Gallery: Sweet Technique: Making Gum Paste Flowers

  • Dramatic, edible (well, technically) decorations

    gum paste flowers

    Gum paste is modeling clay made mostly from sugar that is often used by cake decorators to create dramatic-looking flowers. Click through the slideshow to learn about basic gum paste methods.

    Lots of tools

    specialty equipment for gum paste flowers

    Making gum paste flowers requires a fair amount of specialty equipment. Pictured here are: sculpting tools, foam board, X-acto knife, luster dust and gel colors, a rolling board, wire, a plastic rolling pin, and flower tape. Not pictured: gum paste, gloves or ziplock bags, cornmeal, plastic wrap, and gum paste slurry.

    Drying station

    empty egg carton

    In addition to all of the equipment, you'll need to set up a drying station. I use a cooling rack set over the edge of a table, and recycled egg cartons.

    To begin, knead gum paste

    kneading gum paste

    Start out by kneading the gum paste until it is smooth, stretchy, and pliable.

    Apply gel color

    gel color for gump paste flowers

    Just as I did last week in the rolled fondant tutorial, apply color to the gum paste then fold and stretch like taffy.

    Protect your hands

    plastic gloves kneading gum paste

    Repeat the stretching and folding until the gel color soaks into the dough, then knead to even out the color completely. Protect your hands from the dye using gloves or plastic baggies.

    Wrap gum paste tightly whenever you are not using

    gum paste in plastic wrap

    Between colors, securely wrap the gum paste in plastic. For more long-term storage, always double wrap securely, then store in an airtight container.

    Prepare a slurry of warm water and gum paste

    warm water and gum paste in shallow bowl

    You'll need the slurry to act as a glue that will help you get a better seal when adhering things to, or imbedding wires in, gum paste. Use 1/4 cup warm water a a small ball of gum paste, approximately the size of a nickel. Dissolve the gum paste completely in the water.

    Flower centers: make hooks

    hooks

    When preparing to make the centers for flowers, start by cutting the wires to the desired length (I like 3-4 inches) and making little hooks on the end of each one.

    Flower centers: divide dough and shape into balls

    gum paste flower centers

    Most flower centers begin as a ball shape, which then gets rolled to create other smooth, rounded shapes.

    Flower centers: shape the center

    shaping gum paste flowers

    For the center of a calla lily, I roll the ball into a rounded, tapered point.

    Flower centers: smooth out the shape

    shaping gum paste flowers

    Then I pinch and smooth the center with my fingers.

    Flower centers: Insert the hook

    using hook to shape gum paste flowers

    Once I'm satisfied with the shape, I dip the hook in the slurry and insert it into the center. I try to push it as far as possible, without showing visual signs on the outside.

    Flower centers: Adding texture

    gum paste flowers with edible pollen

    If you desire a "pollenated" look, brush the centers with slurry, then roll them in finely ground polenta or cornmeal.

    Flower centers: Drying

    gum paste flower centers

    It is very important that the centers be completely dry and hardened before you continue making the flowers (if they are not dry, the flowers will slip off the wires and you will not be able to work with them). Allow the centers to dry for 3-4 days before using. Hang them upside down to dry.

    Roll gum paste to make petals and leaves

    rolled gum paste for flower petals

    To make petals and leaves, roll the gum paste into a thin, even sheet, lifting and turning as you go to prevent sticking. (You may also grease the surface a bit with vegetable shortening).

    Cut shapes

    gum paste flower petals

    Cut petal shapes using a paring knife or X-acto knife.

    Roll against the board

    shaping gum paste flower petals

    Place the petal on the board with the groove directly down the center.

    Roll the gum paste on the board

    roll gum paste flower petals

    Roll the petal over the grooved board. This will create an impression in the dough for inserting a wire.

    Insert the wire

    placing wire in gum paste flower petal

    Carefully slide the tip of the wire into the raised area. It takes some practice to insert it evenly so it doesn't break through on either side.

    Create texture and movement

    shaping gum paste flower petals

    Create delicate, ruffled petals by running ball tools around the sides of the petal on the foam board.

    Dry the petals

    drying gum paste flower petals

    Lay the shaped petal over the egg carton grooves to ensure that the petal dries with natural-looking curves. The petals should be allowed to dry for 2-3 days before assembling the flowers.

    Assemble flowers

    putting together gum paste flower

    Once the petals and centers are dry and hardened, bend the wires and arrange them together in a bundle around a center. Then wrap the bundle of wires together with the flower tape. Once the flower is tightly bound together, you can arrange each petal exactly the way you'd like it.

    Cutting a calla lily

    calla lily gum paste flower

    Calla lilies are one of the most dramatic and easy flowers to crate with gum paste. The petal is made from rolled gum paste cut into a teardrop shape.

    Creating edges of calla lily

    shaping calla lily gum paste flower

    Run the ball tool around the edges of the teardrop to create a delicate, ruffled edge.

    Cover the center

    shaping calla lily gum past flower

    Apply a bit of slurry to the bottom edge of the petal, then wrap it around the center. Smooth the gum paste around the base, covering the bottom of the center completely with the petal.

    Roll the petal edges

    calla lily gum paste flower

    Roll the edges of petal around a skewer or knitting needle to make them fan out. Hang the flower from the cooling rack and dry for 2-3 days.

    Apply the luster dust

    luster dust

    Once the flower has hardened, it will be ready for the final touch—coloring with luster dust. Create a color palette to work from, by pouring small amounts of the dust into piles in order of how you'd like to blend them.

    Paint the flowers with dust

    add luster dust gum paste flower

    Using a dry brush, apply the dust to the surface of the flower. Create layers of color by blending—this is a lot like painting with watercolors. I like to look up pictures of flowers on the Internet to use as a guide.

    Changing colors

    coloring gum paste flower

    If you need to clean the brush, roll it in cornstarch and wipe it thoroughly with a clean, dry cloth.

    Dramatic decorations

    gum paste flowers

    As you can see, gum paste flowers take a fair amount of work for beautiful results. With practice you can make some stunning creations!

    gum paste calla lily