Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Sugarcraft Flowers 101: Upsadaisy!

This may not be the sort of thing normal eighteen year olds do on an everyday basis, but when I am not busy drinking, raving and ...voting?... I've always wanted to be able to make those fantastically delicate edible flowers you see adorning professional cakes. You know, the really beautiful tiny ones you can't believe are made of sugarpaste or whatever.

My friend Alex knows this (what, I said she was a good friend. She knows this and she hasn't left me in a skip yet) and as it happens her granny happens to have the aforementioned Mad Skillz. So the other week she invited me round to hers for a sugarpaste flower tutorial (while Alex presumeably went off drinking/raving/voting. Actually I suspect she was making icecream, with the odd interval for coming over and laughing at the 'enraptured' expression on my face).

(For future reference, Alex has two grannies. One is ridiculously posh (I have a pretty posh voice, and next to her I feel like a Cockney rascal), and one has Mad Cake Skillz. Obviously, all the following took place with the latter. The former may feature in the future should I ever need to prepare afternoon tea, or perhaps own a mansion).

I don't claim any experience at all at flower-making; I'm genuinely just relaying Alex's granny's wisdom here. Don't laugh at me if you have loads of decorating experience, kids: this is a from-scratch guide, okay?

This post is being split into two, on grounds of being so epic. This week (bear in mind here I'm never going to be organised to make this weekly): daisies and primroses.

These were the first, and simplest things we made. You will need: a small quantity of sugarpaste (I suspect this has a different name in American. Damned if I know what) - I'd only ever used fondant before -, icing colours (paste/gel), cornflour for dusting (Alex's Granny's Handy Hint: better than icing sugar as it doesn't go sticky when you've got water around. The woman's a genius. Don't tell me you all already use cornflour rather than icing sugar or I'll cry), small or medium blossom cutter (for daisies) and a medium primrose cutter (for primroses, obviously), a ball ended modelling tool for daisies and cone ended for primroses, a small rolling pin, a few sticks of florists' wire, and some sort of foam mat. And possibly some stamen-type things.

Sounds rather complicated. It isn't.

The daisies are hugely simple: you basically roll out a small quantity of dyed sugarpaste (far, far thinner than I expected) then use your blossom cutter to cut lots of small/medium flowers out. Roll over them briefly with the rolling pin again, and then you use the end of your ball-ended modelling tool to just press them into the foam - and when they spring up again they've shaped round it into little semi-circles (top right of the above picture). Cute, no? And dead speedy.

You can then use a little more sugarpaste in a darker or contrasting colour and make tiiiny little versions to go inside, like below. Which, let's face it, wins at life. In the ones below little tiny stamens have been threaded through the daisies to pin the two together. Don't eat the stamens, haha, but they're cute.

If you don't want to use stamens, or you're just putting these on top of a cake and not flinging them around anywhere, or else you just have icing on hand, you could use a little blob of royal icing to go inside these instead. Or (Alex's Granny's Handy Hint #2) a dot of egg white will secure the flower to the stamen. Huzzah!

Do I love how easy these are? Yes I do. Am I sort of obsessed with Alex's Granny? Yes I am. She is my new hero.

Primroses are also pretty simple (I'm saving the more tricksy roses for next time XD). For these, you make a little oblong of yellow sugarpaste (or, you know, it doesn't have to be yellow. Primroses are, but don't feel like I'm limiting you as women or anything. Or men. I'm not limiting men either), and then use a tiiny skewer - I didn't put skewers on the list, did I? I'm sure you've got skewers, or something similar) to flatten the bottom as you rotate it round. There's an ACTION SHOT! of Alex's Granny in action just below. Don't you just love her hands?

Then once your primrose is fine enough, you use the cutter to get the basic shape. You can either pinch the bottom or press it into a little hole - below, Alex's Granny is using a mat with little holes like this one. She's also using the ball-ended modelling tool to give the petals a bit of shape; you can roll the end of your skewer in a triangle along each petal, as well.

Below, you can see the shape this has given the petals. You can then use the cone-ended modelling tool to imprint the middle - you see it's like a little star shape? Don't go too deep or you'll puncture it; it needs to be intact cause you're going to push a little length of florists' wire through the middle. Wet the end of the wire first so it doesn't drop out, and you can press a stamen in after that too, if you want.

That is possibly my favourite picture in the world.

And voila! Primroses and daisies galore!

...Oh, you want to know how to make the roses now? Watch this space.

Hope that was okay: this is a bit of a departure from my regular blog posts, and I'll feel an idiot if everyone's like, 'er, everyone knows how to do this,' or 'this is crap, this way is better..'. Like I said, I have zero experience, so I hope that all made sense.

Can we have a moment of collective love for Alex's Granny as well, please? She now thinks I'm a maniac, admittedly, but you know it was worth it.


Abitofafoodie said...

Lovely, lovely flowers! And Alex's granny sounds like such a trooper.
My sister makes wedding cakes covered in sugar flowers and she's tried to show me how before now but I'm a bit too clumsy I think. Plus she can make about 10 in the time it takes me to make one! Yours are just perfect.

Finla said...

Wow they look beautiful.
Even i admire ppl who can do this in the cakes.
I can't even make a petal.

Anonymous said...

lolz, mine would look like this


i MEAN, you're talking to the girl who sliced her finger open on a sellotape dispenser and accidentally dropped a masher for mashing potatoes onto her foot this morning.



Y said...

What a cool granny! I wish my granny had mad cake skillz! Awesome photos by the way.. Your favourite is mine too :)

grace said...

what an awesome little project! your flowers turned out marvelously, and i absolutely love the picture you've marked as your favorite. :)

Cakespy said...

These are amazing!! Beautiful photos too. Here's to Mad Skillz granny! :-)

Rosie said...

Beautiful just beautiful sugar flowers! Well done they look perfect :)

Rosie x

Clumbsy Cookie said...

So cute!!! Alex is so lucky to have such a granny, and you're so lucky to have such a friend!
Sounds you had toons of fun! Did you make a cake to use them?

Anonymous said...

Your skills never cease to amaze me!
They look AWESOME!
Btw when am I going to see you next?! WE have literally a week before you are off meeting sailors and I'm in the land of Cider and Cheddar Cheese (apparently!).

Again amazing skills :)

Anonymous said...

I LOVE the photo of her hands with the flowers. Lovely.

kylakae said...

Well done. For "glue" instead of using egg white what we use these days is tylose glue. You get the tylose from the cake supply store and mix a quarter teaspoon with 2 tablespoons of warm water. Mix and leave in your refrigerator overnight and it will go clear. It keeps for a week and then you throw it out and make new.

steph- whisk/spoon said...

how fun--i would love to adopt her my granny! are you going to decorate a cake with all those great flowers?

btw, sugarpaste = gumpaste in american. :)

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Alex's Granny should probably have her own show. And you, your photo of her holding the flower is worthy of an award. A wonderful, wonderful moment.

Ivana said...


Lori said...

Love Granny's hands! And they are certainly beautiful in that last picture t hat you said , quite possibly my favorite picture. Very beautiful indeed!

I love that you would rather be making these flowers with Granny!

Very informative post. I enjoyed it very much!

Unknown said...

This site page is linked from the wedding forum on Money Saving Expert. Its brilliant for Brides! Well done You! Sue

kelbel said...

fab! i just started an evening college course making flowers and thought i'd be the youngest there.
always wanted to give it a go!
Love it and am really inspired by you and your friends gran.
Roses please would be great

International Flower Delivery said...

nice. always love your creation :)

Love from florist :)