Sugar flowers or gum paste flowers are made from gum paste or flower or modeling paste as it is also called. It is sugar dough that’s made with a combination of icing/confectioner’s sugar, tylose or CMC and egg white.
Gum paste flowers are a form of sugar craft that makes a statement about the skills of a cake decorator. Gum paste flowers can be used as a cake topper, embellishment on cakes or center piece at events.
Getting Gum Paste Flowers Right
A bouquet of life-like gum paste flowers can really be intimidating to a newbie decorator. You may wonder how on earth you’ll be able to create such beauty. It’s really simple; all you need are the right tools, tutorials, practice and patience.
To make realistic gum paste flowers, you need to first start off with the right dough; gum paste.
You can either make your gum paste from scratch, buy a powder mix or ready to use gum paste. It may be best to start with the ready to use paste if you want to try your hand at gum paste flowers for the first time.
However, if you have to make a large batch of gum paste flowers, a ready to use paste may not be economical (it all depends on your budget though). You can make your own gum paste at home.
Let’s share a recipe we got from an accomplished sugar craft artist Veena Azmanov
Gum Paste Recipe for Gum Paste Flowers
Egg White or Meringue Powder
You can use either egg white or meringue powder. Egg white is best used for making gum paste when you are sure that the gum paste flowers would not be eaten.
For most stuff that goes on children’s cake it is better to use meringue powder.
This is because children most often would eat anything on their cake/cup cake. Meringue powder however is a more expensive option than egg white.
Note that when you wire your gum paste flowers, they shouldn’t be eaten.
Icing or Confectioner’s Sugar
Every cake decorator would already be familiar with icing sugar. It’s a staple in cake decorating just as flour is in baking. But when buying icing sugar, ensure that you get fine icing sugar; there are a thousand and one brands out there.
However, if you get a coarse product, you can run is through your dry blender and sieve with a fine flour sieve.
This is the most important ingredient in the recipe because it is the edible gum that holds it all together. If you don’t get stiff yet pliable dough, you won’t be able to roll out your paste very thin. And a thickly rolled paste won’t give you the life like effect required.
Clear Vanilla Extract
Clear vanilla extract is used so that you won’t get an ivory tinge in your white recipe. When we don’t have clear vanilla extract, we’ve resorted to almond flavor and it works just fine. Some decorators use rose extract or some other clear flavor extract.
Quick Gum Paste Substitute
We all know that gum paste is similar to fondant but fondant is not used for sugar flowers because of stability. If you live in a temperate region with little or no humidity, you can use this substitute. Add some tylose powder or CMC to your fondant and you have your gum paste! Some experts advise that you add a teaspoon of tylose or CMC to 250 grams of fondant.
However, we’ve discovered that this quantity varies from one location to the other.
Do your experiment and find out what works best for you.
Gum Paste Flower Tools
Though we have given a breakdown of the ingredients in the recipe for gum paste, we’ll just give you a summary of the basic tools you need to get started.
You’ll need the following: a rolling mat, a rolling pin, petal cutters, balling and veining tools and foam pad. As time goes on and your skill increases, you’ll find out that you may need more tools or even less.
Don’t forget to practice with the right recipe and the right tools! Practice!! Practice!!! Though nothing good comes easy, with practice you’ll become a pro in no time.
Proper Storage of Gum Paste
Gum paste if properly made and stored can last for over a month at room temperature. If stored in the fridge it can last for up to six months.
If you make gum paste flowers at regular intervals you can make double or triple the recipe.
Seal it in plastic bags according to the portion you require per time and refrigerate. That way, all you have to do when you need it is to bring it to room temperature and use.
Proper Storage and Preservation of Gum Paste Flowers
Storage and preservation are issues that cake decorators are faced with when it comes to gum paste flowers. When you have a major project that would require hundreds of sugar flowers, you have to start making them ahead of time.
You’ve spent hours on end churning out beautiful full bloom roses, leaves and filler flowers only for them to be damaged before D-day. What a sad experience! We know how it feels; a lot of cake decorators feel you too!
Here are a few tips from those who have learnt the hard way and don’t want you to go through that heart ache.
Tips for Working With Gum Paste
When rolling out your gum paste, you’ll need to use corn starch and vegetable shortening. You use vegetable shortening to knead your gum paste so that it would be smooth. Corn starch is used to roll out the gum paste.
Bear in mind not to overuse any of them; too much corn starch would make your gum paste brittle. While too much vegetable shortening would make it too soft and slippery.
When you are making your gum paste flower, always ensure that the unused paste is kept under a plastic wrap. This is to keep it from drying out.
Tips for Drying Gum Paste Flowers
First step that would make your gum paste flowers dry fast is making the petals as thin as possible. Though some flowers have thicker petals than others, try to keep the petals to the right level of thinness and not more or less.
When you are done with your flowers, keep them on flower formers or hang them on flower racks. What you’ll use to dry the flower depends on the kind of flower it is. Gum paste flowers are not dried in the fridge or enclosed places.
