Useful Guide of Sugar Pastes: Fondant, Gum paste, Mexican Modelling Paste, Pastillage…

Hi there,

Sometimes choosing between the  different sugar pastes can be confusing if we don’t know the exact qualities and purpose of each one.

So today I bring you a useful and helpful guide about the most popular sugar pastes used in cake decorating, from covering a cake to modelling sugar characters. Click on the following links to go straight away to the paste you’re interested in or continue reading this post to learn more about sugar pastes in general.

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1) Sugarpaste = Rolled fondant = Ready to roll icing

2) Modelling paste

3) Gum paste = Florist paste

4) Mexican modelling paste

5) Pastillage

6) Marzipan

* Modelling chocolate

* Sugar Pastes: General Tips

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1. Sugarpaste:

• Other names: rolled fondant, ready to roll icing.

• Qualities: soft and pliable like play-dooh, easy to roll out.

• Main uses:

♦ Covering cakes and boards (also cupcakes and cookies).

♦ Small details and basic figurines.

Cake Covered with Pink Sugarpaste + The Three Wise Men Cupcakes, made of sugarpaste details (Resource:www.acup4mycake.com)

• Ingredients: Gelatine, water, glucose, glycerine, icing sugar.

• Recommendations/Suggestions:

♦ Cover your cakes JUST with sugarpaste (the softest one to eat), never with the other pastes.

♦ When modeling figurines and characters, rather than using just sugarpaste, many people prefer:

a) using a combination of 50% sugarpaste + 50% gum paste, since the figures keep their shape better and dry harder.

b) adding in some CMC* to get a basic modelling paste (more effective than just sugarpaste when modelling).

* CMC = carboxymethylcellulose

Some Brands: Rensaw, Culpitt, PME, Wilton, Silver Spoon, Satin Ice, Squires kitchen (SK), Dr Oetker, etc.

2) Modelling paste:

• Main uses: Modelling sugar figurines and novelty characters.

• Qualities: Firm but pliable, slight elastic texture, dries faster and harder than sugarpaste.

Modelling Paste Figurines (Resource: www.acup4mycake.com)

• Ingredients: Simplest modelling paste: Sugapaste, CMC*.

• Recommendations/Suggestions: You can make your own modelling paste by adding 1 tsp CMC* to 225 g sugarpaste and kneading thoroughly.

Some Brands: Squires Kitchen (SK), etc.

Useful information: CMC (carboxymethylcellulose), also known commercially as Tylose powder, is the synthetic alternative to tragacanth gum. They both have the same purpose: make the sugar paste firmer and easy to work with when modelling, as well as make it dry faster and harder. You can choose any of them, taking into consideration that  CMC works straight away, whilst tragacanth gum has to be left working overnight. So if you’re in a hurry, always better CMC.

 

3) Gum paste = florist paste

• Other names: Floral paste, flower paste, petal paste.

• Qualities: Flexible, pliable, dries very quickly, hard finish, holds its shape very well, can be rolled out thin like a paper.

• Main uses:

♦ Modelling realistic sugar flowers (you can roll out the petals as thin as needed).

Modelling professional sugar figurines and characters that keep a perfect shape.

Gum Paste Flowers and Figurine (Resources: www.prettywittycakes.co.uk, www.cakejournal.com, www.cakecentral.com)

• Ingredients: Egg white, gelatin, water, tragacanth gum (or CMC), glucose, shortening, icing sugar.

• Recommendations/Suggestions:

♦ It can also be considered as a modelling paste, since it’s also useful to model sugar figurines, not just flowers. It’s important that you work quickly to prevent the gum paste from drying and cracking.

♦ When modelling, some people prefer using 50% gum paste + 50% sugarpaste instead of gum paste itself.  This option gives good results and it’s cheaper, as gum paste is more expensive than sugarpaste.

♦ Carlos Liscetti, a very well-know sugarcraft artist, suggests to use 50% gum paste + 50 % mexican modelling paste to model his amazing sugar characters.

♦ Never cover a cake with gum paste, as it dries too hard to eat. As I previously said, do it JUST with sugarpaste.

Some BrandsSquires Kitchen, Renshaw, Wilton, etc. (both ready to use pastes and powder mix)

 

4) Mexican modelling paste

• Qualities: Non sticky, smooth and hard finish (but soft enough to eat), can be rolled out ultra fine, less elastic than gum paste.

• Main uses:

♦ Making frills, drapes,  swagsgarlands, plaques(I usually use modelling paste or gum paste instead and it also works for me).

♦ Perfect to use with moulds and patchwork cutters (because it’s non sticky and can be rolled out paper thin).

♦ Fine sugar modelling work that requires a strong finish.

Mexican Modelling Paste Shoes (Resource: www.cakecentral.com)

• Ingredients: tragacanth gum, glucose, water, shortening, icing sugar.

• Recommendations/Suggestions: Carlos Liscetti, a very well-know sugarcraft artist, says to use 50% mexican paste + 50 % gum paste to model his amazing sugar characters.

