For those new to sugar craft, the choice of sugar paste products available can be baffling.
What's the difference between modelling paste and gumpaste? How do I know which to use? Why are there so many?!
Don't fret! Here is a simple guide to sugar pastes and when to use them:
- Modelling paste
- Mexican paste
- Flower paste
- Modelling chocolate
- Sugar dough
Modelling paste is essential for decoration work that requires icing that doesn’t set too hard, yet holds its shape firm. Perfect for making models, this paste also works well in moulds and creating frills, ruffles, swags and bows..
You can buy modelling paste (which is actually strengthened sugarpaste) readymade or you can make your own by mixing equal quantities of sugarpaste and a strong icing such as Mexican, floral or pastillage. You can also make your own by adding 1 teaspoon of gum tragacanth or CMC (Carboxymethyl cellulose) to 250g sugarpaste.
However you choose to proceed, remember that the secret to success is making sure you knead until thoroughly mixed before use!
Also known as fondant, this is an icing that you can roll out to cover a cake or top biscuits and cupcakes. You can buy sugarpaste in a huge variety of colours, or make the perfect shade yourself using gel colours. Liquid colours are not recommended as they can change the sugarpaste's consistency.
Although you can make simple models with sugarpaste, its softness makes it unsuitable for intricate detail or strength unless you add 1tsp of Gum Tragacanth or CMC to 250g of fondant (this will also help the fondant dry out quicker).
Be sure to check out our blog on how to cover a cake with fondant to learn how to create the perfect cake coverage!
Ultra fine in texture, this is your go-to paste for strength and elasticity. It is also naturally a brighter white than normal sugarpaste, so while it can be coloured, it is fabulous for wedding cake decorations.
Wonderful with intricate moulds and patchwork cutters, Mexican paste also makes perfect clothes for your character models, as it can be rolled paper-thin and moulded to realistically reflect drapes and shapes in clothing.
This paste is also known as petal paste or gumpaste. Suprisingly, flower paste is best used for... flowers (bet you didn't see that coming!). Flower paste can be rolled very finely and it will hold its shape when dry, making it perfect for lifelike flowers, butterflies, leaves and so on.
Modelling chocolate is a pliable chocolate paste made from real white, milk or dark chocolate and corn or glucose syrup. Beautiful and edible, it's ideal for making chocolate roses, figures and all-round chocolate modelling. You can buy this ready-made or make your own!
For 3D elements, plaques, structures and details that need to dry super hard, pastillage should be your first choice. It is available as a powder mix. Pieces are usually rolled then cut using templates and left to dry flat or in a former before being stuck together for construction with royal icing.
Delicious and made from almonds and sugar, marzipan can be used to model characters as well as to cover a cake before the iced finish.
Top Tip! Just be aware that, because of its nut content, it may not be suitable for clients.
A great modelling material for simple figures when you require the product to hold its shape, dry quickly, but still remain soft enough to eat. White sugar dough can be easily coloured with edible paste and dust colours. For a firmer paste add a little Gum Tragacanth and for a softer paste add a little white vegetable fat.
It's pretty simple when you read into it and many of the differently named pastes do exactly what they say on the tin (we're looking at your flower paste!).
Sugarpastes vary in price and with the more expensive ones, a little tends to go a long way. It is essential for your finished results and your budget that you store sugarpastes correctly once open. For rolled sugarpaste, try to not use too much cornflour or icing sugar if you want to save trimmings, as this dries fondant out. Keep away from moisture and heat. Store in the best airtight bags you can lay your hands on, in an airtight container in a cool and dry place. Do not refrigerate!
Looking for more handy hints, tips and tricks? Answering all of the questions you could possibly have on fats in baking, check out our blog post on oil vs. butter in baking: what does science say about fats?
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