Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Christmas Cupcakes and Sugar Pastes

When you're new to the world of cake decorating (and I don't consider myself more than a kindergartener in that regard) figuring out which sugar paste to use and when and why, can leave you feeling confused and confounded.
What makes it more brain-befuddling is that there seems to be some fuzzy areas.
What I call tylose paste seems to be another decorator's gumpaste, or even pastillage.
I've seen recipes for gumpaste that are the same as pastillage, and recipes for pastillage that are the same as mexican paste. It's enough to make your head spin!

This is what I use (as illustrated by this year's decorated Christmas Cupcakes):
Rolled fondant
Tylose paste
Modelling paste (which really is just a mix of the 2 above).
Modelling chocolate

These 4 are either easy to buy or easy to make.
If you want to keep it really simple, become familiar with the first three - they'll cover most of your cake-decorating needs; and then modelling chocolate adds another dimension to what you can do with your cakes.

Christmas cupcakes covered with  fondant; decorations made with modelling chocolate/ fondant mix , excl the snowflakes - those are cut out of tylose paste. 

Sugarpaste/ Rolled fondant* / Plastic icing/ Ready-to-Roll icing
Has a dough-like consistency and can be rolled out to cover cakes, cake boards or cupcakes, to give them a silky smooth finish. Dries firm, but not as hard as tylose paste or gumpaste.
It is readily available from baking supply stores, or large retailers in white and a variety of colours.
It is also possible to make your own; ingredients include gelatine, glycerine, glucose, icing sugar and water.

You cannot roll fondant as thinly as you can tylose paste/ gumpaste (see below), so although it can be used to make decorations, they won't be as delicate and need a longer drying time compared to ones made with tylose paste/ gumpaste.
Store in a plastic bag in a sealed container at room temperature.

(*Not to be confused with poured fondant - used to cover petit fours, etc. Used in this post, the term fondant will refer to rolled fondant only.)

Modelling paste
Fondant with with gum tragacanth** or tylose powder (CMC)**  added to it ( 1 tsp tylose per 250g rolled fondant).
Or made with a 1:1 mixture of fondant and gum paste or  fondant and tylose paste.
Used for edible decorations, modelled figures.
Because of the addition of gum trag or tylose, this paste maintains its shape well and dries harder than   sugarpaste.

Cupcake disc cut out of modelling paste; ribbon tree made from modelling paste. 

{**Tylose powder and Gum Tragacanth
Tylose is the trade name for CMC - carboxymethylcellulose. It is a synthetic alternative to gum tragacanth. (Gum tragacanth is dried sap derived from Astragalus legumes.)
Both tylose powder and gum trag do the same thing - they make fondant firmer and it will dry faster and harder.
If you add gum trag to sugarpaste, you will need to leave it overnight before working with it.
Tylose powder acts immediately.
They can be substituted for each other. Which of the two you use is personal preference. }

Gumpaste/ Florist Paste/ Flower Paste/ Petal Paste
Made with gelatine, glucose, tylose powder or gum trag, icing sugar, egg white and shortening.
Used for sugar flowers / edible decorations.
This paste is soft and malleable, can be rolled very thin and sets firmly when left to dry in air.
Store paste in a plastic bag, (with as much air squeezed out of the bag as possible) in a well sealed container at room temperature.
Cannot be used to cover cakes or cupcakes.
(I personally don't use flower paste; I use tylose paste instead).  

Tylose paste 
Made with tylose powder, icing sugar, egg white.
 Recipe here.
An extremely versatile paste.
Used for flowers / decorations, Can be used with moulds and patchwork cutters.
This paste can be rolled very thin and sets firmly when left to dry in air.
Can be used as a non-gelatin pastillage.
Use on it's own or in a 1:1 mix with rolled fondant for modelled figures.
Store paste in a plastic bag, (with as much air squeezed out of the bag as possible) in a well sealed container in the refrigerator.
Cannot be used to cover cakes or cupcakes.

Snowflakes cut from tylose paste

Mexican Paste
Made with gum trag / tylose powder, icing sugar and water (no egg white).
Can be rolled out very thin. Dries strong and hard. Use for cutting out shapes (letters, patchwork cutters)  and for modelling. Can be mixed with fondant for modelling.
Less elastic than gumpaste.
(I've never made / used mexican paste as tylose paste can fulfil the same function).

Modelling Chocolate/ Chocolate Clay/ Candy Clay/ Chocolate Plastique
Made with melted chocolate and liquid glucose or corn syrup. Recipe here.
Used for decorations, modelled figures.
Can be used to cover cupcakes and whole cakes (easiest if used in panels because it doesn't stretch like fondant).
Can be mixed with fondant - improves the taste and texture of fondant for both modelled figures and for covering cakes.

Bear and snowman made with 1:1 mix of modelling chocolate and fondant 

Marzipan/ Almond Paste
Made from ground almond, egg whites, icing sugar.
Substitute pastes may contain ground peanuts or lima beans as an alternative to almonds.
Used for covering fruit cakes underneath the fondant layer,  to prevent the fruit acids discolouring the fondant. Has a light golden beige colour.
Also used for modelling.

Rudolph design inspired by "My CupKates"

So, that's my take on sugar pastes. I hope it helps (a little!).
Feel free to question or comment below!


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