Easy Balloon Arches

Decorating Cakes with Gumpaste

Gum paste is pliable, is easy to shape like modeling clay, can be tinted, painted on and dries with the texture and crispness of a Necco wafer. It is considered “technically” edible, but it is not palatable, especially when dried because it’s hard and bland.

Gum paste is versatile. It can be made into life like flowers or small decorations or pieces can be “glued” together to make large standing ones. Decorations can be made weeks in advance and temporarily stored in airtight containers or kept there indefinitely away from heat or moisture.

You can make Gum paste from scratch or buy it ready-made or as a mix where all you do is add water. It contains ingredients such as powdered sugar, gelatin, water, sometimes glucose or egg white, sometimes shortening, and some form of strengthening gum called Tragacanth Gum (or Gum-Tex). When mixed, the recipe should be smooth and non-sticky.

Tragacanth Gum makes the paste malleable, so it’s easy to work with. It is collected from the stem of a plant in the Middle East and provides the strength when gum paste dries. Today, a substitute such as gum karaya is used. Gum arabic, more easily found today than gum tragacanth, is not a substitute.

Gum paste contains sugar or glucose which makes it pliable and slows the drying effect of air. This is important because the sugar makes it a good medium to work with, especially for those who need ample time to form their decorations.

Gum paste can be mixed with other recipes for decorative work. For example, a 50/50 mixture of Gum paste and rolled Fondant makes the Fondant easier to work with.

Gum paste, Fondant or Candy Clay – Which One Do I Use?

Gum paste dries very hard. It’s strength comes from gum tragacanth. It can be rolled very thin and makes beautiful, strong flowers and other novelties, such as boxes or any 3-D decoration.

Commercial Fondant contains a small amount of gum tragacanth so is closer to gumpaste than homemade Fondant and is easier to work with. Strength is not important on small molded things like press-in flowers, cut-outs, etc., so it is perfect to use. I recommend it for fondant-covered cakes and very white buttercream-covered cakes.
Candy clay comes in many formulas, but it’s usually a combination of chocolate and corn syrup to keep the chocolate pliable. It can be modeled in many ways and is often used for larger pieces like bows and ribbons. It can also be used to make flowers. Candy clay may also be mixed with gumpaste if strength is needed or it needs to hold a shape


Gum paste feels and works like modeling clay and can be made into any color desired. It can be formed with hands or implements or rolled into everything from decorative boxes to lifelike flowers, including ribbons and bows or whatever your imagination captures. It can also be molded in molds or around everyday objects. After shaping it, the Gum paste is set out to dry. Afterwards, the surface can be painted and the pieces “glued” together and then dusted with dusting powder.

Gum Paste Ingredient Source

When making shapes, Gum paste handles best when it is several days old after making. If rushed for time, store in a plastic bag at least overnight and then use. While working with Gum paste, keep the unused portions and any scraps well covered under a glass jar, in a plastic bag, or under a slightly damp cloth. (If the cloth is too damp the paste will begin to dissolve. If it happens, you can add more powdered sugar and re-knead.)

When you remove Gum paste from a plastic bag or covered container, you will need to re-work it with your hands until it’s soft and pliable once again. If it has been stored for some time and seems a little bit stiff, add a small piece of freshly made Gum paste and then re-work it with your hands.

Dry Gum paste roses and buds by sticking wires in Styrofoam and hang upside down for about 10 minutes until they set. Then turn right side up to finish drying.

To Tint and Flavor: Once you’ve made the Gum paste recipe, you can tint it any color you desire, or divide the mixture and tint it several different colors. If you want the entire amount of Gum paste colored the same, then add the coloring to the liquids added to the recipe. If you want only a portion of the gum paste colored, break off the approximate amount of gum paste you desire to color. Always wear thin surgical gloves for this step so you won’t get color all over your hands.

Gum paste is colored by kneading in paste food color. Make the color a little darker, because it will fade slightly as gum paste dries. Remember, you can always darken a color easier than you can lighten one.
To color, add a little paste food color at a time using a toothpick. (With a fresh toothpick, dip it into the paste color jar, and then swipe it against the surface of the Gum paste. Use a fresh toothpick every time). With your fingers, knead the color into the gum paste until it is evenly distributed. It takes awhile to achieve a uniform color. Add in small amounts at a time if you want it to be darker. If too dark, add some more untinted Gum paste and knead.

