A few simple tools and techniques transform a lump of gumpaste, a sugar dough made from powder sugar, gelatin, gum tragacanth and glucose, into flower cake decorations as realistic as flowers from a garden. The flowers dry hard -- almost like ceramic -- and can be placed on a cake or cupcake individually or as part of a bouquet.
Cutting Gum Paste
Gum paste flower petals are cut from thin, rolled gum paste, which requires a fondant rolling mat, a fondant roller or rolling pin and fondant or cookie cutters in a variety of shapes. First, tint the gum paste with food coloring gel to the desired shade for the flowers you wish to make. Use a rolling mat and roller from a fondant and gum paste tool set to roll out the gum paste. The gum paste should be rolled to about 1/16 inch thick. The petals can be formed with a variety of shaped cutters. Try a heart cutter to make individual petals for large, frilly flowers such as peonies, or a three- to five-petaled flower cutting tool to make petals for roses, hibiscus and other flowers. Try a cutter with many thin, pointed petals to make flowers such as daisies and sunflowers. These basic shapes are manipulated to make them look like different types of flowers.
Ruffles and Ripples
After the flowers are cut, they must be shaped to make the curved or frilly edges typical of many flowers. This requires a foam mat that can be purchased at a cake supply store, but in a pinch, a piece of foam paper works well. Lay the petals on the foam mat and roll a fondant ball or dog bone tool along the edges to develop the ruffled edges. The ball tool flattens the petal edges while curling them around the ball. Repeated rolling is needed to make petals for extra ruffly flowers such as peonies, while rose petals are curved much less by comparison. Veining mats can be pressed onto the rolled gum paste before ruffling the edges if you want to add texture such as ripples or veins to the flower petals. The outer petals of roses and other flowers tend to curl down slightly. To achieve this downward curl, lay the pieces of the outer petals in a spoon with the edges overhanging the spoon so the gum paste droops down naturally.
Assembling Open-Centered Flowers
Flowers such as peonies, hibiscuses and daisies must be placed in a bowl or cup to develop the open cup shape. They'll be held together with tylose glue, made by mixing tylose powder with water at a ratio of about 1 tablespoon of powder to 30 tablespoons of water, then let it rest overnight to form a gel. First, dust the bowl well with powdered sugar to prevent sticking. Place the petals in the bowl, brushing them with the tylose glue to hold them together. The number of layers depends on the type of flower, but each layer should be smaller in diameter than the previous layer. Try two layers of petals for a sunflower or a dozen layers of thin petals for peonies.
Assembling Closed-Center Flowers
Roses and tulip buds are among the flowers with closed centers that are assembled by layering petals around a central base. Start with an oval- or teardrop-shaped ball of gum paste with a toothpick inserted in the base. Allow the gum paste to dry completely, about one or two days. Brush tylose glue on the bottom edge of the petals and press them onto the base of the oval or teardrop piece, using three petals with equal spacing. Curl the edges of these three petals out slightly to make a rose bud, or leave them relatively straight for tulips. Add five petals around the bud to make a small rose or closed tulip, centering each petal on the overlapping joints of the previous three petals. Add seven more petals in a third layer to make a large rose. Bend each layer of rose petals farther back than the previous layer.
Open-center flowers should be finished with a small, circular piece of gum paste for the eye of the flower, or a thin stick of gum paste applied with floral wire if the flower has a long stamen. Whether you make open or closed-center flowers, they must be left at room temperature to dry completely. Depending on the number of layers and flower thickness, this could take from a few hours to two or three days. This is the point where sugar flowers really begin to look realistic. Brush petal dust onto the flower petals to affect color variation typical of real flower petals. Alternatively, mix the petal dust with grain alcohol to make a paint that you can brush on wet, for instance to make the dots on tiger lily petals. The alcohol evaporates quickly, leaving the color behind.
- Photo Credit Jeffrey Hamilton/Digital Vision/Getty Images
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