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The icing on the cake: decorating cakes and cupcakes with sugarpaste

Soft, sweet and with endless possibilities – when it comes to decorating cakes we’re rather fond of fondant. Read on to learn the basics of cake decoration with our beginner’s guide to decorating with this easy to use icing.

Presentation is such an important part of baking and it can also be the most fun part too.

After all the careful measuring and temperature adjusting is done, you can turn your sponges into something spectacular with sprinkles, glitters, writing icing, marshmallows, sweets, chocolates… the list goes on! 

Sugarpaste decorations are not only easy to make but can be made up to a few days in advance and stored in an airtight container once dried for a fabulous last minute finishing touch.

As the saying goes, we eat with our eyes, so getting the basics down when it comes to sugarpaste will open up so many decorating options for prettifying your bakes.

Here are a few frequently asked questions about working with sugarpaste:  

What is sugarpaste?

Sugarpaste (also called rolled fondant or ready-to-roll icing) is a soft, malleable paste which can be made from a basic mix of icing sugar, water, and gelatine but other things such as glycerin, liquid glucose and vanilla flavouring can also be added depending on the recipe.

You can also buy sugarpaste ready to use. Poured fondant is similar to the sugarpaste recipe but has a runny consistence so that cakes (such as fondant fancies) can be dipped and covered in it.  

How is sugarpaste used?

Roll it out to cover layer cakes or cake boards or use it to make cut out shapes.

In terms of what the Hummingbird Bakers use it for, we don’t cover our cakes in sugarpaste in our stores – we only use it to make decorations.  

How do I colour sugarpaste?

Food colouring can be added to your sugarpaste to create fondant in a rainbow of colours.

Edible gel or paste colours blend best and are easier to work with than liquid food colouring.

Wearing food-safe latex gloves to prevent the colour staining your hands, just break off a small ball and knead in the colour little by little. Only a dot here and there is needed. Blend until you achieve the correct depth and shade you’re looking for.  

How do I roll out sugarpaste?

Rolling out sugarpaste is as easy to do as rolling out pastry. Lightly dust your clean work surface and rolling pin with a small amount of cornflour and gently roll out the ball of sugarpaste until it is 2 or 3mm thick (if making shapes).  

How do I cut out sugarpaste?

An array of sugarpaste cutters are available, from simple press-out cutters to plunger cutters which allow you to push the icing out from the cutter without damaging it.

Embossers are also available, which leave a design or pattern behind when pressed into soft fondant.

Ribbon cutters allow you to create a strip of edible fondant ribbon to make bows or to go around the outside of your cake.

Choose whichever tool works best for you and whichever design suits the theme of your cake. There are many more sugarpaste tools besides these to help you make everything from simple flowers to complex motifs.

Sugarpaste shapes must then be left to dry and harden on baking parchment overnight.  

Can I decorate my sugarpaste shapes?

Of course! Lots of different kinds of edible glitters, pearlescent dusts and coloured dusts are available to add a new dimension and lustre to your sugar shapes.

These can be brushed on, wet or dry, or sprinkled to create various effects.