Sugar paste is one of the most-used ingredients in cake decorating. Whether you love it or hate it, sugar paste is an inexpensive and fairly quick way to cover a cake. Versatile, smooth and sweet, sugar paste is, quite literally, the icing on the cake.
We’ve received a number of questions from our customers about sugar paste so we’ve decided to answer them all in this handy blog post. Read on to find out how to become a sugar paste boss!
In a word, yes. Sugar paste and fondant are used interchangeably to mean the same thing – a white, ivory or coloured paste, made from sugar, ideal for rolling out and covering cakes.
To explain why the two terms are used, it could be as simple as sugar paste being more common in the UK and fondant used more in the US. But the fact remains, sugar paste, fondant and ready to roll icing are all the same thing. It can also be used to make decorations for your cake – from little people and animals to flowers, plants and coral.
Available from supermarkets, cake decorating supply shops and a number of high-profile cake brands, most bakers find a brand they enjoy working with and stick with it.
This is a really common question, even from seasoned cake decorators. The answer is generally quite simple – your sugar paste or fondant hasn’t been kneaded enough before you roll it out and cover the cake.
If you’re planning to make some decorations for the top of your cake or to jazz up a lovely batch of cupcakes, it’s always good to make those decorations in advance to allow the sugar paste to dry.
However, there is a little hack that you can use to ensure the decorations dry harder and faster so you don’t have to make them too far in advance. As mentioned above, CMC powder (or Tylose or Gum tragacanth) is available from most cake decorating suppliers and can be added to sugar paste to help it dry harder and faster.
Add a pinch at a time (depending on how much sugar paste you’re using) and knead in well. You’ll find that your sugar paste decorations will dry much better with the addition of CMC and enable you to make decorations that might not have been possible with sugar paste on its own.
Ready-coloured sugar paste is a real boon if you don’t make many cakes at home. But the range of colours available can be limited and if you’re constantly using coloured sugar paste it can pay to invest in some decent colours to add to white or ivory sugar paste.
We would always recommend a gel or paste colouring – the liquid colours you can buy from most supermarkets aren’t ideal because they’ll make your sugar paste sticky and unusable. The colours you’ll achieve with them will also be compromised as they aren’t as strong as gels and pastes.
Once you’ve got your colours to hand, simply add as much or as little as you like and knead it into the sugar paste until you achieve the colour you’re after. Less kneading will result in a more marbled effect, which can look brilliant. But if you’re after a smooth colour, knead until all the colour is mixed in.
We would advise against storing sugar paste and cakes covered in sugar paste in the fridge. While the fridge is the ideal environment for buttercream and ganache covered cakes, those covered in sugar paste won’t thank you for the cold.
The problems come when a sugar paste covered cake is taken out of the fridge and returns to room temperature. It will become damp with condensation and will cause the sugar paste to go a bit soggy.
If you’re wondering how to store decorations made from sugar paste, it’s best to avoid the fridge too. While sugar paste might harden initially in the fridge, once it comes out it will become damp and squidgy again. Store sugar paste decorations, once dried, in a clean, airtight container somewhere cool but not cold, away from direct sunlight. Once they’re made you can keep decorations for ages, as long as you keep them protected from dust.
The exact amount of sugar paste needed to cover an 8” cake depends very much on the depth of your cake. If your cake is a tall one, you’ll obviously need more than for a standard depth cake.
For the purposes of answering this question, we’ll assume a standard depth of between 3-4”. As you become more experienced with covering cakes it will become second nature to assess how much sugar paste you’ll need to cover each cake. But as a guide, we use a 1kg pack of sugar paste to cover an 8” cake comfortably. There will always be some left over where you cut off the excess but using a 1kg pack of sugar paste will enable you to cover the cake comfortably without the risk of leaving areas of your cake uncovered.
Do you have any other burning questions about cake decorating that we can help you with? Comment below with any questions and we’ll do our best to incorporate the answers in a future blog post.
Happy cake decorating!