Gumpaste, also known as Gum Paste or Sugar Gum Paste, is an edible confectionery medium used primarily to form the more technical and advanced elements of a dessert display. Compared to its softer and more palatable sculpting counterparts such as modeling chocolate or rolled fondant, gumpaste hardens like clay. Depending on the size and thickness of a gumpaste decoration, it may take anywhere from 12 hours to 7 days to fully set. There are some pros and cons to working with this medium.
Gumpaste Pros vs. Cons
5 Pros of Decorating with Gumpaste
- It can be rolled paper thin to make realistic flower petals and leaves.
- It can be draped, folded and cinched to render realistic fabric effects.
- Once dried, it holds firm and can withstand the pressure of gravity, making it the ideal choice for tricky 3D, standing or floating elements such as poles, antennae, figurines, and wings.
- Once dried, it naturally preserves itself so items with sentimental value like wedding cake toppers may serve as keepsakes.
- Another advantage to its shelf stability is that it will hold up well when used to make decorations for bakery display cakes.
5 Cons of Decorating with Gumpaste
- Although it is technically edible, it is not really meant to be eaten.
- When exposed to the air, its surface crusts over, so you must work fast.
- Adequate drying time is required, which entails advanced planning and preparation.
- Dried elements, especially thin ones, remain fragile and are prone to shatter if mishandled or dropped.
- If it is exposed to moisture for a prolonged period, gumpaste will eventually go limp.
Reliable Gumpaste Sources
Scratch Gumpaste Recipe
Powdered Gumpaste Mix
I rely on powdered versions like this Gumpaste Mix from CK products.
Gumpaste Tips & Tricks
5 Tips for Handling Gumpaste
- Fresh gumpaste does not keep well (it will eventually dry out even if it is properly stored) so it’s best to schedule all the gumpaste elements you need to be made at once.
- Fresh gumpaste is a lint magnet so make sure your hands and surfaces remain clean while you work.
- To thin gumpaste out, add water. To thicken it, add corn starch.
- Use vegetable shortening (a little bit on the tip of a finger) to smooth and handle the gumpaste as you sculpt.
- To make extra thin sheets of gumpaste, flatten a ball between two pieces of silicone before rolling over the top with a pin.
5 Tips for Preserving Gumpaste Decorations
- Allow finished decorations to air dry in a safe place that is not heavily trafficked by others.
- To add shine and strength, brush the dried and finished surface of a gumpaste decoration with a loose slurry of gum arabic powder + water. This will also help seal and protect the decoration from damage.
- To safely store and transport finished elements, pack them in a container loosely surrounded by padding (I like to use scraps of soft cotton cloths or the fluffy cushions that come in jewelry boxes). Keep the box level and handle it with care.
- Avoid or limit the amount of time finished gumpaste decorations sit in a humid environment like a freezer or refrigerator.
- Wait until the last possible minute to add gumpaste decorations to a moist surface such as a frosted cake.
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