Sweets through the ages – miniature Tudor temptations


Let's travel back in time to when the Tudors invented the modern sweet tooth and make some mouthwatering miniature morsels using polymer clay...

Sweets are constantly evolving, bringing that latest taste of sugar-coated wonder to our taste buds. We’re travelling back to the very beginning to look at how the Tudors invented the modern sweet tooth!

The earliest sweets were fruit and nuts dipped in honey and it wasn’t until the Tudor age that sweets as we recognise them today first appeared. Even then it was only the very rich who could afford to make them. It’s said that Tudor women actually painted their teeth black to show just how much sugar their wealth could buy them!

A banquet in the Tudor era was the last course, the sweetmeats. These were often served on a sugar paste plate which, the diners, if still hungry, might eat!

In the 21st century we’re used to our food dyes coming straight off the shelves in a neat little bottle but in the 16th century things were very different and dyes were made from things around us, such as beetroot and cochineal for red, spinach for green and gamboge for yellow.

dies for sweets

Now, let’s make some Tudor style miniature sweets using polymer clay for the Tudor dolls house table...

Miniature Tudor sweets tutorial

You will need

  • Polymer clay – white, frost (or translucent), sunflower yellow, orange, red, moss green, apple green, chocolate brown, bordeaux
  • Chalk pastels – sunflower yellow, orange, golden ochre, burnt orange, red, purple, brown
  • Map pin or needle
  • Small brush
  • Craft knife
  • Small piece of Velcro
  • Gold acrylic paint
  • Gloss varnish
  • Matte varnish
  • White sand

Instructions

Jump to...


How to make crystalised ginger 

crystalised ginger

1. Mix frost/translucent polymer clay with golden ochre and a touch of sunflower yellow and orange pastels. You want enough to colour the clay but not so densely that you lose the translucence completely. Take a second piece of polymer clay mix as before but carefully add brown pastel, a little at a time, until you have a deep, golden beige. Break a small amount off the second piece and carefully add a few specs of orange pastel. Sparingly though as it's very easy to add too much!

Crystalised ginger step 1

2. Shape each shade into individual pieces, preferably making each one slightly different in size and shape to reflect the real thing! Think how many times you’ve delved deep into the bag to find the biggest!

Crystalised ginger step 2

3. Bake according to the instructions given with your polymer clay, and then varnish with gloss.

Crystalised ginger step 3

4. Using the still wet gloss varnish as an adhesive, roll each piece of ginger in white sand as though coating liberally with sugar!

Crystalised ginger step 4


How to make sugar ribbons 

Sugar ribbons main

Top tip! The colours for sugar ribbons are only limited by your own imagination the colours used in this tutorial are ones that were around in Tudor times.

1. Mix white polymer clay with a small amount of apple green to make mint green. Roll out a piece of bordeaux polymer clay, 4cm in length and 3mm in diameter, followed by two pieces of mint green polymer clay, 4cm in length and 2mm in diameter.

Sugar ribbons step 1

Top tip! Remember that these measurements don’t have to be an exact science and you can do whatever you want!

2. Place the mint green strips at either side of the bordeaux, squeezing lightly to adhere them to one another to ensure they don’t pull apart, then flatten slightly.

Sugar ribbons step 2

3. Carefully stretch the clay to about 9cm in length. Then fold the ribbon from the middle so that the two halves are side by side.

sugar ribbons step 3Sugar ribbons step 3 b

4. If you only want five stripes in your finished ribbons skip this and continue to step 5. Otherwise, stretch the clay and fold again to make 10 stripes in the ribbon, five mint green and five bordeaux. Don’t worry if the ends seem bumpy – these aren’t used!

sugar ribbons step 4

5. Stretch the clay again and cut into smaller pieces. Stretch the smaller pieces to the desired width and thickness of the final ribbon. A good size for this is 3mm wide and ‘paper thin’ but you can make ribbons of any size you want.

sugar ribbons step 5

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6. Cut to the required length. The one shown here is about 15mm. Cut each end at an angle just like you would a real ribbon. Shape your ribbons and bake. 

sugar ribbons step 6

7. After baking add gold acrylic paint to some of the ribbon edges to reflect the Tudor tradition of adding gold leaf to sweetmeats! This is, of course, an optional step and is not compulsory! Finally, finish with matte varnish.

