Wednesday, 22 February 2017

What is the Difference between Fondant and Gum Paste?

What is the difference between Gum Paste and Fondant?

Those who used both popular sugar craft mediums  for a while, may find it very hard to imagine ever NOT knowing.  Yet, as you can see from my previous post, it is quite possible to be in sugarcraft business for a number of years, yet be no wiser, lol.   In fact, I get asked how the two pastes compare all the time, which is why I decided to to make a video about it, out on  Cakelosophy Youtube Channel tomorrow.

Video aside, though,  there are many useful facts , which are beyond the scope of a video tutorial, hence this post.  Those of you, who, like me,   sometimes stop to wonder about things Sugarcraft they don't know yet, those little things that could give you 'an edge',  you might find my 10  factoids below interesting.

And so, in no particular order ...

10 IMPORTANT FACTS about Gum-Paste and Fondant.

1. It  is possible to make a flower out of fondant, that looks half decent.  But transporting it without braking will be nothing short of miracle unless you are operating a hovercraft.

( This blue one,  was one of my first wedding cakes. I only vaguely heard of gumpaste at the time and thought  I could wing it. One of the petals fell off and I had to fix it at the venue.  The couple never noticed but they would have, had the petal shuttered, as naively I didn't even have a spare one. )

2. Fondant doesn't do these dainty ballerinas holding all their weight on one thin leg you see all over Facebook.   The further away whatever it is you are trying to make, is from the said ballerina, the nicer is your fondant to use.

3. If you get last minute  cupcake order that involves placing your decorations on fondant discs, don't say 'no' to it, and don't offer your potentially returning customer bumpy sagging slumping discs in hope that they are exceedingly kind or a bit blind.  Just use gumpaste or 50/50.  These will  dry very quick/ quick enough.

4. Tell the said customer ( by email )  to watch small kids, should there be any, with your gum-paste decorations as these can be a chocking hazard.  Last minute customer should allow for some limitations on your part ( and if they don't, don't deal with them, they are trouble). Fondant is no problem like this.

5. You can NEVER roll your fondant, practicably,  as thin as your Gumpaste. Don't even try.  It's like trying  to fold a paper square more than 8 times.

6. 50/50 ( half fondant / half gumpaste)  Makes absolutely stunning unwired roses and some other flowers, much better looking than fondant ones, so here's a very nice compromise if you hate the idea of using wires.

7.  You CAN wire 50/50.  It will produce better looking flower petals than any gum-paste could ( IMHO )  However it is absolutely NOT commercial, it seems,  as you can't reasonably guarantee safe transportation,  and they won't last past few weeks at best or at all in v humid climate.

8.  If you add 1/4 fondant to modelling chocolate, it will be much easier to work with and it and  next to impossible to see the difference in the end result. It won't work with 1/4 gum-paste.  (And it will be VERY hard to make it into a stand up figurine topper )

9. Microwave is your friend when rolling fondant for a large cake, 15 seconds bursts will do just fine. On another hand, I find that microwave changes the texture of my gumpaste, unfavourably, even if used carefully.  So I don't. Some cake makers might ( and do ) disagree, though.

10.  And now, any takers of an absolutely  RIDICULOUS  tip.  The  50/50 may look smooth and heavenly if rolled in a small piece, but it will not make for a particularly smooth looking cake. I tell you that much for nothing.  It won't work at all, in fact. (may well be not only ridiculous but also a completely useless tip, as I allow a possibility of myself being the only sugar crafter in the whole world, stupid enough to have attempted something like this!)

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Video. Making Sugar Flowers: What Tools Will I Need?

'What equipment will I need if I want to learn to make sugar flowers?'

I remember asking myself this very same question about 5 years ago, a bit of a trip down the memory lane, while planning this video about tools necessary to access  the Sugarflower Magic, very much a modern art form, wouldn't you say.


I found myself in a very cute sugar craft shop in a little village near Leatherhead (most probably out of business now, sadly) and got further overwhelmed with the amount of staff it had on sale, that I had no foggiest how to use. I spotted a lady sorting out packs of fondant. She was a shop owner, I later learned. She, of course.  Can you imagine Sugarcraft shop being run by someone who's a he? Somehow I just can't.  Today, sure thing.  5 years ago?  Not so much...

