Wednesday, February 27, 2013

DIY Gum Paste Flowers Tutorial

As promised in yesterday's post, I'm back today to share with you a little casual tutorial on how I like to make simple gum paste flowers to adorn cupcakes.  I've had several inquiries in the past (particularly from photos of these cupcakes) on how I make my gum paste flowers.  They're actually very easy to create as long as you have a few basic tools and ingredients.  They add a lot of interest and personality to an otherwise plain cupcake and, when stored properly, they last for positively ages.
To make your gum paste flowers, you'll need gum paste, of course.  You can buy ready-to-use gum paste to save yourself time, but I prefer to use a gum paste mix and make mine fresh as I find the prepared gum paste often tends to be a little dry and difficult to work with.  Also, when I use the mix I can control how much I make at once (usually I make about 1/4 batch at a time, unless I'm making a ton of flowers).  In addition to your gum paste,  you'll need a little shortening to grease your work surface and gel food coloring if you wish to color your gum paste.  If I am trying to match the color of something (such as the cupcake liners in this case), I like to keep that close as I'm tinting the gum paste to have as a reference.

You'll also need a few tools for rolling and shaping your flowers.  A small rolling pin is handy for rolling your gum paste out.  You'll also need flower-shaped cutters.  The one I used for the flowers shown in this tutorial is a plunger style cutter (like these) which makes removing your cut gum paste from your cutter much easier while leaving a small dot which will conveniently act as a guide later on when creating your flower center.  If want to do any shaping of your flowers, you'll need a gum paste tool set and a shaping foam set.  I also find a storage board helpful to keep your cut flowers from drying out before you shape them.  You certainly don't need a board like this, a piece of plastic wrap placed on top of your cut flowers will work just the same.  I have a storage board that was purchased as part of a set and I do find it handy and convenient.  While purchasing these tools can get pretty pricey, if you enjoy using decorative flowers to adorn your desserts, making them yourself will save you money in the long run.  I purchase all my tools and ingredients from Michael's taking advantage of 40% and 50% off coupons.

Now that you know what tools and ingredients you'll need, let's get started.

Prepare your work surface by coating it with a very thin layer of shortening.  This will prevent your gum paste from sticking to your surface.  I like to work on a small silicone mat, but a clean, smooth counter will work just fine.

(Not pictured) If desired, next you'll tint your prepared gum paste.  I recommend using caution when coloring your gum paste and only adding the tiniest amount of gel food coloring at a time.  This stuff is pretty potent, especially when working with a small amount of gum paste, and it's easy to add too much too quickly and completely ruin the color you're going for.  If you're afraid of mistakingly going too dark, one trick I suggest is to start off my cutting off 1/3 to 1/4 of your gum paste and setting that aside (keep it covered while you work so it doesn't dry out).  If you end up going a little too dark, you can add in the white gum paste you reserved and it'll help lighten your mixture back up a bit.  To tint your gum paste, use a tooth pick to add a tiny amount of food coloring to your white gum paste and knead it gently until the color is completely homogeneous.  Keep repeating this process, adding a tiny bit more coloring at a time, until you have achieved the desired shade for your flowers.

Once you've tinted your gum paste to the perfect shade, use your rolling pin and roll it out to ~1/16th inch.  To be honest, I never measure the thickness of my gum paste.  I just kind of eyeball what looks to be about right.  I might suggest measuring this on your first attempt until you get a feel for the proper thickness.  If you don't roll your gum paste thin enough, you'll have awkward cubby little flowers.  Too thin and they'll be weak and difficult to shape.

After you have rolled your gum paste out, use your cutter and cut out as many flowers as you need.  As you cut them, place them under the plastic flap on your storage board, or cover them well with plastic wrap.  You'll want to protect them from drying out while you work so they'll still be malleable enough to shape.  You may also want to cover your rolled gum paste with plastic wrap while you work as well.  The key to working with gum paste is to move fast and keep everything protected from the air until you actually want your flowers to dry out.  With exposure to air, they'll begin to dry and will become difficult to shape.

Your cut flowers are now ready for shaping.  This step isn't necessary but it provides your flowers with a more realistic appearance and also gives your flowers a little personality and character.  For the first step of shaping the individual petals, I like to use the thin foam piece from the shaping foam set and the dual ended rounded shaper from the gum paste tool set.

The process of shaping the petals is a little difficult to describe and capture in a still photograph.  Basically you want to place the ball from the small end of the round shaping tool in the center of a petal and, while lightly applying pressure, move the tool in a circular motion.  This serves to add dimension to the petals.

 Then place your flower on the thicker piece of foam from the foam shaping set and, using the larger end of the round shaping tool, apply gentle pressure to the center of the flower again moving the tool in a circular motion.  This creates a gentle cupping effect and gives your flowers a sweet rounded appearance.

Repeat this process with each of your cut flowers.  Once they have all been shaped, set them aside to dry for an hour or two.

Once your flowers are dry, it's time to add a little detail to their center to finish them off.  My favorite way to decorate the center of my flowers is to use small sugar pearls which I adhere with a "glue" made from mixing 1 teaspoon of merginue powder with 1 tablespoon of water.  I use a small paint brush to dot a little bit of this "glue" to the center of my flower, then place a sugar pearl on top and very gently press it into place.  Allow the "glue" to dry and your sugar pearl will be firmly adhered to your flower.  Another option for decorating the center of your flower is to use royal icing or other decorative sprinkles or small candies.

After adding your sugar pearl centers, give the "glue" another 30 minutes to 1 hour to dry.  Then your flowers are ready to adorn your delicious dessert creations!  If you want to make these in advance, they keep beautifully stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place.  I'd say these keep fairly indefinitely, but, to be safe, I'd recommend using them within a week or two of the time you make them.

I am certainly not a professional and these flowers definitely don't require a lot of skill to make.  I find their simple shape pleasing and I appreciate that they're fairly quick to make.  While elaborate gum paste flowers are truly works of art, for my everyday cupcakes I prefer to keep thing simple and these sweet flowers are just what I need!  With a modest investment in a few tools, you too can whip up these sweet little adornments and add some decoration to your cupcakes, petit fours, etc.  This is just my technique on how I like to make my favorite gum paste flowers.  I hope you found it helpful and that it's inspired you to experiment with gum paste as well.


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  2. These look so much easier than I thought. What is Meringue powder? We don't have that here in South Africa. Will def be giving these a try for my next cupcake marathon.


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