Shows like Cake Boss and Charm City Cakes have introduced the world to sugar art, creating beautiful and intricate models out of fondant, sugar and gum paste. This art form used to be limited to the classrooms and kitchens at high-end culinary schools. But now more and more amateurs are trying their hand at cake art and candy art.
If you’ve been itching to start sculpting with sugar, you’ll need the right tools—cake decorating supplies, specialty modeling instruments and other baking supplies. To get you started on your journey, here are the essential sugar art supplies. You can find all of them online or in specialty stores for bakeries. Are you ready to get creative? Let’s review some of your options.
A ball tool is a primary modeling tool used to flatten and soften the edges of fondant or sugar paste. Think of it like the paint or clay you use to create your art. You can also use this tool to make round or crescent-shaped indentations. It’s a must-have for realistic flower petals.
Another basic tool for fondant modeling is the veining tool. It has a thin, sharp tip that you can use for pressing lines into fondant. It’s named for its most common use—adding veins to leaves and petals. However, you’ll find it handy for any other sculpture that needs some extra texture.
A fondant roller looks similar to a standard baker’s rolling pin, only much smaller and thinner. You’ll find them typically made of silicone or other synthetic, non-stick materials. As you’d expect, their primary use is rolling out the material into smooth sheets. You’ll also find it useful for pressing fondant into molds and flattening the back.
A quilting tool looks like a miniature pizza cutter with a tiny wheel at the end that’s serrated with dull points. When rolled across fondant, it creates lines that look like stitches on a quilt or a piece of clothing. If you need to add this effect to a large area, you can also get a quilting embosser that will imprint several rows of stitches on a sheet of fondant.
A thin metal blade or scalpel is excellent for free-hand cutting or adding subtle detail to smaller pieces of paste or fondant. Metal blades work better than plastic or silicone because of how precise they are.
There are many types of foam pads favored by sugar artists. The basic pad is merely a square of firm foam that’s used as a surface for you to lay your model on while you’re flattening or shaping it.
The softness of the foam allows you to perform delicate work while cushioning your fondant or paste. You can also get foam pads with indentations or cavities, allowing you to prop up your model while shape it or dry it.
There are a variety of uses for paintbrushes in sugar art. You should keep a few different shapes and sizes handy while you work. In addition to creating texture with the bristles, you use them to paint your fondant with dyes or icing.
Floral Wire and Tape
Florists use tools like floral wire and tape to aid in creating flower arrangements. Floral wire can be used provide stability. You could create stems for your sugar flowers. Floral tape is specially designed to bind real flower stems together, but it also works with floral wire.
Tylo Powder and Glue
Tylo powder is an edible powder used to strengthen or thicken fondant. It can also be used to prevent stickiness on your work surface. Tylo glue is also edible. Sugar artists use it to attach their models to each other or the cake.
One of the first things you learn as a sugar artist is that you absolutely cannot use cookie cutters on fondant. That’s why you’ll need cutters and molds that are designed explicitly for fondant and gum paste. Petal cutters are a beginner artist’s dream as they allow you to create perfectly uniform petals for exquisite flowers. You can get individual cutters in many different shapes or five-petal cutters for roses.
A cutting mat is another tool that beginners absolutely must have. Cutting mats are nonstick surfaces for working with paste and fondant. You’ll find them marked with square grids and concentric circles to help you cut precise strips and curves.
A cake dummy is a block of Styrofoam that’s been shaped to mimic a cake. Cake dummies are indispensable for large projects as they allow you to work on the sugar art well in advance of baking the actual cake. Use them to measure out sheets of fondant or act as a base for floral arrangements.
Scissors and Pliers
Though these aren’t specialty tools, they’re a requirement for any sugar art. You’ll need at least one good pair of small scissors for cutting or adding texture. Pliers are great for working with floral wire. You can add different types of types as you start creating more detailed work.
Color Dyes and Dust
Edible dyes and dust are used by sugar artists to create realistic-looking models with blended colors and gradients. Dust add a metallic sheen to details like pearls or jewels. Dyes allow you to paint a masterpiece on your fondant with a fine brush.
Just like a quilting or stitching tool, a cutting wheel resembles a pizza cutter and is used for precision slicing. Look for double-ended cutting wheels if you think you’ll need multiple sizes.
The cell stick is a combination of a mini fondant roller, veiner and ball tool. They’re made of nonstick plastic and look similar to a pencil, with one rounded end and one pointed end. For a beginner artist on a budget, this tool can replace at least three others on this list if need be.
There are two basic varieties of cone tools. The first is a modeling tool with a bulbous cone at the end which you can use to form cup-shaped blossoms. The second is a mold, typically used to create solid cones for roses. For the latter, you’ll want a soft, heat and cold-resistant silicone mold so that you can use it in the oven and the freezer.
Off-Set Metal Spatula
This tool serves multiple purposes. Use it to scrape up extra fondant, make large triangle or diamond indentations, smooth out icing on a cake or even plate your finished cake. Metal is the best material for most of these tasks as it’s resistant to heat and sticking. Besides, it’ll last longer than plastic.
You need to be able to decorate your cake from all angles. Unless you have a tiny table that you can rotate yourself around as necessary, a turntable or Lazy Susan is your best bet. You can carefully spin your cake around without worrying about accidentally smudging it so that every side will look flawless.
Rollers are great for creating flat sheets of fondant to work with, but what about after you’ve wrapped a sheet of it around your cake? There’s a specialty tool called a fondant smoother that was created to gently smooth out any fingerprints, air bubbles or imperfections on the surface of your cake.
It’s not really a tool, but shortening is still handy to have around while you’re working. Fondant tends to dry out the longer you work with it, but a little dab of shortening can soften it up and make it feel fresh.
If your fondant is very fresh, or you’ve gone a little overboard with the shortening, you’ll need something to keep it from getting too sticky. Powdered sugar or cornstarch are common pantry ingredients that work well for coating your work surface or drying out your fondant. For best results, use a shaker to evenly cover your counter or table before rolling out the fondant.
After your work of art is finished, you’ll need a sturdy base to support your cake for transport or viewing. Disposable cardboard or Styrofoam boards are perfect for catering events or birthday parties as they can be tossed in the trash or recycle bin afterward. For fancier displays or heavy cakes, a solid wood board provides the ultimate support while looking more professional.
We can’t promise that these tools will make you an overnight sugar art savant, but the best way to learn is to do. Build up your sugar art tool kit and find some tutorials online to get started! You’ll be creating delicious masterpieces in no time.