You might need to switch the sides of the flowers so that they’ll dry faster but be careful not to over handle them. If you must touch your flowers before they dry, wear a glove. This is to ensure that you don’t smudge them with dirty, sweaty or hot fingers and also distort the shape.
Storing Gum Paste Flowers
Once your gum paste flowers are dry, you can now go ahead and store them. Do not ever store gum paste flowers that are not completely dry! The tiniest amount of moisture on the gum paste flower can undo your long hours of work.
Always store your gum paste flowers in clear airtight containers. The reason for using a transparent container is so that you can check on the flowers periodically.
It is advised that you use some bubble wraps or paper napkins to pad the container. This would help to keep the flowers dry and safe. Gum paste flowers are just like fresh eggs and must be handled carefully.
Do not be tempted to store your gum paste flowers in the fridge or freezer. One or all of these three things can happen to the flowers: (a) they can absorb flavors from other things in the fridge/freezer (b) water would condense on the flowers and leave marks (c) the gum paste flowers would crack when they thaw.
Storing Gum Paste Flowers in High Humidity
For those who live in humid locales it is important that you protect the gum paste flowers from humidity. Placing silica gel packs in the airtight container would help remove moisture from the container. That’s a sure way of ensuring that your gum paste flowers remain nice and dry for as long as required.
If you can’t get silica gel packs, there are other alternatives you can use to remove moisture from your storage container. You can use rice or white bread.
Pour the rice into the container and cover with bubble wraps, and then place the flowers on the bubble wraps. You can just throw in the white bread with the flowers. You might have to refresh the stock of the rice or bread depending on how long you are storing the flowers.
More Tips for Combating Humidity and Drying Gum Paste Flowers Faster
Experience has taught cake decorators how to deal with the temperature or climate of their environment. They’ve also learnt how to speed up the process of decorating with gum paste flowers. Here are some of the tips that people have shared:
Cupboards with Light Bulbs
This is a method that’s mostly used in the tropics. Most cake decorators in the tropics build a special cupboard for their gum paste flowers. This cupboard has a light bulb that’s always on; this acts as a food hydrator that draws moisture from the cupboard.
The cupboard is also where the gum paste flowers are left to dry from the get go. One thing to bear in mind though is that light would fade the color of the gum paste flower. To avoid this, most people make the gum paste flowers white and store. Or they color the flowers a deeper shade than required so that when the color fades they get the desired color.
The latter option might not be very safe because the color might fade more than desired. It is safer to store the flowers white and then color with dust petals, edible spray or airbrush on D- day.
A food dehydrator is a kitchen appliance that’s used to remove moisture from food. Although originally designed for drying food, cake decorators have found it quite useful for speeding things up when decorating.
If you find yourself running late or having to deliver an emergency order with gum paste decorations, this would help.
Tips for Using Food Dehydrators
When using a food dehydrator to dry your gum paste flowers and other gum past figures, please note these points:
(i) The bottom of the appliance is its hottest part so it’s best to use the top trays to avoid too much heat.
(ii) When you bring out the gum paste flower it would be hot and soft but don’t be alarmed. Leave it out to cool and you’ll have your flowers or figures nice and dry.
(iii) If you are drying items that must retain their shapes, use aluminum foil formers. This would help to slow down the drying speed and time.
(iv) Food hydrators are not designed to accommodate tall items. However, ingenious decorators have found ways to rig up their machines to make it work for them. If you are not that handy or ingenious, note that your hydrator would work only for your flat items.
Tips to Preparing Gum Paste Flowers for Your Projects
When you have a project that requires a considerable quantity of flowers, here are some things to do:
This is to ensure that you won’t rush any step of your process. Even if you have a food hydrator, gum paste flower creation takes a process.
For those who have frequent orders, part of planning ahead is to make variety of flowers in white and store.When you have emergencies or orders on short notice, you can color the flowers appropriately and use them.
Buy Ready to Use Gum Paste and Pre- Made Flower Centers
These come in handy especially in those situations when the preparation time is short. You can cut down on your preparation time by buying ready to use gum paste and flower centers. Most flower centers would take at least 12 hours to dry so that they can hold the petals well.
When you buy the already made flower centers, you save 12 hours in time and labor. You can produce hundreds of flowers in twelve hours.
Always Have Filler Flowers on Hand
Whenever you are working on a gum paste flower project, always ensure that you make more flowers than you need. This would help you not to run into shortage in case of breakages and also give you something to work with at short notice.
Filler flowers can help make one or two large or medium sized flowers into a bouquet. So whenever you have some free time, make filler flowers. You can never go wrong with them.
There’s so much we can say about gum paste flowers but we believe that this is a good starting point. With this information you’ve gained, you should be able to start up your gum paste flower making venture.
What’s more, even experienced cake decorators may have learnt a thing or two. The cake decorating business and sugar craft is an ongoing learning experience. As long as you remain open, you’ll keep on learning and growing.