As a novice at this craft, I have gone through trials and “tribulations”, ok probably not the right words but definitely challenges. All adds up to the learning experience and much more fun if they are through your own mistakes. Learn much faster that way. So, what is good gum or flower paste?. Why is it that some days (or season) a certain brand is better than others? Is that why cake decorators deemed the weather is our worst enemy? All talk about humidity and ensuring that your left over paste be wrapped up or double wrapped up in plastic or underneath a plastic ‘blanket’ or a cup. Only when you are “INTO” the art, would you know what they are talking about. I paid for my mistakes 🙁 Thought that, yep, this brand is great, let me stock some spares. Guess what? Yep, not good for summer, autumn and spring. So I decided to explore through my good friend, the internet. There is so much information out there and I cannot afford to try every recipe. As you can see from my other posts, I have included some of those which I tried.
My sister-in-law and I tried a recipe which was a combination of Tombi Peck’s and Nicholas Lodge’s. The paste was so pliable but not tacky, actually it felt dry BUT did not fray at the edges (you know when you have a dry paste). I was very pleased as I was able to roll out the paste very thinly for my rose petals. I used this paste to make the flowers for the second wedding cake and found that they did withstand the humidity (in Singapore) very well.
- 25ml cold water
- 10ml (2tsp) gelatine powder
- 10ml (2tsp) glucose
- 15ml (3tsp) gum tragacanth
- 5ml (1tsp) cream of tartar
- 450g pure icing sugar
- 1 x egg white from 1 large egg (stringy removed)
- 20ml (4tsp) Copha — white vegetable fat/shortening (in a really high humidity climate leave this out; used during kneading)
- Prepare gelatine by sprinkling it onto the water in a glass bowl. Leave it for a few minutes until the water has absorbed. Then dissolve it over a gentle heat or a bain marie.
- Warm the glucose so that it becomes runny. Add to the gelatine and stir until mixture is clear.
- Add gum tragacanth to the icing sugar and sieve. Place bowl of icing mixture in an oven (70 degrees).At the same time, warm up the mixing bowl.
- Place icing sugar and egg whites in the warm mixing bowl with a paddle beater and mix together until smooth and lump free.
- Scrape down sides and mix for further 5 minutes on low speed.
- Add the gelatine and glucose mixture to the mix and increase the speed to high. Lean on the mixer to support as the paste gets stiffer. Stop once the paste becomes stringey.
- Scrape down the sides
- At this point tip the mix onto your bench and knead with a little copha each time. Keep kneading until smooth and elastic (“talks”).
- Wrap well in food wrap and rest in the fridge for 24 hours before using. After it has rested, if you don’t want to use it immediately divide it into smaller pieces wrap them, place in freezer bag and store in the freezer for up to 6 months. Label the packets with the date you make the paste, or the use by date.
I also found a gum paste recipe by “Inspired by Michelle” which (she claims) is much better suited to more humid climates. As the weather is becoming warmer and summer is round the corner, I thought I would give it a go. The paste turned out so stiff – totally not pliable. I went through the recipe again and I realised that I had used pure icing sugar instead of icing sugar mixture. It did not occur to me that this would have made much difference since icing mixture contains cornflour. Anyway, it ended in the bin!
I happened to take Michelle’s flower making class and told her about my experience. She said that she had amended the recipe and it should be good now as she is using the same gum paste recipe for all her flowers and classes. Guess what? She replaced the potato flour with potato starch!!!! And whether you use icing mixture or pure icing sugar would not make any difference!
OK… I will give it another go. This time, I added 150gm of icing sugar mixture and 110gm of pure icing sugar. As Singaporeans say a bit kiasu 🙂 This time, it came out pliable and very very stretchy, however, a little sticky. So, not sure if it is the addition of the pure icing sugar. Will try again, will follow her recipe to the letter and see if that would make any difference.
As Trex and Crisco are not easily available in Sydney, I used Copha (vegetable shortening). You can purchase tylose (CMC powder) at any Cake Decorating store or online.
Below is Michelle’s amended recipe as posted on her site.
UPDATE17NOV2014: This will be my go to paste from now on! No awful smell of gelatine 🙂
260g icing sugar mixture/confectioner’s sugar
3 x egg whites from 3 large eggs
160g cornflour (100% maize, no wheaten) – seems that the US cornflour is more fine than what we can find locally
17g tylose (or CMC)
flour STARCH (bought from DIJON/Harbour Foods at Caringbah).
10g Trex or Crisco — white vegetable fat/shortening (in a really high humidity climate leave this out)
- Place icing sugar and egg whites in a mixing bowl with a beater (dough hook) and mix together until smooth and lump free. (Note: Cover the mixer with a cloth to prevent flour from splattering all over.)
- Scrape down sides and mix for further 5 minutes on low speed
- Mix the tylose through the cornflour and add slowly to the mix. Continue to mix on low speed.
- Scrape down the sides.
- Add the potato starch and continue to mix on low speed. This is when the mix may become too stiff for your mixer. Do not keep mixing if your mixer is struggling — you will burn out the motor (believe me, I have burned out one motor already!)
- At this point tip the mix onto your bench and knead in the rest of the potato starch.
- Keep kneading until smooth and elastic — sorry, but this may take some effort!
- If you’re using the vegetable fat, knead it through the gum paste
- Wrap well in food wrap and rest in the fridge for 24 hours before using. After it has rested, if you don’t want to use it immediately divide it into smaller pieces wrap them, place in freezer bag and store in the freezer for up to 6 months. Label the packets with the date you make the paste, or the use by date
- Knead again to loosen before making your sugar flowers