I never thought that I would end up having more tools than what I have in my garden shed! Even though the tools for gardening are much more expensive but the tools for sugar craft just keeps building and the expense adds up.
As a beginner, I knew little about how each tool is or should be used. Sure, you may find descriptions on each tool BUT only when you start to delve into the art, would you know how to actually use them. Bear in mind that every person is different and this applies to the use of each tool. Some will prefer or feel more comfortable using a different tool to do the same job. For example, I will use the ball tool to soften the edges of flowers, some would use the bone tool and I have seen some sugar paste artistes who only use their fingers to shape the petals. So, try out different tool to see which works for you. My little tips here may be of help to anyone who is pursuing this interest. May not be extensive, but it is a start.
The following are tools which I frequently used:
1) The most important item is what you would use to roll out your fondant or moulding paste and to cut out your flower shapes. I started off with a glass board (some prefer acrylic), however, I found that I had to use cornflour every now and then to prevent the sugar paste from sticking. I am now using the non-stick white plastic mat. That has been fabulous.
2)Shaping Foams – I have two different types of foam pads (actually more). The two most important ones are for thinning petal edges with the ball tool (thick and dense – petal pad) and another for cupping flower centres and imprinting vein lines on leaves (soft thick form). I tried using a cheap washing sponge but I find that they leave imprints on the petals. I ended up using them for sticking wired rose cones.
3) Rolling Pin – I currently have two non stick rolling pins (one short 21.5cm food grade acrylic and the other 30cm medium aluminium). Since I do a lot of sugar paste flowers where I only need to work over a small surface area, I ended up using the 21.5cm rolling pin all the time. As these are too small for rolling out the fondant (to cover the wedding cake) I have used a cut up electrical plastic conduit or PVC pipe. It worked very well.
4) Spatula – I am using the angled spatula for lifting cut out petals, leaves and flowers. I used it for making indents when I am making the throat of the orchid. Every person is different and needs varying degrees of flexibility in their spatula. So, worth trying out what suits you best.
5) Plastic or Cell flap – these are used for covering the petals to prevent them from drying out. It does not matter the temperature, it is very very important that you keep your cut out petals underneath a plastic sheet if you are not working on them.
6) Modelling paste – Sugar flowers are best made out of flower/sugar/gum paste (depending where you live, they are called differently), which can be rolled out very thinly without breaking, but also sets very hard. You can buy ready-made paste in a variety of colours, or buy white and colour it yourself with edible gels. Or you can learn from various websites on how to make your own (here is a recipe from Nicholas Lodge and another from InspiredbyMichelle. Found this site which has a variation to the recipe and using vegetable oil instead of crisco – The Cake Makery . Remember to always store pieces of paste which you are not using, wrapped in clingfilm or a food grade plastic bag as they will dry out. When I first dabbled, I used fondant as it is cheaper than sugar paste. Whenever, I try something new, I would use the fondant first and then move on to sugar paste once I have more confidence on my ability. The current rage is using marshmallow fondant. Here is the link to Craftsy if you wish to make your own.
7) Ball tool – I used this for smoothing, thinning and frilling the edges of leaves and petals. Ball tools come in various sizes. If you purchase plastic ball tools you might have to lightly sand the head to remove the seam because even the tiniest edge can tear the thin gum paste. I have just purchased the metal ball tool which is free of ridge or seam.
8) Bone tool – I used this to smooth curves and to cup and frill petals for my orchids and peonies.
9) Dresden tool – I use this a lot when I made my orchids and peonies. I use it for fluting and frilling the petals. It also helps to increase the size of the petals. The pointed tip can be used to emphasise the centre of flowers and the veining end will make vein markings.
10) Crisco or vegetable shortening- I have this handy to stop the paste from sticking onto my fingers and hands when rolling out the paste. It is not a good idea to use icing sugar as this will make the paste difficult to handle and may cause it to dry out and crack.
11) Corn flour Bag – this is another must have handy item to stop the paste from sticking onto the work surface or roller. Just a dab of flour is all you need. I usually dust the cutters to help the shapes be released easier. I also find wiggling the cutter when I press it in to the sugarpaste also helps get a clean edge.
12) Cutters – there is a huge range of cutters available to make sugar flowers and leaves. The simplest to use are the plunge cutters, which stamp out a plain flower that can be shaped on a petal pad. You can also get cutters for various leaf shapes and calyx. Before you go out and splurge, check out video demonstrations on the flowers you are intending to make. You may be able to use those which are already in your collection. I have bent my rose petal cutter to make a frangipani. Of course you have to bend it back afterwards :-). For sugar roses, you can use individual petal shaped cutters, sets of 5 petals cutters or just use small round cutters.
13) A groove board – I invested in one because I find it so difficult to wire my petals. The grooves on the board create pockets in the rolled paste which are perfect for wired petals and leaves.
14) Paint brushes – I have an assortment of paintbrushes and it is a good idea to use one for one colour. In this way, you don’t have to wash after each use. I also use one brush just for gluing the petals.
15) Wires – I bought several gage sizes (18, 20,, 24, 26, 30) as this depends on what I am making. Keep in mind that the larger the number the thicker the wire. For example an 18 gage wire is thicker than a 20.
16) Glue – Alternative to using egg whites or water. Sugar glue is basically a mixture of water with a little tylose powder. Here is a recipe from Craftsy.
Hints and Tips from Duskyroseveiner
Recipe for home made flower paste (gum paste) – by The Cake Makery
July 10, 2011 at 8:15am
The original is not my recipe, I’ve seen it several times on the web in different variations but have adapted it a little to my own preferences. As it was given using American cups – I use my measuring cups instead of my scales for this one!
The original recipe is:
1 egg white
I found this to be a little stiff so I use this version:
2 egg whites
2-3 cups sifted icing sugar (confectioners)
3 level teaspoons Tylose powder (or CMC or GumTex)
1-2 tsp vegetable oil
I find this gives me a softer, smoother paste.
I also recently tried mixing it 50/50 with some BFP covapaste (sugarpaste/fondant) and it produced a nice result that hardens a little better than sugarpaste alone.
I have a Kitchen Aid mixer which works best with the beater paddle, I tried it with a hand mixer – it broke it…
1. In a mixing bowl, place the egg white or reconstituted egg albumen.
2. Break up the egg white for 10 seconds on high speed.
3. Slowly add the icing sugar and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the vegetable oil.
4. Quickly sprinkle the Tylose powder on the egg white-powdered sugar mixture, and beat on medium speed until you achieve a thick consistency. It should be firmish to squeeze and a little sticky, but if you have trex on your hands it shouldn’t stick.
5. Transfer mixture onto a trex (crisco) greased counter top and knead.
6. Slowly add a little icing sugar until you achieve a soft but not sticky consistency.
7. It is now ready to use, but it is recommended you leave it overnight to set
8. Keep it in a tightly sealed bag to prevent it from hardening unnecessarily.
Some people say keep it refrigerated, but I find room temperature (cool room!) is best. You can colour it with paste colours:)