To Roll Out: Gum paste
can be rolled very thin (about 1/16th of an inch thick) onto a smooth surface and then used as a cake covering, just like rolled Fondant. Remember, roll out one small piece of at a time to avoid drying, and cover every petal and flower cut you make with saran wrap.

 Use a smooth work surface — Formica, marble, granite, stainless steel or glass.

 ALWAYS dust work surface, rolling pin and your hands with cornstarch when handling Gum paste. I often grease my hands AND the work surface lightly with Crisco – especially when I’m making very tiny and delicate flowers. They won’t dry and crack nearly as soon.
 Break off the amount of gum paste you need. Keep the remainder under a glass or in a plastic container.

 Knead the piece of gum paste with your fingers. Form into a ball about 1-1/2 inches in diameter.

 Roll out the gum paste ball to about 1/2″ thickness. Pick up the piece, turn it over and give it a quarter turn on the work surface after every roll. Repeat this procedure 2 or 3 times until the gum paste is about 1/16″ thick.

I often use my pasta roller to help make very thin sheets of Gum paste, Fondant and even Candy Clay. at the largest setting so your Gum paste can roll though easily, while making contact with the rollers. Before each pass of the dough, change to rollers to the setting to make is obtained. rollers can be cleaned with a cloth followed with a light greasing of shortening with a paper towel. Soft mixtures may need to be dusted with cornstarch using a large brush.

To Cut into Shapes: After rolling Gum paste, it can be cut into shapes freehand with a knife or with cookie cutters. Lay pieces on a nonstick surface such as wax paper to dry. You can shape them by laying them over a paper towel roll, covered in wax paper, or in a cupcake liner to dry.

To Mold: Gum paste can be molded. Dust the mold first with powdered sugar, cornstarch or a light coating of vegetable oil so it unmolds easily. If molding a flat shape, such as a plate, additionally you can cover the mold with waxed paper.

To Harden: Formed Gum paste shapes work best when decorated on after drying. Drying times of several days to a week are common depending upon the thickness.

To dry, you can place the formed Gum paste piece on waxed paper and turn it carefully once a day to ensure even drying. But, don’t put Gum paste in an low temperature oven to dry! While placing pieces near a heat source, such as an oven light, may hasten drying, the oven itself will not work. You can also place pieces in front of a fan, especially if it is humid outside. To speed drying, you can lay it on pieces of Styrofoam which allows air to circulate on both sides. (Sprinkle your foam square with cornstarch and work it in with your fingers. Then, lay the shape on the foam).

DECORATING: Gum paste is a great surface to decorate, such as painted or drawn on. I always recommend practicing first with a small piece of dried Gum paste before making the final piece(s). I have found that the thinner it is, the more elegant it looks after decorating. “Glue” dried pieces can be attached together with egg whites (safe egg whites, if edible) or royal icing for larger decorations.

When initially working with Gum paste, smooth out the wrinkles or lines on its surface to be decorated with. It can be done with a small amount of moisture and your finger or other tool. If you need to smooth it to some extent after it has dried, use a piece of sandpaper or a sharp knife to scrap off the surface.

Be careful when handling the painted pieces as so may accidentally transfer some color to other parts. When the paint has dried, cover with a fresh piece of plastic wrap, store in resealable plastic bags or place in Tupperware containers (my favorite) to provide protection.
To Paint: Gum paste shapes can be painted with paste color before or after drying. (If not meant to be eaten or won’t touch food, you can spray pieces with acrylic lacquer). To prepare colors for painting, use a clean toothpick to get some paste color and place in a plastic lid, small bowl or plate. Sprinkle a few drops of liquid onto the lid and mix it and the liquid together. Some prefer to dilute the colors by mixing them with vodka or gin instead of water to “water” them down. Liquor evaporates more rapidly than water, allowing you to paint more slowly before the surface “gums up” from the moisture in the paint.  Don’t use rum, for example because it contains sugar, defeating the rapid evaporation.

Experiment by trying your color on your practice gum paste piece and adjust it until you get the consistency you need. The “runnier” the color is the more likely it will run out of the area you are painting. The thicker the color, the easier it will be to lay down but it also will be darker. Carefully scrap off any mistakes with a sharp knife after the color has dried a little.  Some things to note: When painting the outline in black or any color tends to keep the colors separated even if it is not particularly thick. If you do not like the effect of a black line around your figures or design, try a light pencil so that you can “butt” one color up to the other without the black line separating them. If painting multiple colors, the first one needs to be somewhat dry before you can attempt the second color, or one may bleed into the other.
To Draw: Drawings may be done freehand with a paintbrush or by transferring a pattern. Methods of transfer can range from carbon paper, using soft pencil, or an opaque projector. Carbon paper is rarely advisable tiny bits of the “carbon” easily transfer the the Gum paste and are hard to scrape off.

