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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Attaching Stems to Royal Icing Flowers

If the products on display in 99.9% of all bakeries are any indication, there's nothing else to do with royal icing flowers other than squish them into a swirl of buttercream icing atop a cupcake. With a few extra steps, you can easily elevate royal icing flowers to new heights by adding stems (and leaves!) to them. In addition to pre-made royal icing flowers (in this case daisies; perfect on cakes honoring the 100th birthday of Girl Scouts of the USA, as they're the official flower), here's what you'll need: 
 Parchment paper squares, florist's tape, scissors, needle-nose pliers (the kind used in jewelry-making), a Styrofoam block, 20-gauge florist's wire for the stem, 26-gauge wire for leaves, stiff-consistency green royal icing in a pastry bag fitted with a coupler and a round tip #8, a small brush, and a leaf tip, if you're making leaves (I used an Ateco tip #69). Start by cutting off about 6" of florist's tape, if you're wrapping a 4" 20-gauge wire for the stem:
 Pull the tape at one end gently to activate the adhesive; it will turn a lighter shade of green when it's sticky:
 Wrap the whole wire, pulling the tape as you go so it will stick to itself the length of the wire. Trim off any excess.
 Use your pliers to bend one end into a hook; a little less than a quarter-inch.
 Pipe a penny-sized ball of icing on a parchment paper square. Hold the bag perpendicular to and just above the surface of the square. Keep it buried in the icing as it builds up, stop the pressure when it's about half an inch high, and pull the tip away. It will look a bit like a Hershey's Kiss:
 Stick the hooked end of the wire in the middle…
 …and use the brush to gently smooth the icing a little way up the stem.
 It was at this point I realized my green icing wasn't stiff enough to do the next step: stick the wire stem into the Styrofoam block and allow the icing to dry. So I had to improvise by using some clear tape to brace the stem straight up along the side of the block. I'm glad I never took off the plastic wrap!
 To make leaves, wrap two small wires in florist's tape and make tiny hooks at one end with the needle-nose pliers:
 Pipe dabs of icing in the centers of parchment paper squares and lie the wires down with the hooks in the icing:
 Change the tip on your pastry bag of green icing to the leaf tip, and pipe leaves over the hooks. Set them aside to dry.
 I let my leaves and the base dry for about five hours. Then I wrapped the leaves to the stem, each with their own piece of florist's tape (don't try to wrap both leaves with one piece of tape; the end result won't be as stable):

 Pipe a #8 bead of icing on the underside of the flower you're going to mount to the stem. Use green or whatever color the flower is:
 Gently press the flower onto the bead of icing on the stem. Allow it to dry for a couple of hours.
 Remember, you can't stick florist's wire or tape directly into cakes; next time you're someplace that has those tiny coffee stirrer straws, grab a supply (The Iced Queen does not generally condone theft, mind you). Stick the straw into the cupcake, cake, whatever, and insert the flower stem into it. Use larger straws if you're grouping several flowers together. From all the horrific accounts I've read on the dangers of florist's wire and tape, the deal is the wire contains lead, and the tape contains latex, which can leach out into the icing and cause anaphylactic shock in latex-sensitive individuals. What a way to end a party! I've never heard of this actually happening, but with my luck it would be at my house. You might be wondering if the flower is still safe to eat after being mounted on a wire-and-tape stem. I think it would be, because it never actually comes into contact with either of these items; by the time it's mounted by the bead of icing to the green base containing the wire, the base is dry. Personally, I would hope the cake it's rooted in has such a generous supply of icing that it never enters anybody's head to eat the decorations, but you know…you can never have too much icing.

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