Sugar ribbons step 7


How to make sugared almonds

Sugared almonds

1. Mix white and sunflower yellow polymer clay to make a deep cream colour for the inside of the almonds. Then mix the cream clay with golden ochre pastel to create a more realistic almond cream colour! To make sure I got the colour just right I had a bag of flaked almonds to hand!

Sugared almonds step 1

2. Roll out your almond shapes. Remember the real thing varies in size and so it should in miniature too. 

sugared almonds step 2

3. Mix together an even amount of golden ochre and burnt orange chalk pastel, adding just a couple of scrapings of brown and cover each almond.

Sugared almonds step 3

4. Using a map pin, lightly make lines down each almond to create the natural texture of the almond skin.

Sugared almonds step 4

5. After baking, varnish with gloss and roll each almond in white sand to create the chunky sugar effect. At this point you might be wondering why we went to all the trouble of mixing the almond coloured clay at the start... The real magic of miniatures is adding that extra little detail to a scene so slice an almond in half to reveal the inside!

sugared almonds step 5

Why not have a go at creating some miniature wartime sweets to add to your collection?!


How to make marchpane (marzipan) fruits

Marzipan fruit

1. Mix the colours needed for the five different ‘fruits’. Orange is just… orange, the plums are bordeaux and the cherries are cherry red so no mixing is needed! For the apples mix a ball of apple green, 8mm in diameter with an equal amount of moss green. Next, mix the resulting green with a ball of white, 11mm in diameter. Finally, for the pears, mix apple green with white, both 9mm in diameter with sunflower yellow and chocolate brown, both 5mm in diameter.

marzipan fruit step 1

2. Shape the fruits to roughly about 3mm in diameter.

marzipan fruit step 2

3. Texture the oranges by rolling them on a piece of Velcro. 

marzipan fruit step 3

4. Make a small hole in the top of each fruit with the tip of the map pin. This not only helps to show where the top of the fruit is when adding colour, etc. but is also where you’ll add the stems later on.

marzipan fruit step 4

5. Add colour to the apples by brushing on red pastel and to the pears by mixing red pastel with purple and brown and brushing on.

marzipan fruit step 5

6. Roll the plums in white pastel and then roll them in the palm of your hand to ‘defuse’ the pastel until it gives the slightly dewy look of the real fruit.

marzipan fruit step 6

7. Using the map pin make a line down the plums from the bottom to the hole we made to mark the top to make a crevice. To add the centre of the oranges mix a little moss green clay with just a touch of sunflower yellow and chocolate brown and using the map pin take a tiny piece and fill the hole in the centre.

marzipan fruit step 7

8. Now to conjure up the stems for the apples and cherries! Roll out very thin sticks of chocolate brown clay and the green clay mixed for the pears and bake. Here, the chocolate brown is 3.5cm in length and the green is just over 1.5cm.

marzipan fruit step 8

9. Add the stems, using the green for the cherries and the chocolate brown for the apples and pears. The stems on the marchpane fruits are obviously quite delicate so a really good idea for adding a bit of strength is to dip the stem in some clear drying superglue as an alternative or addition to varnishing. It works wonders and means you can have solid but still realistic looking stems that don’t look too thick.

marzipan fruit step 9

10. To make the leaves for the apples mix a ball of moss green clay, 6mm in diameter with sunshine yellow, 2mm in diameter. Take a small amount, about 1mm in diameter, and roll lengthways to 3mm in length and to a point at one end. Flatten with the back of your fingernail and, hey presto, you should see an instant leaf shape! Put a vein down the middle of your leaves using the tip of the map pin and attach to the individual fruits.

marzipan fruit step 10

11. After baking, varnish each marchpane fruit with matt varnish.

marzipan fruit step 11


How to make leaves

Leaves

1. If you want to make the leaves seen in the finished Tudor sweetmeat plate then follow the instructions in Step 10 for the marchpane fruits.

2. This time make different sizes and add additional veins on the leaves at either side of the central vein with the map pin. 

Top tip! Experiment with different colours, adding pastel for shading.

3. A pastel standard mix I like to use for most leaves is yellow, green and a touch of brown and when adding this with a fairly soft brush, you often find you can use the bristles to create very leaf-like markings.   


Now that you've made a colourful array of miniature Tudor sweets, get a taste of living the Tudor life... demonstrated in miniature, of course!