A soft pencil can be used to draw a picture with. It can be transferred to the Gum paste by turning the paper over onto the piece and re-copying the outline. It is done by tracing (while pressing down) over the previously drawn lines with a soft pencil. The pencil lines drawn on the underneath side, copy to the Gum paste.

An opaque projector, often used to project designs onto cakes, will allow you to place the Gum paste piece under the light and directly copy the outline onto it.

Decorating Dusts: For example, gold luster dust brushed on dry after the gum paste is dry will make a beautiful gold bow.

Lessons to make gumpaste roses

Just roll out, cut in strips and roll up. These are good to learn with. The drapings are fondant which has been rolled out, cut into strips, formed as if gathered to drape. Place on cake using a dab of water.

The Making of a Gum Paste Rose:
Also known as sugar flowers, they are handmade creations made with gumpaste (a mixture of gelatin, sugar, shortening, glucose, gum tragacanth). Their smooth porcelain-like, finish can be custom colored. If stored properly they can be kept as momentos of your special day.

1. The first step is to make up the Gum paste mixture from which the flowers are made. It is a mixture which is mixed and kneaded to create a pliable “dough”.

This dough then may be colored as required for the flower, including any leaves or sepals. Separate out amounts needed for the different parts.

2. The next step is to make a “base” for building the flower. The bases are shaped and wired and stuck into foam to wait for the petals.

3. The Gum paste is then rolled very thin with a small roller, and each petal of the flower is cut out separately. Each petal is then individually shaped with special tools and the petals are arranged one by one onto the pre-made bases. Each flower is then put back into the foam to await the sepals.

4. The Gum paste for the sepals is colored, rolled thin with the roller, and then it is cut and shaped with special tools. The sepals are then slid down the wire to the base of the rose.

5. After the roses are completed and thoroughly dry (which can take days) the wires are wrapped with florist ribbon. Further coloring can be added with dusting colors.

GUM TRAGACANTH (ALSO KNOWN AS GUM-TEX) & GLUCOSE: Both Gum-Tex and Glucose are essential ingredients used when making Gum paste from scratch. T

 Gum Paste Mix: Just add water and mix. 1 pound mix makes enough for 50 roses or 100 daisies.
 Gum-Tex (Gum Tragacanth)
 Ready-made as a Flower Making Kit

Powders, Dusting Chalks or Dusts: Dusting chalks are also known as powders, blushers, highlighters, dusts, and chalks and are the driest form of color available. Variations from the basic colors must be mixed by the decorator. They are very strong and should be handled carefully as the powder is very fine and drifts in the air, staining surfaces, especially porous. Make a small opening in your container to help contain it. Dusts can be applied with a soft brush or sponge or a pale wash of color can be painted on the icing and allowed to dry, then a fairly dry brush can be dragged across to give a wood grain effect.
DECORATING DUST TYPES: Not food approved in the U.S.A. but are non toxic or harmful to eat, the same as silver dragees we’ve used for years. Used extensively in Europe. These dusts are not a food additive and should not be considered as such. Intended for use in the dry form, any of the powders may also be mixed with oil based flavorings, piping gel or alcohol for painting and highlighting.

Petal dusts (or blossom tints) are used to achieve deep hues with a matte finish. They are used mainly for dusting flowers made from Gum Paste, where a realistic effect is created.

However, they can also be used for painting on plaques and Fondant.
They are extremely versatile – they mix or match, complement or supplement and present a rainbow of colors that blend easily. Mix with water, alcohol or oil-based flavorings for painting, highlighting or deepening of colors. Can also be used to color powdered sugar. Contains no cornstarch. Colors intensify when mixed with liquids. Pearl or Luster Dusts can be applied over or mixed with Petal Dust for a variety of effects. Water soluble. Non toxic.

The flowers can be dusted before or after they have dried by using different types of artists brushes.  If a strong color is desired, then a flat brush would be used, but if soft coloring is wanted then a soft round brush should be used.

Both Petal Dusts and Luster Dusts can be used for painting on Gum Paste and Fondant by adding small amounts of lemon extract or a clear alcohol such as Gin or Vodka. Add a drop or two at a time until the consistency you want is obtained.

