Saturday, September 12, 2009

Gum Paste: Part 1:What is it?

A friend of mine on BloggerAid, Giz, has asked me to give her some information on "gum paste". I don't use a lot of it myself. I like to make icing flowers. Which most of you know by now. But there are times that I need to make gum paste or fondant figures, accessories or flowers. I am not, and don't profess to be, an expert in the art of making gum paste flowers. But I do agree that when done properly they are gorgeous. Not edible. But gorgeous. Most of you also know that 99% of what I put on my cake must be edible. So another reason I don't use it very often.

So first a little history on "gum paste".
From Baking 911

Gum paste, also known as sugar paste, pastillage or sometimes called candy clay, is used for making all kinds of fancy decorations, such as long-lasting flowers, ribbons, bows, leaves, and just about anything else you can imagine. It has a long and interesting history and has been used by confectioners to make edible decorations since the late medieval period.

Today it is quite popular with many cake designers.

Gum paste is really a pliable "sugar dough", mixed with gums, which makes it easy to shape like modeling clay. Because of its sugar content, dries hard with the texture and crispness of a Necco wafer, and can be very brittle. It can be tinted, painted or dusted with decorating dust. It is considered "technically" edible, but it is not palatable, especially because it's bland and doesn't taste very good.

Gum paste is versatile and is stronger than Fondant. It can be rolled very thin, used for making delicate shapes or molded into figurines, trees, and animals. Pieces can be "glued" together to make large standing ones. Gum paste dries very quickly if thin, but takes a long time to dry if thick, sometimes 24 hours or more. Decorations can be made weeks in advance and temporarily stored in airtight containers, in a cool, dark place or kept there indefinitely away from heat or moisture, which can soften them.

You can make Gum paste from scratch or buy it ready-made. No matter which you use the recipe should be smooth and non-sticky.

Gum paste contains sugar or glucose which makes it pliable and slows the drying effect of air. This is important because the sugar makes it a good medium to work with, especially for those who need ample time to form their decorations. Gum paste can be mixed with other recipes for decorative work. For example, a 50/50 mixture of Gum paste and rolled fondant makes the Fondant easier to work with. Preparing a gum paste recipe is similar to making fondant, but the addition of gum tragacanth gives the dough the added flexibility for making delicate flowers and forming figures.

Gum paste can be rolled out much thinner than fondant can, allowing you to make realistic-looking flower petals.

When making gum paste drapes or lace impressions, attach them to the cake right away. Flowers and figures should be allowed to dry. Once dry, they can be dusted with petal dust or painted with a combination of lemon extract and powdered food coloring. Then they are attached to the cake with a dab of royal icing.

Ingredients for Gum Paste Recipe:

2-1/2 c. confectioner's sugar
1/2 c. corn flour
3 tsp. gum tragacanth
5 tsp. cold water
2 tsp. unflavored powdered gelatin
3 tsp. shortening
2 tsp. glucose
1 large egg white

Step One:
In the bowl of an electric mixer, place confectioner's sugar and corn flour. Mix them together and then sprinkle the gum tragacanth on top. Set the bowl in a pan of boiling water and cover with a cloth.

Step Two: In the top of a double boiler, add the water and gelatin. Allow the gelatin to soften for 5 minutes.

Step Three: In the bottom of the double boiler,bring water to a simmer. Set the gelatin mixture on top. Add the glucose and shortening to the gelatin mixture. Stir until the shortening is completed melted.

Step Four: Add the gelatin mixture and egg white to the confectioner's sugar mixture. Beat on low speed until all ingredients are combined.

Step Five: Beat on high speed for 5 - 10 minutes, or until the dough looks stringy.

Step Six: Place the gum paste recipe in either plastic wrap or an airtight plastic bag and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Step Seven:
The gum paste recipe will be very soft at first. After it sits in the refrigerator it will become stiff. As you knead the gum paste, the warmth of your hands will soften it. Add a dab of shortening and work it in to the gum paste to make it pliable.

*You can roll the gum paste out on either a greased surface or one dusted with corn flour.

*Dust the rolling pin to prevent sticking.

*Use only paste food color to tint gum paste. Add a tiny amount at a time,using a toothpick. Knead the color into the gum paste recipes until the color is uniform throughout. Some colors tend to darken over time, so tint the gum paste slightly lighter than the desired color. After you add color, you may find that the gum paste becomes too soft. Allow it to sit for 15 minutes and it will return to its normal texture.

*Gum paste dries quickly when exposed to air, so only remove what you need from the plastic.

Sources and videos.

Yummy: Arts How to make Gum Paste Flowers videos.

eHOW: How to make gumpaste flowers

Amazon: Gum paste roses. Hard cover book

Next: Part II: Tools needed for making "Gum Paste" flowers


  1. Fantastic information - looks like I have alot of reading to do :)

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