Isomalt is a sugar substitute that is created from real sugar that has been made from beets.It is something that is not familiar to most people unless they are cake decorators or in food manufacturing. It is not as sweet as sugar but can be blended with other sugar substitute sweeteners like sucralose to increase the sweetness. Isomalt will not caramelize when heat is applied to it like sugar does so isomalt will not yellow. This makes it a very good medium to create great design elements for cakes that need to have clear color. Gem stones, windows for gingerbread houses and glamorous sparkling mosaics are just a few elements that can be made using isomalt.
Isomalt can be used to create design elements for cake decorating because it can be sculpted or molded into pretty much any shape. It is important to use molds that can withstand very high heat and avoid plastic molds that can distort or even melt. You also must take special care to work carefully and safely with this medium because you can get burned.
Isomalt can be purchased from online sources such as Goldas's Kitchen or Wilton or can be found in local kitchen or baking stores. It comes in several forms such as isomalt granules (which need to be mixed with distilled water) or isomalt sticks which are ready to use and can be found in clear form or an assortment of colors.
Preparing the isomalt to make design elements is different depending on which form you are starting with at the beginning. If you are using the granule form the process will be very similar to creating sugar work and the same care needs to be taken to avoid issues. Try to work in a low humidity area and use a candy thermometer to track the temperature of the simmering liquid. Try to remove any impurities or foam that forms on top of the liquid so your finished product is clear and as close to perfect as possible. If you are using ready to use isomalt sticks you can simply place the desired amount and color into a silicone container and microwave the sticks a few seconds at a time, stirring until the sticks have melted completely.
The best molds to use for creating gems or other elements are made with silicone or designed specifically for hard card making use. Make sure you spray your molds with vegetable spray before pouring the very hot melted isomalt into the design or it still may stick and ruin all your hard work. Pour the isomalt into the mold evenly or use a toothpick or thin dowel to fill very small molds. After filling you simply wait until the isomalt is cool and pop the design out of the mold.
Using toothpicks or wooden dowels makes clean up quite simple. Isomalt is very sticky and hard to remove from anything it touches very much like sugar in a soft or hard ball stage. Throw whatever tools are disposable away and whenever possible utilize silicone cups to pour the medium. Cooled isomalt will pop right out of silicone. If you do not have silicone tools simply put a large pot of simmering water on the stove and drop your tools into the water to melt the isomalt off.
After your tools are clean and the created design elements are cooled you should store the gems and other pieces in silicone packets. Humidity and time can turn your pieces cloudy and sticky if they aren't stored correctly. This will ruin the clear sparkly effect you probably wish to achieve. Avoid using these types of decorations for cakes that are used in humid hot summer weather.