If you design celebration cakes from scratch, you probably use fondant and gum paste. Both are dense, sweet pastes—you can color them any way you like and model them into various shapes. Since fondant is made with gelatin, it remains soft and pliable as you work with it. Conversely, gum paste is made with egg whites, powdered sugar, and shortening, and it hardens as it dries. Professional bakers usually cover their cakes with fondant and fashion smaller decorations using gum paste.
Before You Start
Most specialty baking stores sell premade gum paste, which is an excellent option if you're in a rush. However, you'll save a significant amount of money if you make your own gum paste from scratch. You'll also end up with a better product: Premade gum paste tends to crack, while homemade gum paste has a soft, supple texture.
If you're about to start this project, you should read through the steps first to ensure that you have all the equipment and ingredients. Give yourself plenty of time for this project, especially if you're a novice baker. Also, you should make your gum paste a day in advance since it needs to chill in the refrigerator overnight.
One of the crucial ingredients in this recipe is tylose powder (also called CMC), available for purchase at many specialty baking stores or online. You can substitute tylose powder for gum tragacanth, a natural substance derived from a Middle Eastern plant for tylose powder.
How to Make Gum Paste
This recipe makes make about 2 pounds of gum paste, enough for an entire garden of handcrafted sugar flowers.
- 1/2 cup egg whites (4 to 5 large eggs)
- 6 2/3 cups powdered sugar, sifted (plus more for kneading)
- 3 tablespoons tylose powder
- 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
- Optional: 1/2 teaspoon food coloring
Steps to Make It
- Gather the ingredients.
- Put egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix for 10 seconds at high speed.
- Add powdered sugar, mixing on low until ingredients are incorporated. Increase speed to high and mix for approximately 10 minutes until the mixture forms soft, glossy peaks. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle, then mix for an additional minute.
- With the mixer running on low, slowly sprinkle in tylose powder until fully incorporated. Increase speed to medium and mix for 1 to 2 minutes, until the gum paste has formed a ball around the paddle attachment.
- Place gum paste on a clean surface dusted with powdered sugar. Knead vegetable shortening into the mixture, then continue to knead until the paste has a soft, pliable consistency. If you want to color your gum paste, knead in food coloring. If the paste sticks to your hands, mix in another tablespoon of powdered sugar.
- Wrap the gum paste in plastic wrap, then transfer to a sealable plastic bag and chill in the refrigerator for 24 hours. When you're ready to use it, let it come to room temperature.
- Humidity affects your ingredients: If you're making this recipe on a particularly damp day, knead a little more powdered sugar into the gum paste. On the other hand, if humidity levels are very low, don't add all the powdered sugar at once.
- It may take longer than 10 minutes for the egg whites and sugar to form soft, glossy peaks. Be patient with the mixture—insufficient mixing will result in a stiff gum paste.
- If you're having trouble kneading the gum paste, separate the mixture into 2 smaller balls. Keep one covered in plastic wrap as you knead the other.
- Gum paste dries out very quickly, so wrap the mixture in plastic wrap if you need to take a break or leave the kitchen.
- Since this recipe makes 2 pounds of gum paste, you may have to freeze some. Cover the leftovers in 2 layers of plastic wrap, then transfer to a sealable plastic bag. Gum paste will keep in the freezer for six months.