Sugar work and icing


Baking is as much an art as a science, but when it comes to the magnificent creations crafted with sugar work and icing, it is the artist in every baker that is given the opportunity for exquisite expression.


Few things are as breathtakingly beautiful and fabulously unique as sugar work creations made from pulled and blown sugar.

“This form of artistry requires patience and practice until the hands learn the technique There are different types of sugar elements from which the decorations can be assembled.

Sugar decorations can be made of ‘pulled’ sugar. Once the sugar has been cooked, it is folded repeatedly until the sugar is cool enough to handle. Then the sugar is folded repeatedly again which enables the air to penetrate into the sugar giving it a bright shine.

’Blown sugar is the other basic element of sugar compositions. A portion of ‘pulled’ sugar is placed on a tip of either a wood or metal tube. A rubber pump, most commonly a hand pump, is attached to the tube. The sugar is blown and while being blown, it can be formed, often into animal or fruit shapes. Fans are used to cool the sugar while turning so that the air can cool the sugar evenly.

“Cast’ sugar is also a type of element that usually serves as a base of the composition. In this technique the sugar is poured into moulds.

Sugar Decor provides a wide variety of unique decorations made of fully edible decorating sugar, called Isomalt. These decorations are used for birthday and wedding cakes, and any celebratory confectionary. Traditional flowers and figures can be created from sugar but even company logos can be realistically recreated. Delivery is in airtight containers, and the decorations can be kept for up to a year.

For those who love the process of artistic creation, but do not have the patience or the time to practice the art of sugar work, icing in its many wonderful forms create ample opportunity to create works of art.

From simple buttercream to glaze and from the ever-popular marzipan to modeling pastes, the options for bakers to create their own unique masterpieces are unlimited.

Buttercream can be spread or piped straight on to the top of a cake, although a layer of apricot glaze or a thin layer of marzipan will make it much easier to ice a cake with a particularly crumbly surface.

American frosting is suitable for most cakes and has a crisp outer crust with a soft inside. To guarantee success a sugar thermometer must be used, and it is vital to beat until the frosting really does stand in peaks or it may slide off the cake.

Belgian butter icing combines icing sugar, butter, sour cream and milk, dark or white chocolate, while ganache is a decadent mixture of chocolate and cream.

Royal icing still reigns supreme. An icing made of confectioners’ sugar, egg whites and a few drops of lemon juice, it hardens when dry, making it a favorite for durable decorations, such as flowers and leaves and ornamental writing.

Glace icings create magnificently smooth, marble like icing coverings for sponge, sandwich and other cakes. Speed is of the essence here, since the glace icing sets very quickly and will crack if disturbed. The icing will remain liquid if the bowl is placed in another larger bowl containing hot water.

Bakers have almost limitless options with just these few icing choices, considering the array of colours, piping bags and nozzles or decorative tips of different sizes and designs available for applying the icing.


From simply spreading the icing with a spatula to creating intricate trelliswork or beautiful rosettes, the right utensils can turn a simple bowl of icing into the tools for a masterpiece.

Icings are quick and convenient to make and requires little more than good mixing. Created simply with icing sugar, also known as powdered or confectioner’s sugar, the secret to sumptuous icing is to use the best ingredients.

The Speciality White Sugars from Huletts-Tongaat include icing sugar, a milled refined sugar containing an anti-caking agent. It is quick dissolving, and whips easily while increasing the volume of foamy mixtures and creams. The microfine icing contains no additives and facilitates premium quality results. Intricate sugar work and exacting pharmaceutical applications are made possible with this product of high purity.

Illovo’s range of speciality sugars include Icing Sugar and Brown Icing Sugar. Illovo also offers an extensive technical support service to ensure customers’ quality and technical specifications are achieved.

Mastercraft White creaming margarine will make any icing extra special. A high quality, low salt, white margarine with a delicious buttery taste, Mastercraft White is available in a 25kg package. It whips up to a pure white buttercream which is simple to colour, making it ideal for any decorative icing. By whipping up to two and a half times its original volume (yielding a specific volume/SV of 2.3 on whipping) it is also one of the most cost effective buttercreams available. Icings made with Mastercraft White have an even texture and smooth consistency that is easy to pipe, as well as a naturally pleasant butter flavour.

On traditional fruit cake, a timeless favourite, marzipan, is used as a base cover over which the plastic icing or royal icing is placed. While not everyone is a marzipan fan, marzipan is often necessary for the icing to stick to a fruit cake.

However, marzipan is also an icing marvel in its own right. Made with ground almonds, sugar and egg white, marzipan is perfect for moulding iced creations that are as delicious as they look. For a white marzipan, use two egg whites instead of an egg or egg yolks or colour your marzipan with liquid, powder or paste food colouring. It is also perfect for creating intricate flowers, fruit, ribbons, animals, polka dots, weaves and motifs for decoration.

An alternative to marzipan is persipan. It is similar to marzipan but apricot or peach kernels are used instead of almonds. Persipan consists of 40% ground kernels and 60% sugar. The kernels have a strong bitter flavour and has to be detoxified before it can be used. The cores are normally not used otherwise, making persipan lower priced than marzipan. It also has a somewhat different taste, which is sometimes preferred by people who do not like the taste of marzipan. Persipan often contains 0.5% starch.

Perfectly crafted icing is also made easy with options such as plastic icing, the white icing traditionally used on wedding cakes. It is a thick icing made from granulated and confectioners’ sugar, mixed with water, lemon juice, gelatin and butter. With a rainbow of food colouring options and deft hands, plastic icing can be transformed into any creation a baker can conceive of.

Another excellent alternative is sugar paste – a powdered sugar-based rolled icing that is extremely versatile: it can be moulded, painted, draped, and made to shimmer. It is sweeter than buttercream, and tastes like marshmallow. 100% edible, sugar paste decorations can be moulded into any shape painted with food colouring.

For even more creative expression, there is modeling paste, flower paste or gum paste. Modeling paste dries firmer than flower paste, but it is not as versatile for modeling or making intricate flowers. It is better suited to larger items such as plaques, simple flowers or shapes.

Speak to your ingredient suppliers about the wonderfully creative range of icing options available and delight your customers with works of art that look almost too good to eat.

There are a number of reliable suppliers of these ingredients in South Africa – Famasons, Relianz Foods, South Bakels and The Baking Tin to name but a few.


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