Gum paste pansies add a little spring to your baking any time of the year. Gum paste, made from the sap of the karaya tree, can be fashioned into dough, rolled out and cut into any kind of flower. Unlike butter cream flowers, which require a cool hand with a pastry bag, gum paste flowers are virtually foolproof. If you make a mistake, just ball up the mess and try again.
Make It or Buy It
Since medieval times, bakers have used gum paste to fashion edible decorations, according to Baking 911.com. Gum paste comes in three forms: a powder to be combined with glucose, water and confectioners sugar (Wilton Industries markets it’s gum paste under the name Gum-Tex); a pre-made dough that comes in a plastic bag; and ready-to-go pre-fashioned decorations. Gum paste dough can be tinted with food colouring while it’s being kneaded, or painted after the decorations dry. Cocoa Outlet, on the Big Island in Hawaii, sells three sizes of gum paste pansies. The flowers come already coloured or white, which is a favourite of wedding cake decorators who paint the pansies to match their event’s colour scheme, says Farsheed Bonakdar, owner of Cocoa Outlet. All gum paste dough can be refrigerated for up to two months.
You don't need much skill to make gum paste from scratch, but you do need space, because you will dump the gum paste powder and confectioners sugar onto a clean surface, pour the mixed water and glucose into a well in the sugar/gum paste powder, then stir gradually until the mixture is blended. Let the gum paste rest in a plastic bag for at least eight hours, then knead until it's “pliable, non-sticky and a workable consistency,” says the Gum-Tex recipe. Roll out the dough on a surface sprinkled with confectioners sugar. If the dough is too sticky to roll, add more sugar. Cut the pansies with a pansy cookie cutter or a sharp knife. Let dry for a couple of hours if the flowers are thin or up to 24 hours if the pansies are thick. When dry, paint with diluted food colouring. Go wild, because pansies come in a rainbow of colours.
Gum Paste Warning
Although gum paste pansies are made from sugar they are virtually tasteless, although crunchy. “We don’t recommend eating them,” says Bonakdar. “They don’t taste very good.” Also, in humid climates, gum paste decorations can mildew. Be sure to store them in a cool, dry place or in the freezer, where they can “last forever,” according to Bonakdar.