Anyway, I asked her what was the bare minimum I had to buy if I had no clue but wanted to make edible flowers, which was hard in itself, by the way,  as rarely sincerely admit to having no clue, for the good and the bad that it's done me, and walked out with PME  cutting wheel,  a Dresden tool and very oddly, a packet of pre-made gum paste stars.  This last one was a bit of an impulse buy, as they seemed somehow much neater than the ones I managed at home. Despite eagerly running my cupcake business for a couple of years by then, I had no idea that there was such thing as gum-paste.

So, cutting wheel and the Dresden tool aside ( and how spot on she was, that no nonsense grey-haired lady),  the tools and the advice I featured in my comprehensive equipment guide, are aimed at those who don't just want to make an odd sugar flower, but those  sugar artists who have an aspiration to make the best possible sugar flowers there are, whatever it takes!

Everyone has their ideas, ways to making sugar flowers  and their favourite tools, too.  So, quite possibly, not everyone will agree with how I decided to narrow down my choices.  Quite possibly, even me few years down the line will disagree with me today, but, for what it's worth, this tool set has evolved actively and served me well so far in the above mentioned aspiration. Beautiful sugar flowers rock, in other words, and the tools I use to make mine, Cakelosophy sugar flowers, which are transcribed in my video, have helped and are helping me immensely.

And just to add, before I'm off.  Don't buy all of the equipment mentioned in my tool guide video or even any of it at all,  if all you want to make is a beautiful, stunning rose. All you need to make one of those, is decent gumpaste, plastic bag, soup spoons and a bit of oil. ( Stay tuned if interested, as I might elaborate on this kind of flower making in one of my future blog posts or Youtube tutorials.).

Thanks for popping in.


Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Video. Making Sugar Flowers: Gumpaste Dahlia, The Range is Endless, How Many did You Make?

Dahlia is one of the most beautiful flowers there are, some might say.  It is also one of the most frequently requested, popular commercial flowers to make out of gum paste and feature on cakes.   For that reason, there's little wonder that sugar artists all over the world are ever so slightly obsessing over it, making it in all sizes  and colours ( or all pale colours if we talking UK here, lol)

I'm no different, I must admit.  In my ambition to learn how to make good quality online tutorials about making beautiful sugar flowers, Dahlia was my first 'how to' flower making video. It was well received by my Youtube audience and though, looking back at it now, I would have changed plenty of things, the truth is, that I'm really pleased I made it, pleased that it's my popular vid.  Talk about feeling encouraged to make more tutorials on how to make sugar flowers!

My own experiences aside, the question I'm asking myself is this: 'With all the love to this flower so eagerly captured in sugar all over the world, surely there would be tons of sugar artists who can honestly say that they have 'conquered Dahlia'?'  But if you think about it, have they, have we, really?

Just try searching 'Dahlia' or 'Chrysanthemum' ( or various spellings of it, lol). The immense variety of flowers will pop up, some with the obvious names such as  Spider Dahlia or  Pom-Pom Dahlia but most, seemingly nameless, totally distinctive, different from each other and incredibly beautiful, like the dresses you see at the Oscars.  How many 'sugar crafters' actually  made more than one or two in the range?   What are they called, the  most distinctive ones Dahlia Blooms, at least?  There must be common names for them, not the serious botanical ones that no one can pro-nounce?  Anyone knows?

Currently, I'm working through my own Dahlia challenge, accumulating the  collection of gum-paste Dahlia varieties (just take a peek at Cakelosophy  Instagram posts as of late ), and would absolutely love to see the work of sugar or polymer clay artist who went through and made a good few of these flowers, never mind all of them!  Can anyone point me to one of those?

Individually wired Dahlia, the most common type you see everywhere,  was my most difficult flower to learn to date, but the one I'm proud of the most, too.  I can make it with my eyes closed these days, I think ( though don't hold me to it, lol)

What are your  own experiences with making sugar Dahlias? Love them?  Hate them? Keep yours pale and interesting or love colour? What would you like to learn about making them or struggle with the most?  Would love to hear, here or on Instagram.  thanks for reading.

( Please let me know if any problems posting, I'd sorted out my posting glitch now , I think.)

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Submitting Cake Entry to Cake International: Judges Feedback

Today Cakeshows have re-posted my cake entry to Cake international, which was awfully sweet of them, and it reminded me that I wanted to do a write up of their 'entry feedback' in case someone finds it useful, because I know, I would have.

