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.
• 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.
• Ingredients: Gelatine, water, glucose, glycerine, icing sugar.
♦ 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.
• 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.
• Ingredients: Egg white, gelatin, water, tragacanth gum (or CMC), glucose, shortening, icing sugar.
♦ 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 Brands: Squires 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, swags, garlands, 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.
• 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).
• 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 type 1) Egg whites, gum tragacanth (or CMC), icing sugar.
Pastillage type 2*) Gelatin, water, icing sugar.
♦ 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.
• 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…
• 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.
• 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.
♦ 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,