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Making Gum Paste from Scratch

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Making Gum Paste from Scratch
Used under licence from iStock

One of the big questions cake designers face when making flowers for their cakes is whether to make gum paste from scatch or simply buy it premade from a kitchen supply store. Homemade gum paste is better than premade in most cases because it is less expensive and creates a product that is easier to use. Premade gum paste tends to be a little stiffer and more likely to crack. The amount of gum paste created by most recipes might seem like too much for your various projects. However, gum paste can be frozen for up to six months as long as it is wrapped properly. You simply have to let it thaw in the fridge and then allow the gum paste to come back to room temperature before using it to make flowers or other cake design elements. There are four elements to making gum paste which are ingredients, mixing, kneading and storing.It is important to allot enough time when creating gum paste because each step is crucial to the finished product and ultimately the flowers you create.

You will need:

  • A great gum paste recipe like the one developed by Nicholas Lodge
  • A heavy duty mixer with a paddle attachment
  • Spatula
  • Fine powdered sugar, sifted
  • Tylose powder
  • Large zip-lock bags

Tylose powder is a very specific cake decorating supply item which can only be bought from online sources or specialty stores. It works very well in most gum paste recipes although other gum agents such as gum tragacanth could be substituted if you cannot find this ingredient. One of the best gum paste recipes is credited to Nicholas Lodge who originally worked out of the United Kingdom but now calls Georgia home. The recipe is very simple to follow for beginner cake designers as long as they have a heaver duty mixer. Hand mixers will not be strong enough to beat the gum paste after the tylose powder is added.

The process for making gum paste is quite simple but you do need to follow the instructions very closely to achieve the correct elastic texture. Most recipes for gum paste follow a similar series of steps and use the same ingredients. The basic ingredients for gum paste are egg whites, powdered sugar and some sort of gum agent like tylose powder. Some useful tips to insure success in any gum paste recipe are as follows:

  1. Take into consideration the area you live in when adding the powdered sugar to the egg whites. You might have to add more powdered sugar if you live in a more humid place and a dry environment would require less sugar.Take about a cup of sugar out of the amount listed in your recipe so you have some room to manipulate the finished product.
  2. Always scrape the sides of the bowl down, as with any recipe, to ensure all the powdered sugar is mixed into the eggs.
  3. Do not under mix the eggs and sugar. When finished the mixture will be very thick and glossy and look like meringue. Undermixing will produce gum paste which is not pliable or easy to handle.
  4. If you are going to color an entire batch of gum paste a specific color you can add the color before adding the tylose powder when the batch still looks like maringue.
  5. Sprinkle the tylose powder into the mixing bowl while running the paddle at low speed. Do not simply dump the powder in or it will clump up.
  6. Take the extra time to scrape off the paddle and gather as much gum paste as possible because even a tiny amount can create a few flowers.
  7. Seperate the gum paste into at least two smaller balls so it is easier to knead.Add extra powdered sugar in very small amounts as you knead the gum paste because it is hard to remove too much sugar if your texture becomes dry!
  8. Gum paste dries out very easily if left exposed to air so wrap the finished ball as well as the ball waiting to be kneaded tightly in plastic wrap. The finished ball of gum paste should also be placed in a Ziploc bag with all the excess air pressed out.

After the gum paste is completed it is important to store it in the fridge for at least 24 hours so any undissolved tylose powder can become active. Most recipes makes about two pounds of gum paste which is enough for an entire garden of handcrafted sugar flowers! Trying to make gum paste from scratch is completely invaluable for anyone who is serious about making gum paste from scratch. It is relatively easy and handling homemade gum paste is a real pleasure.

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