When working with and creating bespoke cakes and cupcakes, you need to be able to create perfect ‘life like’ creations, whether it is flowers, handbags or shoes. They maybe ‘scaled-down’ creations but they need to be realistic none-the-less. These accurate figures and creations can separate the professional bakers from the amateur cooks. When attending a wedding, you often see the most incredible shapes and flower designs which look incredibly true-to-life. These objects are hard and remain strong on the cakes, even if it is placed in extremely warm conditions. Most novel bakers assume that this is plain and normal fondant icing, some figures may be made out of this kind of icing however, when stating out as a baker, you realise that there are certain ‘tricks of the trade’ which you don’t know about and in order to discover these little bits of information, you must make your own mistakes. A baker cannot learn if they do not make mistakes. My very first mistake was creating small elegant roses for the tops of my cupcakes, out of fondant icing. I had no idea about the texture and strength of fondant, so after placing my perfectly crafted fondant roses, directly on top of the butter cream, I realised that they had begun to wilt and split. It was only with extensive research that I discovered that the foundation of fondant icing is not strong enough on its own and it requires a natural powder which hardens the icing when drying.
This natural powder is known as ‘Gum Tragacanth’ and is a type of powdered ‘gum’ which helps the fondant to set and harden. The whole idea of adding Gum Trag to the fondant can be a little bit of a palaver, so bakers have found ‘Florist Paste’ which is the answer to all our prayers. Florist paste has been classed as the number one moulding paste in which you can design and create the most elegant of flower arrangements for your cakes. Florist paste can not only be used to make flowers, you can make anything your heart desires. Florist paste sets and becomes ridged so that the beautiful creations do not loose their shape before the cake has even been presented to the client.
When you first open a pack of florist paste it can seem extremely hard and unmanageable so the key is to use ‘TREX’ which is a type of vegetable fat that you can get from any supermarket. Trex is 100% vegetarian so it will not affect any potential jobs for vegetarians. Dipping your finger into the Trex and then adding a small amount to your florist paste makes a huge difference. It softens the paste from a solid and hard piece of sugar paste, into a soft and ‘blue-tac’ like moulding paste. Once it starts to feel like blue tac, then you have achieved the right texture and consistency and it is time to stop adding the Trex. If you add to much Trex, this can result in the fondant being too oily and bitty, which means that you can no longer use it. DO NOT throw it away, all you need to do is add some more florist paste and kneed it with your fingers and it should go back to the texture which is required.
Once you are ready, you can colour this florist paste into any colour you want. I like to make a big ball of white florist paste and divide it up into 3 sections. I feel that using one colour on your cakes may appear amateur and plain so I like to make 3 different shades of one colour, to add depth and texture for example, if I am planning on making pink roses, then I will begin by making a really dark pink shade, putting it to one side and making a slightly lighter pink with the next section of florist paste and so on and so forth. Always ensure that once you have finished using that particular lump of florist paste, that you put it back into a sealed bag as it can dry out really quickly. When colouring you florist paste, ensure that you use professional gel colourings as these do not have as much liquid as some colours you can find your local supermarket. If your colour has too much liquid, this can affect the entire structure of your florist paste and may cause it to react just like the fondant with no gum trag.
Once your florist paste is coloured, then you can design or mould anything your heart desires. Once you have created your shapes, then leave them on the side to dry on a non-stick tray. If they stick to the surface, this could be a disaster and can ruin all of your hard work. In a matter of hours, the florist paste will set and they are ready to be placed on the tops of your cupcakes or cakes.
I hope that this article has just given you a little snippet into using florist paste and I hope that you have learnt a thing or two but if you have any questions please do not hesitate to leave a comment or drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org … Happy Baking!