baby Sponge?
We have tried a few times, but at this stage we haven’t developed a robust enough technique for topping our baby sponges that would survive the unique challenges of delivery.
Our baby sponges are very small and delicate which creates a unique set of challenges for our toppers and production system. We’re always exploring however, so this may become an option at some point in the future.