Dramatic, edible (well, technically) decorations
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
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.
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
Start out by kneading the gum paste until it is smooth, stretchy, and pliable.
Apply gel color
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
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
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
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
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
Most flower centers begin as a ball shape, which then gets rolled to create other smooth, rounded shapes.
Flower centers: shape the center
For the center of a calla lily, I roll the ball into a rounded, tapered point.
Flower centers: smooth out the shape
Then I pinch and smooth the center with my fingers.
Flower centers: Insert the hook
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
If you desire a "pollenated" look, brush the centers with slurry, then roll them in finely ground polenta or cornmeal.
Flower centers: Drying
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
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 petal shapes using a paring knife or X-acto knife.
Roll against the board
Place the petal on the board with the groove directly down the center.
Roll the gum paste on the board
Roll the petal over the grooved board. This will create an impression in the dough for inserting a wire.
Insert the wire
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
Create delicate, ruffled petals by running ball tools around the sides of the petal on the foam board.
Dry the 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.
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 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
Run the ball tool around the edges of the teardrop to create a delicate, ruffled edge.
Cover the center
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
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
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
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.
If you need to clean the brush, roll it in cornstarch and wipe it thoroughly with a clean, dry cloth.
As you can see, gum paste flowers take a fair amount of work for beautiful results. With practice you can make some stunning creations!