For years ever since I started with cake decorating, I’ve only used piped Royal Icing or hand-pinched fondant or gumpaste for roses. The bare basics for royal icing, being fresh eggwhites and loads of powdered sugar was already a challenge to handle around the flower nail or toothpick. The first fondant recipe I got to use about 12 years ago was of the same ingredients plus glucose and gelatin. Still, I found it more comfortable using fondant for flowers instead of royal icing.
This wedding cake used hand-pinched flowers which took me two weeks to amass. One can really test the extent of pain a thumb and a forefinger can endure using that technique for a cake such as this.
While i was still studying, the fondant I get to mix was either sticky or too stiff. The table was always a mess, my hands were always covered with crumbly sugar mass. I was wrestling with sugar.
Years go by and every now and then I get to practice and come across with different fondant recipes with additional ingredients either to make the icing more pliable or more stretchy or less lumpy or less powdery. The fondant icing I now use does not need the gelatin. Instead, Gummix is added which allows the eggwhites to stabilize its foam while the dry ingredients are being worked in. Glucose is still there because it is the ingredient that makes the mixture gummy in the first place, heheh! The shop where I used to buy my cake ingredients told me that their other clients also put a little bit of glycerine in their mixture. I tried it out and it gave me the pliable and stretchy kind which made the sashes and swags easier to make. For about 8 years now, the fondant now requires the use of cornstarch instead of additional powdered sugar during the last stages of the mixing as well as the forming, kneading and shaping process, in order to lessen the sweetness and bring out the marshmallow flavor. This was already perfect for us in terms of covering the cakes we make.
However, intricate designs, flowers, figures and even shoes require a different mix. The mixture I used to have easily stiffens which makes speedy work and shaping crucial. It was only when I became a member of Shopbakersnook in facebook when I learned you can use a dab of shortening while you are forming the figures to keep the dough from cracking. It never occurred to me because from where I am, I thought shortening would just allow the fondant to easily melt or not completely set once it is used and shaped. But, I was happy to learn that misconception and now use it when I have to shape difficult figures.
The most recent discovery I got is GumTex. I know several bakers do not like to use it because it has this chemical smell, but I find it easy to make the delicate flowers I always wanted to make and it also firms up quite fast. After the paste sets and firms up, the gumpaste doesn’t smell anything at all. Here is our previous blog about it: http://captainsmixandmagic.com/main/2012/01/09/wiltons-gumtex/
Practicing on the mixture gave me this flower the first time:
For this flower, I used petal cutters and rolled them out. Also, shaping tools gave my fingers the vacation. I didn’t have to pinch this flat anymore!
I was quite happy with this flower but my husband and I saw pictures of fondant flowers that look so real. We tried furling the petals and tried if we can make the petals a lot thinner. This is the result of the second try:
We both got so excited on this output because it was light, looks really “real”. Plus, there is quite a huge possibility that with more practice, we can make really huge roses next time! This flower looks just the same size as the hand-pinched roses from the wedding cake above but weighs quite lighter and sturdier.
This opens a lot more possibilities which will allow us to try making bigger, more flower varieties like peonies, stargazers, tulips, carnations… or even whimsical flowers!