The first criticism of this cake was, that it was 'miss-aligned', if I wanted the birds  to be the focus,  ( I did ).  When the feedback lady said it, it kind of made sense.   If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have spent ages finding the good angle for my cake to photograph, would I.  So how did my mind trick me into NOT noticing it, I wonder? Sometimes it just happens when you stare at your own work all the time.  Perhaps it’s good to ask someone to 'cast a fresh eye'!

So, ‘AGREE’ from me on this one.  

Next. I was told that one bit at the bottom tier's icing was a bit wonky.  And it was, ever so slightly.  I was pleased with my very modern, in my view, cake border, so I was kind of hoping it would make up for it, if noticed at all. Wrong.  If you hear small voice inside your head timidly telling you something, perhaps listen to it.

So, AGREE on this count, too. 

The lady told me that my gold ‘band’ in the middle wasn’t delicate enough. I didn't want it to be delicate. My entire cake wasn't meant to be particularly delicate, that was the look I was going for.  Maybe she and others would have been more inclined to see my point, if I tried harder with other small details.

On this one, it's a 'DISAGREE'  from me, I'm afraid.

I used the self-made mold to decorate the middle tier. The feedback was that that even though I made my own mold, anyone coudn’t have used it with the same effect. I pointed out that no one did, or could have done, if I didn't design it. Still, I was told, it wasn't a 'delicate skill'. So here we have novel ( or, at least I see it as such)  idea and delicate cake skill battling each other. You take your pick!

The jury is OPEN on this one ( pardon the punt) ...

The feedback lady said that mold or no mold they like to see different tricky techniques on cakes that work together and aren’t one big mismatched mess. Not a lot to ask, hey. For what it's worth, my fave gold winner done this so incredibly elegantly in her cake, imo, so can be done.  ( Though my sister in law didn’t like that particular  cake and said that every genre was jubled up in it so, go figure!)

Anyhow, this one is an 'AGREE'.

The next thing. My middle topper, I was told that the birds should not be more narrow for transportation purposes ( which is not a given,  because not everyone would transport the topper already in the cake).  If I did what she was suggesting I should do my cake would have looked havy bottomed and not attractive. I know because I’d done something like that before.


She  wondered why I left the back of the cake, boring and white, nothing on it. I told her that I run out of time and was hoping they won’t look.  She said they always do.

AGREE, lol.

She told me that my seams , where I filled out the joiners between tiers with Royal Icing weren’t tidy enough,  I honestly thought the were, but here you have it.  Reluctlantly, I had to

AGREE there, too.

Tired of waiting and believing that there’s no harm in it, I  asked her if she liked anything, and she promptly said yes, but hasn't found much to say, not that it hurt my feelings any more than they were already hurt.

I got a Merit, whatever that means, they event sent me the certificates in the post.

The judges were approachable and friendly, a tad old fashioned for my liking, perhaps, as arty judges go.

Here’s my ADVICE based on submitting CAKES.

  • Perfect skill and meticulous attention to detail RULES  in the CI Den.

  • All those dimply cakes you’d seen on CI’s old  galleries?  CI moved on, so beware, their latest counterparts are pretty fresh faced, ( I suspect it partially, at least, to do with artists from outside of cake world catching on to the chance to showcase their work).

  • Modern  designs are neither here nor there, they are, basically good to go,  as long as they are not offered INSTEAD of the above. ( In CI’s defence how do you judge, quantify  things like ‘modern’ or  ‘talent’ or ‘classic’? Probably not impossible, but far from easy.  Esp if there are about 30 judges, as I heard).

  • Getting too original with your entry might be a bit of a gamble, you definitely need to know how to walk before you can run.   

  • The idea is that if you use harder skills, you get better marks, right?  Based on what I’d seen marked, I’m not convinced it’s always rolls that way.

  • If you can’t cover your cakes properly and want to pass it off as shabby chic, who are you kidding ( though in fairness I'd not seem many cakes like this there).


So here you go.  My take on lovely CI.  Be more Jessica Harris than Maggies Austin, have thick skin, though, equally, there are plently of awards going if they think your work is of right stndard. Be prepared to be addicted to entering in the future, and, above all, have fun, it's a fantastic event.

Though my blog doesn't seem to get any comments, I can see from stats that people pop in to check out the page. If any of you have read this far and has any flowers' specific entry advice, please drop me a line, as I've no clue as to that one. Christina