Techniques Part One

So just what goes into creating a fantastic sugar sculpture either as a finishing touch to a beautifully decorated cake, or as a centerpiece for your table? Well, you'll need to learn skill and, most of all, patience (particularly if you are a novice), as well as the all-important techniques used to make and mold shapes in sugar. Sugar artisans use a number of methods for getting their raw material into the form they want. These methods may be used alone or in combination with one another. In "Techniques Part One" we will look at the methods used to create "pulled" sugar, "blown" sugar, "cast" sugar and "pastillage." Additional sugar crafting techniques are described in "Techniques Part Two."

Which Technique?

Of the techniques described below, the ones you use will depend on the type of sculpture you want to make. For example, pulled sugar is good for making ribbons or decorative shapes, while blown sugar is best for making life-like animals or people. You'll need practice and experience to make the correct choices when it comes to technique, which is why taking a class or watching "how-to" demonstrations online is very worthwhile.

Pulled Sugar

The pulling technique begins once your sugar has been heated sufficiently to become liquid. Now you very carefully pour the liquid onto a silicone mat. At this point you have the option of adding color (this should be food coloring if you want your end product to be edible). You then use the mat to fold the sugar onto itself over and over again until the sugar is cool enough for you to touch with your hands. You then stretch out (or "pull") the sugar and begin to fold the sugar again, allowing it to absorb air and become shiny. Once this is done, you can begin sculpting the sugar by hand into the shapes you want.

Blown Sugar

Before blowing sugar, you have to pull it first (see above). Then you need to place the pulled sugar on a special rubber pump (which you'll need to buy). While you pump or "blow" the sugar, you can mold it by hand into your desired shape. You then use a fan to cool the sculpture, but make sure that you rotate either the fan or the sculpture, so that your creation doesn't lose its shape.

Cast Sugar

As the name suggests, you make cast sugar by pouring liquid sugar into molds and leaving it to cool. This produces very strong pieces of sugar, which are great structural supports for large sugar sculptures.

Pastillage

To make pastillage, you mix gelatin, water and sugar to create a paste. You then shape the paste by hand as you want and leave it to dry. The end product will be hard but breakable. If you move fast, you can mold the paste further while it's drying, but it quickly becomes too hard for this to be possible. Once the sugar has hardened, you can shape it using tools. These tools include grinders, cutters, sandpaper and files).