How To Make Gumdrop Flowers for Cakes
You don't need a green thumb to make the candy rose petals that garnish Heavenly Angel Food Cake ―just a handful of gumdrops and a dish of granulated sugar. Pretty enough to turn any dessert into a special occasion, gumdrop flowers can be made weeks ahead and stored in an airtight container.
Gumdrops are super-inexpensive, so play around and have some fun―the less formal the shaping, the more natural the petals look. Like learning to crimp the edges of a piecrust, there's a rhythm that comes easily after making a few. Use these ideas as inspiration. Many of the tips and techniques for making rose petals can also be used to create other flowers.
Gumdrop Rose Petals
Using your thumbs and forefingers, flatten one small gumdrop to 1/8-inch thickness, lengthening and widening to form a petal shape. Dredge lightly in granulated sugar to prevent sticking as you work. Repeat procedure for desired number of petals. Place petals on a wire rack, and let stand uncovered for 24 hours. Holding each petal between your thumbs and forefingers, use your thumb to press the lower center portion of the petal inward, cupping the petal. Gently curl the top outer edges of the petal backward.
Plan ahead when making rose petals: They need to stand for about 24 hours to stiffen slightly before adding the finishing touches that make them look so realistic.
Use a single brightly colored gumdrop to shape the petals, or knead two colors together―such as red and white to make pink. Add more white to soften the color and create a paler pink, or add a pinch of yellow to highlight a portion of the petal. Experiment with different color combinations to see which you like best. For the prettiest petals, don't over-blend the colors or be too exact with the shaping.
Dampen fingertips to prevent sticking when kneading gumdrops together. (A folded paper towel moistened with water works great―it's like a stamp pad for your fingertips.) It's easier to work with just three or four gumdrops at a time when blending new colors. After kneading several together, dredge lightly in sugar, and divide the mixture into small gumdrop-size portions for shaping individual petals and flowers.
Pasteurized egg whites not only offer a speedy shortcut when making cakes, but they're also safe to use in recipes calling for uncooked egg whites, such as a chilled mousse or soufflé. Don't be alarmed by their appearance―the consistency is much thinner than fresh egg whites, but the structure is the same. When testing recipes, we find they yield the same great results.
Gumdrop flowers are a great way to dress up store-bought sweets for a spur-of-the-moment party. Plain lemon tarts, purchased from the bakery, glisten when topped with tiny bouquets of Gumdrop Honeysuckle blooms. They can even be used to add sparkle to place cards or brighten a napkin ring.
Gumdrop Honeysuckle: Using your thumbs and forefingers, flatten one small yellow or white gumdrop to 1/8-inch thickness; dredge lightly in granulated sugar. Using a stephanotis cutter, cut shape; flatten slightly between fingertips, and dredge in granulated sugar. Roll shape to resemble a trumpet; gently press seam to seal. Fold petals down slightly to form a honeysuckle bloom. Repeat procedure for desired number of blooms.
Perfecting the Blooms
To make peach-colored honeysuckle blooms, knead 1 yellow and 2 white gumdrops together with about one-third of an orange gumdrop; dredge lightly in sugar, and divide into small gumdrop-size portions for shaping.
Try using the same cutter and rolling technique with red gumdrops. Paired with fresh mint, the bright trumpet-shaped blooms make a spectacular garnish for a hummingbird cake.
After cutting the desired shapes from flattened gumdrops, the leftover scraps are just right for rolling tiny buds and berries or other whimsical flowers.
Lavender and blue Gumdrop Violets along with fresh mint leaves make a magical border for a layer cake. Tip: Gumdrop colors can vary with packaging, so use the same brand of purple gumdrops for all your flowers.
While rose petals are shaped completely by hand, violets and honeysuckle blooms get a quick start with gumpaste cutters. Sold in small sets and flower-making kits, gumpaste cutters can be found in the cake-decorating section of crafts stores.
The same cutter and shaping technique can be used to create other flowers. For example, the blossom cutter used for violets also makes beautiful yellow forsythia and pink phlox.
Using your thumbs and forefingers, flatten one small purple gumdrop to 1/8-inch thickness; dredge lightly in granulated sugar. Using a blossom cutter, cut shape; flatten slightly between fingertips, and dredge in granulated sugar. Pinch the center from behind, gently squeezing to form a bell-shaped blossom. Repeat procedure for desired number of violets.
You can use a small wooden dowel to roll out the gumdrops before cutting and shaping, but we found it easier to simply flatten them between our thumbs and forefingers.
Lightly coating the cutter with vegetable cooking spray minimizes sticking. The same trick works with scissors if you use them to cut leaf shapes or to snip and trim free-form flowers from flattened gumdrops.
When necessary, use the blunt tip of a wooden pick or bamboo skewer to help release the shape from the cutter. After making several flowers, you may need to rinse and dry the cutter before reusing.
"From Our Kitchen: Cakes in Bloom" is from the April 2008 issue of Southern Living.