Cakes for any occasion are more special when they are dressed up with bright, colourful decorations. Bakers have a large number of decorative substances to use, including fondant, buttercream, royal icing, pulled sugar, gum paste, chocolate and decorative piping gels. Because they are clear and can incorporate vivid, saturated colour better than other decorating materials, decorative piping gels are especially versatile. Commercial gels are made from sugar and corn syrup solids, with thickening agents such as gum Arabic. Homemade gels can be made easily, with just a few ingredients.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- 2 tbsp cold water
- 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
- Small bowl
- Silicon spatula
- 2 cups light corn syrup
- Small saucepan filled with water
- Airtight storage container
- Food colourings, as desired
- Small bags or containers
Place a small saucepan filled with water on the stove to boil. Reduce the heat, and maintain the water at a low simmer throughout the next step.
Select a mixing bowl that will just fit on top of the saucepan without falling in. Put 2 tbs. of cold water into the bowl. Sprinkle the two envelopes of gelatin evenly onto the surface of the water. Allow the gelatin to sit for 5 minutes and "bloom," which means absorbing the available water and swelling up.
Place the small bowl with the bloomed gelatin over the saucepan of hot water, making a sort of double boiler. Stir occasionally with a silicon spatula until the gelatin has completely melted. Add the corn syrup slowly and stir regularly as it heats up. When the mixture is hot to the touch, stir it once more, vigorously, to ensure that the gelatin is dispersed throughout the corn syrup.
Cool the mixture to room temperature, then pour it into an airtight container and refrigerate until needed. To colour the gel, separate a portion and place it in a small bag or container. Add food colouring one drop at a time, until the desired tint is reached. Use as needed, and refrigerate leftovers.
Store for up to six months in refrigeration, tinting and using as needed.
Tips and warnings
- Use a small zipper seal bag as a simple piping bag for your gel. Snip a small corner from the bag, to pipe through.
- Commercial gelatin contains pork by-products, and should not be served to vegetarians or those whose religion forbids pork. In such cases, commercial gel colourings should be used.
- Paste or gel food colourings will give better results than liquid types.
- Flavour concentrates may also be added, if desired. Test the concentrate on a small portion of the gel, to ensure that it will not impair the colour or clarity.
- Homemade piping gel is food safe for several months, because its water content is too low for bacteria or mould to grow. Although the gel medium itself is resistant to food-borne illness, it may become contaminated with other substances in normal use. Discard any gel that discolours, develops off odours or shows signs of mould.
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