Decorate a Cake with Gum Paste
I attended a two-hour cake decorating class today at the Sugar Flower Cake Shop in midtown Manhattan. The class was kid-friendly and drew in students ranging from young children to 20somethings, to seniors. The group size was around 22, and we learned how to create the illusion of a gift box by frosting a piece of sheet cake with Italian meringue buttercream using a spatula and scraper. We then we made a decorative ribbon and bow using colored gum paste. Gum paste is primarily made of sugar and is similar to fondant, but the difference between the two is that gum paste uses gum tracaganth while fondant does not. Gum paste is malleable and has a texture and color similar to white Play-Doh making it easy to color and shape into various designs. Gum paste can be found in stores like Broadway Panhandler, Michaels, or any shops where baking supplies are found. To make the ribbon, colored gum paste was kneaded and then pressed through a gadget called a “sheeter” which is very similar to a pasta roller and cut using a pizza cutter. Shorter strips of ribbon were folded into loops and placed on top of the longer strips of ribbon.
For making a cake like this at home, the cake would be iced with a “crumb layer,” which is the only layer where it is ok if a few specks of crumb get mixed in, then the cake would be placed in the refrigerator for twenty minutes to allow the icing to set, and the process would be repeated for a total of four to eight applications of frosting. The smoothe appearance is the result of using a scraper to even out the frosting on all sides of the cake. When working with gum paste unused portions should be kept covered so it won’t dry out, but if it does become dry kneading will soften it. After being prepared and cut, the gum paste would be allowed to sit overnight so it hardens, making it easier to handle when assembling the bow. In the picture above, the gum paste was still soft and began to crack as I started to assemble the bow. Cracks or not, the cake was still good though!