What is the difference between Sugar Paste and Gum Paste and what can I use them for?

When I first started decorating cakes my daughter bought me Debbie Brown’s book “Hot Cakes” and then promptly chose which cake she wanted me to make for her 21st birthday. After a lot of blood, sweat and tears, I finally produced this cake for her (which she loved by the way). I couldn’t understand, however, why I couldn’t quite get it to look like the one in the book! I had made all of the “bottoms” out of sugarpaste which is the same thing that I covered the cake with and I just couldn’t replicate the topper to stand up straight, so had to improvise. Classes and experience have since shown me that using the right materials for your decorations make all the difference!

So, I thought I would share here some of what is out there to use for first time decorators:

Sugarpaste – sometimes referred to as “fondant” is the soft pliable icing use to cover cakes. It can also be used for simple models and decorations, especially if you want them to be edible. Fondant is actually a more liquid sweet icing which is poured over the cake, a la “Fondant Fancies”.

Flower/Gum Paste – this is a harder medium used for creating models and sugar flowers that you want to dry hard. The advantage of using this is that you can roll it really thin and it remains pliable to mould but firmly dries to create some really delicate and lifelike flowers.

Modelling Paste – this is used for creating figures and other smaller modelled items. It is flexible like sugarpaste but gives a smoother finish and will generally hold its shape better. It remains a little pliable and is more durable. As an alternative you can mix a little flower paste and sugarpaste together to create a similar effect.

Pastillage – is a fast-drying paste used for creating structures, such as bird houses, tables or boxes. As the paste dries extremely hard it will keep its shape.

You can buy sugarpaste and flower paste from most major supermarkets. Craft shops such as Hobbycraft also stock modelling paste and some may also stock powder you can make up into Pastillage. I get many of my supplies from Cake Stuff. There are recipes available to make your own – if you would like to try that, contact me and I will send you the details.

One day I would love to recreate the cake as it was originally meant to look – so if you would like a cake like this for a 21st birthday – get in touch! Tel: 07799 651542 or tracy@monumentalcakes.co.uk.

Take from Debbie Brown’s book – “Hot Cakes”

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