Techniques Part Two

As a continuation of "Techniques Part One," here we describe more sugar crafting methods used by professionals and enthusiastic amateurs alike. Learning sugar sculpting takes time. It may be best to focus on one or two methods until you've mastered them before moving on to some of the other and perhaps trickier techniques. You can create beautiful yet simple designs using basic methods before moving onto more complex projects, which often combine several techniques in one sculpture, and produce breathtaking results.

Pressed Sugar

Using pressed sugar is probably one the easiest sugar sculpting techniques, but some artisans find the length of time that the sugar takes to harden inconvenient. Some also find that the effect of pressed sugar is less pleasing to the eye than that of other types of sculpted sugar.

Pressed sugar is very strong, which makes it a great material for making both structural bases and decorations for cakes. Pressed sugar can be molded to form flowers, butterflies, animal paw prints and any number of shapes you can think of.

In order to sculpt with pressed sugar you need to mix ordinary, granulated sugar with the smallest possible amount of water, just enough to give the sugar the texture of wet sand. Food coloring can be added to the mixture. If you want to make cake decorations, use cookie cutters to shape the sugar mixture as you desire. If you want to make a cake base, shape the sugar mixture into a large square, rectangle or circle, depending on your cake design. You then put weight on the sugar and leave it under pressure. The mixture may take up to 7 days to harden.

Pressed sugar can also be used to make stand-alone creations, like a sugar snowman, for example.

Rock Sugar

You can make rock sugar by heating sugar until it becomes liquid and then mixing it with a small amount of royal icing (the same type of icing that is put on a Christmas cake). The heat from the liquid sugar forces the air in the icing to expand very quickly. You then pour the now much larger volume of liquid into a lined dish and put it in a flash freezer to cool. (Obviously, not many amateur sugar sculptors are likely to have one a flash freezer just lying around the kitchen, which probably makes this technique impractical for using at home).

The end result is a porous, pumice-like sugar, which is often used by professional sugar sculptors to create underwater scenes.

Spun Sugar

You'll need dexterity and patience to make spun sugar, but the end product is definitely worth the work, particularly if you are aiming for a very intricate sugar sculpture. Long, thin strings of spun sugar can be used to create birds' nests, cages, baskets, spirals and more.

You can make spun sugar by dipping a fork or a special tool into heated, liquid sugar and flicking it back and forth above two saucepan handles that you have positioned jutting out over the edge of a kitchen surface. The flicking action will throw the liquid sugar off your fork in long, thin strings. The strings will come to rest stretched across the saucepan handles. You keeping going until you have as many strings as you need, then you mold the strings into your desired shape.