Some Brands: Squires Kitchen (SK).

 

5) Pastillage

• Qualities: Less flexible, dries rock hard and extremely quick, keeps shapes perfectly, durable results, more resistant to humidity than other sugar pastes.

• Main uses:

Buildings, furniture, sturdy structures, rigid flat pieces (walls, fences…), architectural details, etc.

♦ Appliqués, plaques, 3D objects (cylindres, boxes…).

Pastillage Castle and Wardrobe (Resources: www.azucarycolor.blogspot.com, www.elhadadelastartas.blogspot.com)

• Ingredients:  

Pastillage type 1) Egg whites, gum tragacanth (or CMC), icing sugar.

Pastillage type 2*) Gelatin, water, icing sugar. 

• Recommendations/Suggestions:

♦ Work fast, as it dries extremely quickly.

♦ Despite this paste contains edible ingredients, it’s better not to eat the figures which are made of pastillage, as it’s completely hard and I’m sure you don’t want to break your teeth ; )

Some Brands: Squires Kitchen (SK) Powder Mix.

 * Pastillage type 2 is known is Spain as pastillaje Filipino. It can be done by also adding some CMC. 

 

6) Marzipan

 • Other names: Rolled marzipan

• Qualities: Soft and easy to handle.

• Main uses:

♦ Covering rich fruit cakes (it’s the previous step to icing them with sugarpaste).

♦ Modelling basic shapes,  figurines,  flowers…

Rich Fruit Cake Covered With Marzipan + Marzipan animals (Resources: www.dimasharif.com, www.confectionperfection.co.uk)

• Ingredients: Almonds, egg whites, sugar.

• Recommendations/Suggestions: Watch out for the nut allergies!

Some Brands: Silver Spoon, Dr Oetker, etc.

 

Modelling Chocolate *

Modelling chocolate, also known as candy clay or chocolate plastique, is not exactly a sugar paste, as it’s just made of two ingredients (melted chocolate and golden syrup (UK) or corn syrup (US)), but you can also cover cakes and model figurines with this sweet dough.

 

Modelling Chocolate Cake and Figurines (Resource: www.wickedgoodies.net)

General Tips

 COLOURING: There are both plain and coloured sugar pastes in the market. Anyway, all they can be coloured as you wish at home by adding some food colouring (I recommend gel/paste ones) and kneading thoroughly.

PRESERVATION:

♦ Whilst working and modelling: Keep the pieces of paste that you’re not using in a closed polyethilene bag to prevent them from drying. Take one piece at a time, depending on how much paste you need every time.

♦ Leftover pastes: Keep them tightly wrapped in a polyethilene bag (“zip lock”, reclosable bag) inside an airtight container at room temperature (except marzipan, which has to be kept in the fridge). They can keep in good conditions for few months (just 1 month for pastillage).

I hope you find this guide useful! Don’t hesitate to check it every time you need it.

See you soon,

Sara

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12 thoughts on “Useful Guide of Sugar Pastes: Fondant, Gum paste, Mexican Modelling Paste, Pastillage…

  1. Oh my God! This guide is so helpful I cannot even tell you. I’ve always wondered about the differences between all of these but do not use them enough to have wanted to of researched. Now I can come on here and reference this whenever I need to which is just so awesome! I. Love. This. Post!

    xoxo

    • Thxxx Tom! Sure! You’ll be always welcome to my blog. It’s always nice to read your comments!

      I’m also translating this guide to Spanish because this topic is even less known in Spain than here.

      Take care mi chico!

      xoxoxoxo

  2. TY soooo much, I am trying to learn this so I have the summer to help my 11yr old friends daughter make cakes and cupcakes to sell for her friends Bday parties! I thank you again and again! You’re very sweet for doing this!

  3. I stumbled upon this brilliant clear and concise explanation, I love it…have bookmarked it for future reference, thanks very much.

  4. Hi there i love this guide. Could you possibly help me with quantities. For making pastillage (type2) i roughly need around 500g of pastillage so how much icing sugar/gelatin/water should i use. I remember making it in college years ago but that’s about it.
    many thanks.

    • Hi Janet,

      Thanks for your comment!

      Try with 500 g icing sugar / 7 g neutral gelatin / 6 tbsp cold water.

      My best,

      Sara

  5. Hi , you are indeed the best of the bests, you just solve some of my problems with your concise explanation. please i will love to ask what is the quantity of CMC to use for making sugar-paste of 500g icing sugar. thank you

    love your site so much.

    • Hi Elisabeth,

      Thanks for your nice comments!!

      Adding CMC to your home made sugarpaste recipe is optional, but highly recommended, specially in humid climates. I have a recipe that asks for 1 tbsp of CMC per 1 kg of icing sugar. So in your case, add 1 1/2 tsp CMC to 500 g icing sugar.

      I hope it helps.

      Regards.

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