Course Four: Advanced Gum Paste Flowers

Last night, I finished the fourth and final Wilton cake decorating course. It was bittersweet, because while I’m happy to have learned so much, I’m a little bummed that I no longer have a weekly class to attend! These past few months have just flown by so quickly, it’s incredible.

During the first three courses, I tried to post once a week or so because I always had something new to share. This fourth course was a little different. We made a lot of flowers out of gum paste, but each flower was part of an ongoing project, so none of them were truly finished until last night. This means I had to save all of my flowers for the entire month. I think that would be pretty easy for most people, but with the amount of cats I have (two of my own and my roommate has four!), I have to be super careful about where I store important things. Luckily, I had these flowers in a place where no cats could bother them. Unluckily, Nate accidentally knocked them over and they all broke. Right before we had to leave for the class! I was pretty upset because I worked really hard on them, but you really can’t tell too much now that the class is over and the project is finished. You may see bits broken off randomly in some of the pictures though!

First off, I found this great picture of the contents of the course 4 kit. I wish it was just a little bigger, but it’ll do:

In the first class, I learned how to make a gerbera daisy.

It was very simple… I just used the two cutters from the kit for the petals. The center is just a ball of gum paste that was pressed into the impression mat.

I also learned how to wire a flower and wrap the wire in florist tape. I have to say: florist tape is the worst kind of tape ever in the world forever. If you’ve never used it, allow me to explain why it’s so horrible. First of all, the tape itself can dry out, so it must be stored the same way fondant and gum paste must be stored. That is – it needs to be kept in an airtight container/sandwich bag. That’s not a huge deal, but I found it mildly annoying because I already have enough  random bags of random fondant/gum paste and it’s getting unruly! haha but really, not a huge deal. That’s not it, though! The tape sticks to nothing but itself. I’m not exaggerating. It is literally made with a special adhesive that only sticks to itself. This makes wrapping the tape around a tiny little wire very difficult at first, because there’s nothing on the wire for it to stick to right away. Once the wrapping is actually started, it gets much easier, but it always feels impossible to start. Especially since the tape doesn’t start to stick to itself until it’s pulled. Pulling on it activates the adhesive, so you have to pull a bit to get it to work at first, and then continue pulling as you wrap the rest of the wire. It sounds easy but it’s really awkward because the wire is so small. And finally, while the tape will not stick to you, the adhesive somehow manages to rub off onto your fingers, causing them to be very sticky, but not sticky enough to stick to anything. If that makes sense. One of my classmates even ended up with green fingers from the tape rubbing off on her hands. The good news is that you can get rid of the horrible stickiness with a dusting pouch. Just swipe it across your fingers and rub your hands together like you’re rubbing in lotion! Pretty good tip, courtesy of my fantastic instructor. Okay, that’s the end of my florist tape rant.

Anyway, the first wired flower I made was this blossom:

Later, I learned how to use color dust to add dimension to flowers, as well as how to arrange them properly. That cute little pink blossom becomes something more with a deep rose-colored dust:

I really like the finished product. You could barely see the line in the middle of each before I brushed on some color dust. Now the lines are really accentuated and the flowers look more real than the one in the first picture.

Using that same deep rose color dust (and a bit of lime green), I made a stargazer lily:

Each petal was made separately using white gum paste, colored with dust (and a brown food writer, which looks like a marker, for the dots), and then assembled with florist tape. We made the leaves and petals during the second class, but didn’t put it all together until last night. I really like the way this one turned out, especially since I was running low on time and had to rush through it. I would have colored it a little differently to try to get it closer to a real stargazer lily if I’d had the time to do so, but I’m still happy with it! It reminds me of a poinsettia though, and that makes me want to try to make another one using red gum paste. It wouldn’t look exactly like a real poinsettia, but it’d be close and still pretty.

I also learned how to make sweet peas and ivy leaves:

I didn’t like the first sweet pea I made, so I thought I didn’t like them at all, but after my second and third, I fell in love. They’re fun to make and I think they’re very pretty. The only color dust used was a little bit of goldenrod applied to the center piece. The ivy leaves are colored with a mixture of spruce and lime green dust, as well as a little bit of the deep rose color on the edges. When the instructor said we could put a little pink on the leaves, I thought it sounded funky, but I tried it and realized that it’s not uncommon to find a leaf with a little pink in it. It looks neat.

