For years, cake decorators everywhere have relied on sugar flowers for decorating, and for a good reason. Nearly everyone loves when flowers cascade down the tiers of a cake—if you’ve ever made a wedding cake, you’ve likely witnessed the demand first-hand. While real flowers are gorgeous, they don’t last. And artificial flowers aren’t always as realistic as one would hope. Sugar flowers make an interesting alternative to add some delicate and refined embellishments to any cake and avoid worrying about the petals wilting. Sugar flowers certainly have their advantages, and they’re often made so well that they look like authentic blooms.
If you’ve yet to work with sugar flowers, they can seem a bit intimidating. Sugar art takes plenty of precision and careful detailing to bring the flowers to life. Fortunately, we’ve put together an easy guide to sugar flowers—including how to make and use them—to give you an idea of where to start.
So, without further ado, let’s get blooming!
What are Sugar Flowers?
Sugar flowers, also known as gum paste flowers, are edible flowers made from gum and confectioners’ sugar and molded from the paste to create vivid, life-like blossoms.
Sugar flowers are often used for special occasions, like weddings and anniversaries. They are excellent replacements for where people would decorate cakes and other baked goods with real flowers. Sugar flowers are generally super realistic; but, unlike genuine blooms, they can be cut and eaten along with the cake.
Benefits of Using Sugar Flowers for Cake Decorating
It’s natural to wonder why cake decorators go through all of the trouble to mold flowers when the roses picked from the garden would work just as well. Many times, the benefits of using sugar flowers in cake decorating outweigh the authentic look of real flowers. Here are a few key reasons why it can be advantageous to reach for the gum paste instead of the garden shears.
Sugar Flowers Last
Plenty of people—newlyweds in particular—like to save their sugar flowers as a reminder of their special day. Although they’re generally intricate and tedious to create, sugar flowers offer plenty of durability and endurance to withstand the test of both climate and time. When kept in an air-tight container, sugar flowers can last for years, where real flowers will brown and die rather quickly.
Real Flowers Need Water
After being cut, real flowers need to set in water to avoid drooping and wilting. For cake decorators, this entails placing each stem in a tiny vial of water before piercing them into the cake. The risk of water leaking inside a cake is not ideal for those who want to eat it. Not to mention, real cut flowers don’t store well for more than a couple of days before the event. With sugar flowers, you don’t have to worry about watering or storing. Clients can order weeks or even months in advance, and they’ll still make it to the event alive and flourishing.
Sugar can Depict Any Flower in Any Color, Any Time of the Year
Flowers have their seasons. When one flower might be in season for the special day, some particular blooms might not be available. But, with sugar flowers, you can create stunning floral cake arrangements, regardless of the season. Additionally, decorators can make sugar flowers into any color imaginable; nature doesn’t always provide this feature. Gum paste can also match desired color palettes exactly—you can easily cut out any guesswork of whether a flower is the same shade as the swatch.
Real Flowers can be Toxic
Gardeners and flower farmers often spray real flowers with pesticides and other chemicals that can be toxic to humans when ingested. Decorating with risky flowers can promote pesticides and chemicals to seep into the cake and cause problems for those who eat it. In other cases, depending on the species, real flowers are naturally poisonous and shouldn’t even be touched—let alone eaten or placed on a cake. That said, it’s crucial to be cautious with real flowers. Decorating with sugar flowers completely avoids any potential toxins and still looks just as elegant.
Guide to Sugar Flowers
Here is the fun part: making sugar flowers. Sugar flowers can be a bit meticulous, but with some patience and practice, you’ll be a pro in no time.
First, we’ll cover important tools and materials you’ll need to get started. You can mold petals by hand, but, at times, it’s helpful to employ some equipment to get the job done. Some essentials include:
- Ball tool: this can be used to run along the edges of molds to frill your petals or make indentations.
- Bulbous cone: this is a useful double-ended modeling tool that can help form realistic petals and leaves.
- Non-stick rolling pin & board: the non-stick board and pin will help you roll out your sugar dough with ease, and it can help form the ideal thickness in small quantities of paste.
- Cutters: depending on the style of flowers you’re hoping to achieve, various cutters are available for different petal shapes and sizes. Cutters can be similar to cookie-cutter stencils, or they can be plunger tools, which help cut the flower shape and push it out with an automatic curve. Do your research to decide which will work best for you.
You can experiment with various colors and blooms, but we’ll go ahead and cover the basic ins and outs of the blossom sugar flower practice, which is suitable for beginners, so you can get a head-start in applying the fundamentals.
Making Gum Paste from Scratch
Pre-made flower pastes and mixable powders are available at most cake decorating supply stores. However, many decorators find that they tend to not yield as great results as homemade flower paste. Ready-made flower paste can also be pricey. But luckily, it doesn’t take much effort to make it yourself.
Stand mixers are great for making gum paste, but you can also work with your hands to create sugar paste dough. Plenty of recipes offer similar gum paste results, and most typically include kneading together powdered sugar, egg whites, shortening, salt, vanilla, and Tylose powder or CMC to form a flexible and moldable paste.
Forming the Flowers
Molding sugar flowers typically takes the utmost care. First, you’ll need to roll the dough out onto your non-stick board to your desired thickness—around 0.07 cm thick is a great place to start. Then, use a circular cutter to cut out five circles, each about an inch wide.
Arrange the petals in the palm of your hand so they overlap with one another, touching in the middle to form a simple flower shape. Use the end of a small brush to push out the dough directly in the middle of the flower shape, and pinch the pushed-out dough from the backside to keep the petals from separating. Allow the flower to dry overnight.
Once it’s dried, you can decorate your blossom with petal dust in a color of your choice. Begin at the middle and softly brush the dust toward the edges, allowing it to form an ombre effect. Top your finished cake with your blossoms and viola!
Whether it’s a striking yellow lily or breathtaking foliage, you can use sugar flowers for nearly any of your cake decorating needs. There might be more effort to them than meets the eye, but sugar flowers are super beneficial, and they can make for a gorgeous addition to any cake. Try out some stunning blooms for your next cake; you might never bring real flowers back into your cake game.
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