Decorating a cake has transformed over the years from a simple frosting covering a cake to elaborate works of art testing the sculpting and architectural abilities of bakers and pastry chefs across the globe. Sugar paste, also known as gum paste, is formed into a simple dough created out of large quantities of sugar, egg whites and gum tragacanth. The gum acts as a preservative to keep the dough from drying too fast. You can form a bouquet of flowers and other shapes from the sugar paste dough. With a little help from some food colouring and some careful decoration, you can fool many into thinking sugar paste flowers are the real thing.
Separate egg whites by cracking egg shells and letting the whites fall through into the mixing bowl. Keep the egg yolk away from the whites by keeping cracked shell ends close together. Place four egg whites into a mixing bowl. Discard yolks and shells.
Turn beater on to a medium speed and whip the egg whites. While the eggs whip together, measure out 2/3 cup of sugar and set it aside. Mix gum paste and remaining sugar together in a mixing bowl. When soft peaks form in the egg whites, add the paste and sugar mixture slowly. Mix thoroughly until completely blended.
Spread the remaining sugar on a flat surface and pour out the egg mixture on top of the sugar. Coat your hands with shortening and kneed the dough together combining the shortening, sugar and egg mixture to form a soft dough.
Wrap the dough in cling film and store overnight before using.
Take out a section of the sugar paste dough and roll it between your hands to form a small ball. Shape the ball into a cone. Bend a hook into a piece of 24 gauge wire and place the round end of the cone into the wire hook. The dough of the cone shape will be covered with flower petals and can remain white.
Separate two egg whites from the yolks and beat together until smooth in a small mixing bowl. Add 1 tbsp of water to the mixture and mix thoroughly. Discard the yolks and shells.
Take out another section of sugar paste dough and roll it into a ball. Drop two or three drops of red liquid food colouring onto the ball of dough. Knead together with your hands until the colour is thoroughly mixed in. Add more food colouring for dark pink or red roses and less food colouring for pale pink roses.
Dust a flat work surface with a small amount of cornstarch. Roll out the coloured sugar paste into a thin sheet with a rolling pin. Cut out several round petal shapes with a craft knife. A dog bone tool is roughly formed in the shape of a dog bone and is used by cake decorators to shape and create flowers. Soften the petal edges by pressing the rounded end of the dog bone tool around the petal shape.
Wrap one petal carefully around the cone shaped dough. Paint a small amount the egg white mixture around the outside of the first petal. Continue adding petals around the first petal, adhering them with the egg white mixture around the base of the flower. Let each petal slightly overlap to create a natural looking flower. Spread the petals open to create a full bloom rose.
Knead 1 tsp of sugar paste dough with several drops of yellow liquid food colouring. Roll the dough with the hands to create a log shape, tapered at one end. Bend a small hook into 24 gauge wire and place the log shape into the wire hook.
Dust the work surface with cornstarch and roll out a small, thin sheet of sugar paste. Cut out a calla lily petal with a craft knife. The tip of the petal should be pointed, with the sides of the petal rounded and the bottom should have a somewhat concave flat surface.
Smooth the edges of the petal thin with a ball tool. Wrap the petal into a cone shape around one index finger. The pointed end of the petal should be the widest part of the cone.
Brush a small amount of the egg white mixture along the edge of the petal and secure it into place. Slightly curl the edges of the petal outward. Allow the mixture to dry for 30 minutes.
Insert the yellow stamen of the lily into the petal shape with the wire going through the open part of the cone first. Paint the insides of the lily with a small amount of yellow liquid food colouring.
Add veins to the insides of your flower petals with a veining tool to add more depth to the flower. Keep unused sugar paste wrapped in plastic to avoid drying out. Use a flat, plastic spatula to scrape up sugar paste that sticks to the work surface.
Wear food safe plastic gloves to protect hands from food colouring stains.