There are so many different modelling pastes used in cake decorating and sugarcraft that it can be hard to choose the right one for the job. In this article we look at the many varieties of edible modelling pastes, their properties and uses.
Sugarpaste (rolled fondant)
Sugarpaste icing is a ready-to-roll paste made from sugar and glucose. Readily available in supermarkets and cake decorating outlets, this soft, pliable icing is an ideal cake covering. Sugarpaste can also be used to make simple decorations and models but is a little too soft for detailed work. This train cake design using sugarpaste is from Children’s Character Cakes by Debbie Brown (B. Dutton Publishing Ltd).
Top Tip: Mix sugarpaste with flower paste to make modelling paste.
Marzipan (almond paste)
Marzipan is made from sugar and ground almonds which give it its characteristic taste. It is often made into sweets such as marzipan-filled chocolates and can be used for coating cakes, especially fruitcakes, before the icing is applied. It can also be used for modelling; these marzipan cows are from Marzipan Magic by Maisie Parrish (B. Dutton Publishing Ltd).
Top Tip: Always use a good-quality marzipan with a high almond content (min. 23.5%) and a smooth texture for the best taste and smooth finish.
SK Sugar Dough is a tasty, ready-to-use paste made from sugar and glucose which was created especially with modelling in mind. It’s great for modelling figures where you require the piece to hold its shape and dry quickly but still remain soft enough to eat once the cake is cut. This chef with spaghetti is from Sugar Dough Magic by Maisie Parrish (B. Dutton Publishing Ltd).
Top Tip: If you are making something that is a supportive piece and therefore requires a bit of extra strength, add a little gum tragacanth to the paste.
Sugar modelling paste
Made from sugar, glucose and gum tragacanth, sugar modelling paste is good to use for fine modelling work such as frills and drapes. The paste is non-sticky which makes it ideal to use with moulds, embossers, making garlands, and all models where a smooth, strong finish is required, like this bear from Making Sugar Teddy Bears by Susan Griffiths (B. Dutton Publishing Ltd).
It is available ready-made, such as SK Sugar Modelling Paste, or in powder form which just requires the addition of water, such as SK Instant Mix Mexican Paste.
Top Tip: Modelling paste can be coloured with paste food colours or, for finer detail such as facial features, use liquid colours and a fine paintbrush.
Flower paste (gum paste, Sugar Florist Paste, SFP)
Flower paste is a gum-based paste developed especially for crafting delicate sugar flowers and leaves. Flower paste is pliable, can be rolled paper-thin without breaking and gives a perfectly smooth finish. It can be used with cutters, moulds, embossers and formers. This sugar poppy is from Sugar Flowers for Beginners by Paddi Clark (B. Dutton Publishing Ltd).
Flower paste is used mainly for handmade sugar flowers but is ideal for any delicate sugarcraft work that requires the strength of a hard-setting paste such as bows and frills. It can be purchased from sugarcraft shops either in a readymade block or in powder form (where water needs to be added).
Top Tip: Flower paste should always be sealed in a food-grade polythene bag when not in use, otherwise it will dry out.
Made from sugar, gum tragacanth and egg white, this strong paste is ideal for making pieces for three-dimensional structures as it dries extremely hard. You can use it for plaques, buildings, cradles, shells, umbrellas and any other piece with a firm structure.
Pastillage is usually rolled out and cut to the shape required using templates then left to dry, either flat or in a former. For built-up modelling work, e.g. buildings, the pieces are joined together with royal icing, such as this bell tower from Dream Wedding Cakes by Debbie Brown (B. Dutton Publishing Ltd).
Pastillage is available in powder form such as SK Instant Mix Pastillage, which just requires the addition of water.
Top Tip: Speed is important when working with pastillage; the quicker you can work the better as the paste begins to dry out as soon as it is exposed to the air.
Modelling chocolate (plastic chocolate, chocolate plastique, Modelling Cocoform)
Modelling chocolate is made from liquid glucose and couverture chocolate and is ideal for decorating chocolate cakes. Brands such as Squires Kitchen Modelling Cocoform are available readymade and in different colours and flavours. Modelling chocolate can be rolled out, modelled, frilled and cut and is a wonderful modelling material for creating small figures and flowers for decoration, such as this peony by Mark Tilling.
Top Tip: Cocoform can also be mixed 50:50 with marzipan or sugarpaste to make a delicious covering for chocolate cakes.
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