Dec 16

16 December 2018

6 Different Types of Paste for Cake Decorating

6 different types of pastes for cake decorating

There are so many pastes! What is the difference between all the different types of cake paste?

Should you use florist pastes, gum pastes, fondant, sugar pastes, Mexican pastes, modelling pastes, modelling chocolate, pastillage...or something else?  And then this happens....

So, to stop you throwing your cake at the wall, here is a high level run down of the differences between the main types of pastes. 

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So which pastes should I use??

Florist Paste / Gum Paste

Florist paste at Pretty Witty Cakes

To kick off, florist paste, gum paste, floral paste, flower paste and petal paste are essentially the SAME thing. 

In the UK it is typically called Florist Paste. In the USA, it is typically called Gum Paste.

There is a free video tutorial on top tips for using florist paste here.

7 tips for using florist paste or gum paste

Florist paste / Gum paste is used to make anything which needs to dry quickly and hold its structure.  For example, flowers like roses, lilies and carnations all work best in florist paste.  It can also be used for small decorative details on cakes that are more fiddly as it is quite a stiff paste but less sticky than fondant.

Florist paste is fully edible although it dries quite hard so it is brittle to touch.  If you dropped a florist paste flower, it would shatter into lots of pieces.  Therefore, you would never use it to decorate things like the surface of a big cake as it would be crunchy.  For that you used fondant (see below).

Florist paste is more expensive than some other pastes such as fondant but you don’t need to use much of it so a large pack will last a long time.  Most florist paste that you buy in shops lasts around 6 to 12 months if wrapped properly.

Florist paste is perfect for flowers as it is elastic allowing you to shape flower petals using something like a ball tool for frilling the edges. It is also easy to use with moulds.

As florist paste dries so hard, you should ideally leave any florist paste decorations to dry for at least 48 hours. Otherwise they can droop at the crucial moment. 

Adding vegetable shortening (trex) to florist paste makes it lots easier to use.

Florist paste should be stored in a wrapped bag inside a fully sealed container which is completely air tight to stop it drying out.  You can store unused florist paste in a plastic container.

However, do not store finished flowers in a plastic container as they will sweat and droop.  Finished florist paste flowers (or other decorations) should be stored in a cardboard box, like a cake box. Some people do store completely finished and dry flowers in a plsatic container but if you do this, please ensure they are completely dry before you seal the container. 

Fondant / Sugar Paste

Types of sugar paste and fondant at Pretty Witty Cakes

Fondant is also known as sugar paste, ready to roll icing, covering paste or regalice.  It has several uses:

  • It can be rolled out and used to cover a cake.
  • It can be used to model novelty characters like animals and people if you add Gum Tragacanth or CMC (see Fact Pack on Gum Tragacanth and CMC).
  • It can be used for small flowers and decorations that have Gum Tragacanth or CMC added to them

It has the same consistency as play-do. 

If you are modelling with fondant, you should add 1 teaspoon of Gum Tragacanth (or CMC or Tylose) to every 250grams of fondant.  This will make it firmer and easier to model.  It will also help it dry more quickly.

You cannot roll fondant as thin as florist paste so although you can make flowers with it when adding Gum Tragacanth etc, they won’t look as delicate as the florist paste ones.

Fondant should be stored in a wrapped bag inside a fully sealed container which is completely air tight to stop it drying out.  You can store unused sugar paste in a plastic container.  However, do not store finished work in a plastic container as they will sweat and droop.  Finished sugar fondant cakes should be store in a cake box made of card.  Novelty characters should be stored in the same place. Novelty characters made from fondant can be made several weeks in advance.

There is a free video tutorial on top tips for using fondant / sugar paste here.

Top tips for using fondant and sugar paste at Pretty Witty Cakes

Modelling paste

This is an paste designed for modelling work.  It is ideal for fine modelling especially plaques, frills, drapes, cards and using with Patchwork Cutters.  It is less stretchy than florist paste hence preferable for patchwork cutters. It sets firm, but remains soft enough to eat. Also ideal to use with moulds.

Modelling paste can be rolled paper thin for dressing model characters and colours easily with paste colouring just like florist paste and fondant.

You can buy it ready made or make your own version by mixing 50:50 mixes of florist paste (gum paste) and sugar paste (fondant). This will work in a similar way. 

There is a tutorial on how you make it in the Academy. 

Pastillage is rolled fondant which dries very hard.  It does not have any of the softening ingredients (glycerin corn starch or shortening).  As it dries bone hard, it normal use is for decorative ribbons, appliqués and 3D shapes.

As pastillage dries hard, it is relatively strong and durable.  It is often used alongside florist paste and other sugar work.  It has been used cake stands, containers, long lasting cake toppers due to is strength

Pastillage is made from 100% edible ingredients. However I would not describe it as “edible” as it would probably break your teeth! It could therefore be unpleasant to eat.  It is useful however for key structures which need to be strong.  For example, if you were making a table and you had things to place on it on a cake, pastillage would be perfect.

Pastillage cannot be rolled as thin as florist paste.  In addition with pastillage you have to work quickly as it dries very fast.

In terms of how strong it is, pastillage will take handle humidity better as florist paste tends to take on the moisture from the humid air which can make it go softer if it is too humid.

Marzipan

Marzipan is an almond and sugar paste used to ice cakes and model characters. Marzipan is a mixture of almond paste, powdered sugar and a moistening agent such as water, corn syrup fondant or egg whites.  All the ingredients are mixed until they product the consistency of dough.

Marzipan is very simple to work with and its use is widespread.  When using the marzipan to cover a cake (for example a fruit cake). A think sheet is rolled out and draped over the top like fondant. There is often fruit syrup glazed over the cake before the marzipan is added to make it stickier.  

Marzipan is a very easy medium to use can you can make flowers, characters and models out of it. The downside is that because it contains nuts, many people now avoid it. Personally - I love it!

Modelling chocolate

Since 2010, modelling chocolate has seen an increasingly growing usage in the cake industry.  

It is a paste made of chocolate and oils and although far more expensive that many other pastes, it has many amazing characteristics including that you can smooth seams together more easily, work more slowly, make more advanced work and so on.

It is sometimes called Cocoform (the Squires brand name for it).

To keep the costs down, many people often make a mix of 50% modelling chocolate and 50% fondant as this makes the fondant more stretchy and easier to work with.

There is a tutorial on how you make it in the Academy. 

For more free tutorials and tips, have a look at the blog.

How to make modelling chocolate at Pretty Witty Academy

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