A cake stand or pedestal is a decorative plate mounted on a stem or foot to display baked goods. These stands were originally known as salvers, named after the wide silver platters used for serving food or drinks, which prevented spillage from falling to the floor.
Some of the earliest glass salvers were mentioned in British records around 1620. Typically, these pedestals were made with a molded glass stem, and often appear in paintings from the 17th century topped with a group of wine glasses. By the mid-18th century, such servers were more commonly used for displaying desserts, sometimes stacked in successively smaller sizes to create dramatic dessert pyramids and topped with a compote holding fruit.
In the United States, the first glass salvers were produced in Philadelphia around 1770. Dessert stands were increasingly made from pressed glass rather than hand-blown, reaching their height in the late 19th century. During the boom-time for EAPG production, glass salvers were made by manufacturers like Adams & Co.; United States Glass Co.; Dalzell, Gilmore & Leighton; and McKee Bros. Though cheaper to produce, pattern glass still emulated the tastes of wealthy households, as with the O’Hara Glass Company’s “Crown Jewel” from 1888, whose base was meant to resemble the hanging crystals of a chandelier.
Cake servers from this era were sold in sizes ranging from a few inches in diameter to nearly two feet, and made in vivid colors like emerald green, canary yellow, amethyst, and sapphire. Pedestals also appeared in trendy materials like milk glass, jasperware, and jadeite.
On the most spectacular cake stands, like those made by the George Duncan & Sons, the glass feet were sculpted into decorative forms including a woman’s face, a raised hand, or a horseshoe. More restrained designs, like the New England Glass Company’s “Diamond Point” salver, were part of larger glassware sets that included matching plates, bowls, tumblers, candlesticks, and more.
Around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, major American manufacturers like Fostoria made salvers to match their full lines, cut into patterns with evocative names like Diana, Louise, and Virginia. In the mid-20th century, companies like Pyrex and Fiesta streamlined and simplified their cake stands to match modernist trends, even as the use of these items was falling out of style.