Friday, September 18, 2009

Working With Gumpaste = FUN!!!

Another super tiring day, and I'm starting to feel the effects in my neck! I could go for a good massage! Looking down all day and doing intricate work is not fun... but the end product I come out with is amazing!

This is the part of my profession that I absolutely love: working with my hands. I think it is incredible that people have figured out ways to recreate natural items (like flowers) out of food. Yes, gumpaste is edible, but I wouldn't eat it! It's a heck of a lot prettier than it tastes.

I was hoping to finish up my gumpaste spray o' flowers this afternoon, but I broke an important petal and we have Monday, so I decided to take my time.

Gumpaste is made similarly like fondant and pastillage. Gum tragacanth is the main ingredient (sap from a tree) which adds stretchability. It dries out and gets hard, so it has to be covered when its not being used. It's not expensive to make or buy - the thing that makes gumpaste flowers so expensive is the time factor! Big name cake places will hire workers whose sole job is to sit in a humidity-controlled room making flowers. Fun? Maybe for one day. Not for me.

I HIGHLY enjoyed making these flowers though! I think it is so amazing and fun. We have to create these flowers for our spray:
- Rosebuds (2)
- Rose (1)
- Ribbons (3 loops, 2 ends)
- Calyx (for each rosebud and rose, the green leafy part)
- Leaves (3 ivy and 5 rose)
- Stephanotis (3)
- Hyacinth (3)
- Hydrangea (3)
- Calla Lily (2)
- Six-Petal Lily (1)

Yesterday I made the rose, rosebuds, ribbons, calyx, and both kinds of lilies. The bigger petalled flowers needed to be made first so that they could dry out sufficiently before coloring. Today I managed to finish all the smaller flowers and the leaves as well, not too bad! The small ones are delicate and take special care to not get squeezed. These are used as "filler" flowers on cakes (stephanotis, hydrangea, and hyacinth).

Chef C gave us a demo this morning on coloration. Coloring with powdered dust can add depth, texture, and definition to make the flowers look as real as possible. The whole aim of these gumpaste flowers is to make them look botanically correct. And if you've ever looked closely at a flower, they are extremely detailed!!!

Once I had all my pieces assembled and dried (hanging them upside down helps the petals to stay up instead of falling - no roses resembling cabbages here!), I headed over to the demo workstation where Chef C had gathered all her coloring supplies. I started with the biggest piece first, the six-petal lily. I'd colored the gumpaste yellow when I rolled it, so now all I had to do was brush some red powder on the petals to create some depth and leave the yellow in the center. It came out looking pretty awesome! I did all the other flowers, had a lunch break, and came back ready to roll . . . some floral tape. Every piece of wire that showed had to be wrapped in floral tape, so I guess my paper-flower making a la Martha Stewart came in handy! It was easy for me, until I got to the six-petal lily.

Each petal was attached to its own wire, so we had to gather the six together and tape them, plus 5 stamen in the middle. I placed the sixth petal in, and it gently touched my knuckle, and broke in two pieces. Argh! Well, I tried to glue it back together, but it was too fragile. While my partner spent a good ten seconds gaping at what had happened (yes, W, it broke. It's still broken.... yes, still broken, lying there on the table. Yup.) I got to work making a replacement petal. It'll dry over the weekend and I'll have to color it and add it back in, but at least it was only one. No big deal!!!

I taped up what else I could (put the leaves together and made a few bunches of small flowers). I think I'll assemble it into some kind of vertical bouquet, although we also have the option of making it look like a cake topper.

Throughout the day, we individually met with Chef C to talk about our cake designs. It felt like I only talked to her for about 20 seconds, explaining what I had and how I could do it. She described it as a "swell idea", so we'll see how it gets executed! The cake is not very big, and it must be buttercream, but we can use any medium learned in class to make our pieces/decorations. I'm excited about my design and am looking forward to making an action plan to get it done!

Happy weekend!

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