Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Gum Paste Blossom from Wilton Course 4

In the not-too-distant past, Wilton added a fourth course to their cake decorating classes offered at most Michael's stores: Advanced Gum Paste Flowers. I lucked out and snagged one of the last slots in this extremely popular 4-session class. I don't think I'll ever feel about gum paste the way I do about royal icing; I found myself missing my piping bag during last night's class. Gum paste is billed as inedible (yet it's Kosher). I've heard of kids who love eating it (probably the same kids who love eating paste and scented erasers). The main issue with the inedibility of gum paste is that as a flower it's oftentimes made into a collection of pieces held together with wire (full of lead) that's been wrapped with floral tape (full of latex, which spells anaphylactic shock for anybody allergic to latex who consumes a gum paste flower that's had latex from floral tape leaching into it). There are ways of safely displaying gum paste flowers on a cake, namely by sticking their stems into straws or flower spikes. In the first session of the course, we learned how to make a small filler flower, the gum paste blossom. The setup includes quite a few things from the kit you need to purchase for the class, namely a gum paste storage board, a medium-sized blossom ejector, an impression mat, florist tape, 26-guage florist wire, and pearl stamens. You'll also need scissors, a 9" fondant rolling pin fitted with pink guide rings, a dusting pouch filled with a 50/50 mix of powdered sugar and cornstarch, an angled brush, a sealed container of gum glue adhesive (which is a pinch of gum paste dissolved in a tablespoon of water; it will keep for weeks after you've made it), and, of course, gum paste. In the class we used a 50/50 blend of fondant and gum paste, which provides a slightly longer working time than straight gum paste. 
The first step is to snip the little pearl stamens in half, one for each flower:
Then cut a 2" piece of florist tape in half down the middle.
This narrow strip of tape is used to lash the stamen to the wire. Hold them next to each other, with the "pearl" above the florist wire (as seen to the left of the pearl):
Getting it started can be a bit tricky, but gets easier with practice. Florist tape is infused with glue that activates when the tape is gently stretched; it suddenly becomes sticky. Sticking the tape to itself seems to help in starting this step. Wrap the tape around the wire and the stamen at an angle and slightly overlapping itself until you run out of tape, or you can snip the tape once you've covered the wire past the stamen.
Here's how that step looks, finished:
Then, cut a piece of florist tape about 6" or so long, and use it to wrap the whole length of the wire from the base of the pearl to the end of the wire. Snip off any excess when you get to the end:
Here are a few fully wrapped wires:
Now it's time to play with gum paste. Lightly dust the backside of the storage board with your dusting pouch. It makes a great non-stick surface to roll out gum paste on.
Roll out enough gum paste for as many blossoms as you're planning to make. Remember, don't flip the gum paste like you would cookie dough or fondant. If you need to reposition it, pick it up, re-dust the surface below, and rotate it. If your gum paste is dry or crumbly, knead in a small amount of vegetable shortening.
This is the medium-sized blossom ejector. The piece on the right slides on over the piece on the left to form a sort of plunger.
Here it is assembled:
Here it is depressed:
Hold it over the gum paste and push down. Do not use the plunger yet! Once you've made the cutout, remove the ejector. 
Here is the ejector with the blossom cutout inside.
Now you'll need the impression mat, which will require dusting with the pouch. In one of the corners is the impression for a medium blossom.
Line up the ejector over it and press down, leaving behind…
…this little flower. It can easily be removed by giving the mat a twist (it's very flexible).
Here is a view of the other side of the blossom:
Place a tiny dab of gum glue adhesive in the center of the flower…
…and insert the stem you made earlier. Pinch the underside of the blossom gently so it really adheres to the base of the stamen's "pearl," which should just peek through.
Make a curve in the stem and hang the flower up to dry someplace. Ideally you'll be able to easily find a gum paste flower drying rack to hang your flowers from, but I found that the light fixture over my dining table works just fine! Gum paste flowers should be stored in a cardboard box away from temperature extremes and light. I'll try to post more about Course 4 soon; it's a wonderful addition to the Wilton curriculum!

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