Sugar paste, also known as gum paste, pastillage or sugar gum, is a sugar-based edible dough. It's a popular material for cake decoration because it's sturdy, easy to use and can be moulded into almost any shape. Look for sugar paste at your local craft shop, cake-decorating shop or gourmet store, then learn to shape sugar paste into beautiful flowers---perfect for topping cakes, cupcakes and other treats.
Add food colouring to the sugar paste and knead on a smooth work surface until the colour is evenly distributed throughout the paste. You'll need only a few drops of food colouring to create pale flowers such as light pink roses, but you might need many drops for intensely coloured flowers such as bright yellow daffodils.
Place your sugar paste on a smooth counter you've greased with a thin layer of solid vegetable shortening. Using your rolling pin, roll the paste out to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Pick up the sugar paste, give it a quarter turn, and roll it out again. Repeat two or three times until the gum paste is about 1/16th of an inch thick.
Using your sugar-paste flower cutter, cut as many flower shapes as you can fit into the rolled-out paste. Lay the flowers on a sheet of waxed paper and place them in a cool, dry place to dry. If you want flowers with a more three-dimensional shape, place each flower in a cupcake liner so the petals will dry in a curved position. If you want flowers with a fuller look, layer two or more flower shapes on top of each other at slightly different angles.
Decorate your flowers for a realistic look. For multicoloured flowers, such as lilies, use a paintbrush and food colouring to paint spots or stripes on the petals. For flowers with coloured centres, such as daisies, use food colouring to paint a dot in the centre of the flower. You can also add just-for-fun decorations, such as edible pearl balls, to the flowers using edible glue.
If you can't find sugar-paste flower cutters at your local craft shop or cake-decorating store, you can cut out the flower shapes with a regular cookie cutter or a paring knife.
Dry the sugar-paste flowers very thoroughly or they may lose their shape during the cake-decorating process. Drying can take anywhere from several days to a week, depending on the humidity.