Luster dusts give subtle colors with a high sheen metallic-like finish. They can be used either alone, or mixed with similar colored matte dusts to create a lustrous sheen, without lightening the color. Brushed on white, they exhibit color and a metallic sheen. Not water soluble. Non toxic.

Sparkle dust (or also called “Glitter”) is similar to luster dust in effect, but has a larger grain size & gives Gum Paste flowers a wet or dewy look, with just a touch of color. Not water soluble. Non toxic.
Pearl dust When pearlized powder is dusted onto Fondant it takes on a shimmering luster which can be striking on cakes. It comes in names such as Petal, Luster, Sparkle or Pearl. These dusts are often confused with the powder form of concentrated colors. They are nontoxic.
(Continued beneath product recommendations)

When dusted on white petals, other pearls such as blue, gold, green, orange, red or violet exhibit a subtle translucent or iridescent reflective colored sheen while displaying no apparent or strong color.

May be combined with, or applied over Petal Dust to create custom colors or effects.

Good on cattleya orchids where the throat is colored and the sepals left white, etc., or on small white filler flowers as it allows for the continuation of the color scheme although the flowers are white.

Pearl dust can be mixed with vodka (not water soluble) and sprayed on with an airbrush. Follow a few simple rules and you will be amazed at the result. Bear in mind, however, that all airbrushes are not created equal, and that a little experimentation may be necessary to achieve the best result. Please note: The instruction are only guidelines and different colors may require more or less white spirit as the viscosity differs.
 1 x 2 gram container of color of your choice, e.g. Super Pearl.
 Fill to the top of container with white spirit, e.g. vodka or at least 70% or more alcohol content, for painting and highlighting. When mixed with a lower alcohol content substance, the mixture does not dry as quick when applied.
 Mix well.

 Transfer to cup of airbrush and start spraying immediately. It is always advisable to test spray first to ensure that coverage is sufficient. If too heavy, add more white spirit. If too light, add more Dust. Be sure to stir mixture each time before adding to Airbrush cup and before starting to spray. This is essential as the Dust is held in suspension and, if not stirred frequently, will settle. An eyedropper is a useful tool in transferring mix to Airbrush cup.

 A rule of thumb guide is to check the level of a new container of dust. Those appearing half full or less are obviously heavier than those above the half way mark and, most probably, will require more white spirit. Should spattering occur, especially with the heavier dust, add more white spirit until an even coverage results.

Gold and silver highlighter dusts
: These are imported dusts. To use gold and silver, mix with clear spirits such as vodka or gin then paint article. Gold and silver letters or words are very popular especially in the case of silver and gold wedding anniversaries, 21st birthdays, Christmas cakes, and novelty cakes. NOTE: Gold or silver may also be mixed with piping gel for a glistening affect.* Please note that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) does not approve of the use of any metallic on a cake that will be eaten.

Luster Dust or Pearl dusts
: These are used to add shimmer to a decoration.  Leaves such as holly leaves which have a glossy look which can be steamed after it has been colored. However in some cases, you may wish to have even more gloss or a shimmer that steaming cannot achieve. In this case, the leaf is dusted with an appropriate luster then steamed. A very high gloss is achieved. Steaming sets the color.

Embossed decorations can be dusted with a luster to make them stand out. Luster dusts can be carefully used on buttercream to add a shimmer to a border or to highlight edges of flower petals. Be sure to use a very soft brush, a light touch and careful movement across the cake.

Tint dough first with paste food colors. When dry ‘liven’ up by brushing on one of these ‘dusts’

 Let buttercream flowers crust well before tinting with a soft brush

A reader comments:
I don’t use cutters at all, for roses. I make a ‘pill/capsule’ shape then use the bone tool to flatten the top edge really thin by rolling it.
Roll it up
Make some petals. I just make a ball of gumpaste and flatten it into a petal shape using the bone tool.
Don’t try to make them too large.
Insert a wire if using that.
I guess you know to ‘hook the wire’?
Let this center dry overnight!
Use water for glue…not but a dab on the tip of a brush.
Next, make 3 petals and assemble only those onto the bud. Let it dry again. You have to let large roses dry longer than smaller ones.
Smaller ones are easier to learn too.
Now add 5 petals, spacing them so they go around the rose evenly.
You probably have enough petals. But could add more if nec.
Let dry well and dust with petal dust using a soft bristled brush.
NOTE: If your petals won’t stand up, knead powdered sugar into the gumpaste until they will. For my hands, if the paste doesn’t stick to my fingers its right. But for people with hot or moist hands, they may need it stiffer.
RULE: Try to place the petals on so that if the petals didn’t curl, all would touch the table if turned upside down. This way you won’t go down down and make a pinecone.
Grease your fingers using Crisco and keep away from cornstarch…like Wilton tries to tell you to use! Cornstarch will dry and crack your petals before you can get the flower assembled.

