If you're a cake decorating enthusiast, you may have already tried your hand at sugar sculpting as a way of adding an attractive finishing feature to some of your creations. But are you aware that sugar sculpture is an increasingly recognized art form in its own right? From the classic to the contemporary, the straightforward to the mind-bogglingly complex, sugar sculptures now grace the tables as magnificent centerpieces at weddings and other special occasions - even when there is no cake involved. But that's not all. There are many opportunities for ambitious sugar sculptors to pit their talents against one another in sugar sculpting competitions, some of which are broadcast on TV.
Whether you're simply hoping to wow your family and friends or your ambitions are of a more commercial nature, sugar sculpting gives you not only a chance to show off your culinary skills, but an outlet for your creativity as well. The possibilities for designs and colors are literally endless. Many sugar sculpture artists turn to their hand to creating classic arrangements of flowers (stems, leaves and all!) and fruits, while more contemporary designs include birds and other animals, scenes from the Antarctic and the jungle, or even representations of humans! Sugar sculptors use vibrant colors which they either add to the sugar mix during preparation or hand paint onto the sculpture when it has been completed.
The Science Of Sugar
Sugar sculptors begin by heating sugar to a very high temperature - they may add other elements to the sugar to stop it from crystallizing. The sugar mixture is brought to a temperature of between 295 and 310 °F (146 and 154 °C) - this is called the "hard crack point" and is also the temperature to which certain candies and sweets, like toffee, are heated during preparation.
Once the sugar is sufficiently hot, the different parts of the sugar sculpture can be made. There are a number of techniques for making shapes from hot sugar, many of which are similar to glass-making methods. Some of the ways of creating sugar art are called "pulling," "blowing" and "casting." When the components of the sculpture have sufficiently cooled, they are welded together with a mini-blow torch, thus creating the finished sculpture. If colors were not added at the preparation stage, they can be painted on now.
So, if you're someone without sugar sculpting experience, just how do you go about making your first sugar sculpture? Well, it's worth taking a class with a trained professional before heading off into uncharted territory, even if only for the sake of getting some safety tips. Classes may be available in your local area. If not, you may be able to watch a demonstration online - do some internet searching to find out. If neither of these options is good for you, perhaps you know someone, or you could find someone in your neighborhood, who already does sugar sculpting and could show you the basics? However you choose to start, you should enjoy the learning process and be careful when you're working with high temperatures.