See a photo of a cake I used Gum Paste flowers on
1 Tbs.. Gum Tex *
3 Tbs.. water
1 teas. lemon extract
1 teas. glucose
1 lb. Confectioners’ sugar (or to the desired consistency)
* I prefer to mix the gum tex with the Confectioners’ sugar – much faster and easier to dissolve.
Sift the powdered sugar and Gumtex together into a large bowl. Make a “well” for adding the liquids later. Mix warm water and glucose until glucose is absorbed. Add the lemon extract and, after these ingredients are thoroughly mixed, add small amounts of powdered sugar/Gumtex mixture until you can work the mixture with your hands. Continue adding small amounts of powdered sugar as you knead the mixture on a table top. As soon as the mixture is pliable and can be shaped without sticking to your fingers, you’ve added enough sugar (a pound or more) and the paste is of correct working consistency. If you’re not going to use the gum paste mixture immediately, place it in a plastic bag and then in a covered container to prevent drying. When stored properly, your gum paste will keep for several months. Gum paste handles best when it is several days old.

How to color gum paste

Once you’ve made the gum paste recipe, you can tint it any color you desire, or divide the mixture and tint it several different colors. To color gum paste, apply small amounts of liquid or gel-paste food color with a toothpick. Then with your hands, knead and work the color into the gum paste piece until the tint is evenly applied. If you would like a deeper shade, you can add more color a little at a time, and re-work the gum paste until you achieve the desired shade. Remember, you can always darken a color easier than you can lighten one.

How to roll out gum paste

Roll out on a firm work surface. Special celboards are available for this. (Some celboards also have grooves for your flower wires!) Always dust your work surface with cornstarch first! This is standard procedure for rolling out gum paste to cut any floral shape. After your work surface is adequately dusted, take a small piece of gum paste, work it awhile with your hands and then place it on the cornstarch-covered area. *see ‘greasing surface method. Now dust more cornstarch on the surface of your rolling pin and roll out gum paste until it’s the thickness you desire – this is usually about 1/16-inch for most flowers.

Remember, roll out one small piece of gum paste at a time to avoid drying; and cover every petal and flower cut you make with saran wrap. (Or place under your vinyl practice board cover if you have one).

How to hand-work gum paste

When you remove gum paste from a plastic bag or covered container, you will need to re-work it with your hands until it’s soft and pliable once again. If the gum paste has been stored for some time and seems a little bit stiff, add a small piece of freshly made gum paste and then re-work it with your hands.

Very easy fast and popular method for making tiny flowers

Mexican Hat Method
This method can be used for most small flowers, including pansies, violets, petunias, Hyacinth, and many others:

Form a ball of gumpaste. Shape it as shown with ‘peak’ on one side. Dust surface and cut out flower. Thin and broaden but do not lengthen petals. Insert hooked wire from top, which is barely dampened on the hook. Shape throat between your fingers. Bend petals and dry. Dust center yellow petal dust. Add tiny calyx at bottom of throat.

Use any leaf cutter you like. Be sure to notice that the leaf centers are thicker than the edges. You need that thickness to insert the wire. Confectioner’s Glaze shown above, is for shine. Some leaves are naturally shiny and this helps make them look real.
Important reminders:

ALWAYS dust work surface, rolling pin and your hands with cornstarch when handling gum paste and flower cuts. (my note: Instead, I often grease my hands AND the work surface lightly with Crisco – especially when I’m making very tiny and delicate flowers. They won’t dry and crack nearly as soon.)

ALWAYS keep gum paste and flower cuts covered to prevent drying

ALWAYS add food coloring in small amounts until you achieve the gum paste tint you desire

ALWAYS re-work gum paste before roll it out to cut flowers and, if the gum paste has been stored for sometime, add a small piece of freshly made gum paste and re-work until pliable.

when making dolls or figures that need longer to dry that you always make fresh gum paste.

If you use older gum paste and there is a little fermenting in the gum paste your figures can explode. Believe me they aren’t very pretty if this happens.

I DO NOT like the pre-made gum paste you can buy when making dolls. Mine did not dry as hard as they did when using the above recipe.

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