My final bouquet is made up of briar roses, stephanotis, and ivy leaves:

What I really like about this little bouquet is that one of the two leaves and every flower except for one of the briar roses was broken (from when they all fell earlier in the day), yet I was able to arrange them in such a way that you can hardly tell. I also like that while I made the sweet pea bouquet by following instructions, I made this one myself at the end of class when we were talking about other things. It’s like I proved to myself that I can put these little arrangements together on my own, and that feels good.

So I’m done with the cake decorating classes, but I’m not done learning. My Wilton instructor offered to do a project class (a 3-hour, one day class at Michaels) on tall cakes in June, so I’ll be learning how to properly make a tiered cake. I’m also going to try some of the projects I’ve read about on the Wilton website. They have a lot of project ideas and guides, from gum paste flowers I didn’t learn in class to completely different projects with totally new mediums, like modeling chocolate.

I have a potentially money-making plan, too. I like making cakes but with the exception of a few I’ve already promised to make for some friends-turned-customers, I don’t think I’ll be selling them. It’s very difficult to decorate the cakes in my crappy apartment/kitchen and I don’t think I could get them to come out perfectly enough to sell to strangers. Also, it’s pretty tough getting a big, decorated cake down the stairs and into the car, and I’d go crazy with worry driving somewhere to deliver a cake. But I’ve seen decorations being sold on Etsy and I really think I could do that easily, so I’m going to practice my flowers and try it out.

I’d like to thank my little group of followers, who have been super encouraging and have left me some super nice compliments on my work over the past few months. Thanks, you guys! Your kind words have really helped me feel like I am actually not bad at this haha! I have a lot of ideas and I fully plan to expand my knowledge with cookie decorating, sculpting with modeling chocolate, fondant, and gum paste, and even cake pops and sugar eggs, and I’ll be sure to post a picture or two for every new thing I learn :]

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13 thoughts on “Course Four: Advanced Gum Paste Flowers

  1. They are fabulas! My fave is the lily. You really do have a talent for this sugar craft.

    TY for voting for me in the Dorset Cereal Blog Awards :-)

    • Bean says:

      No problem, I’ve really enjoyed your blog during the short time I’ve been following it! I really hope you win :]

      And thank you! I have to admit I was shocked to learn that I don’t completely suck at cake decorating! But now that I’ve accepted it, I’m super stoked about learning as much as I possibly can!

  2. Your briar roses look wonderful. I have to agree with Rachell – you have a real talent for sugar craft and I hope that you carry on doing fantastic cake decorating on your own now that you have finished your final course. Well done

    • Bean says:

      Thanks! I’m definitely going to keep going with it. I usually don’t feel like I’m particularly good at anything, but cake decorating is the one thing I feel like I could master with practice.

      You’ve got some great sugar craft talent yourself! Well, all “food craft”, really! Your blog inspires me to try some things that might be a little out of my comfort zone. Actually, I’ve been thinking about trying to ice cookies, but I wasn’t sure how to do it… then I happened to see you recently posted about runout icing. You have fantastic timing! :]

  3. it’s so awesome to see work from this class! i have been debating wether or not i should actually take it or just try to teach myself from the book/youtube tutorials. i think they all turned out so good that i can’t pick a favorite! good luck with future cakes, i hope you get a chance to share them =]

    • Bean says:

      Thanks! I’ll definitely be sharing my future cakes, and I’m hoping to get into other goodies as well. I’ve never been much of a baker but I really want to work on my skills, and of course the only way to do that is to bake!

      You could probably teach yourself from the book and youtube pretty easily. I think I could have, but I loved my instructor too much to skip a course! If you had fun at the classes you’ve taken though, you should take the fourth course too. The expense isn’t too much after you’ve already purchased the materials anyway (unless the store isn’t running a promotion. I’d say $20ish is worth it but if they’re charging $40+, as they sometimes do, I wouldn’t do it).

      • i’m glad you liked your instructor so much! i had a different instructor in my last two classes than i did in the first one. but since i took the third i have moved cities, so now i can’t really take them with either person, which is part of the reason i think i will slowly teach myself instead! i got all 3 of my classes half off and used tons of coupons for the supplies so i thought everything i learned was well worth it.

        i can’t wait to see your cakes! i can definitely tell you that the more you bake, the better you get. working at a bakery is a lot different than baking at home, but it has definitely helped me learn a ton. the biggest trick is starting with a good recipe though ;-]

      • Bean says:

        Ah, yeah, if I was in your situation, I’d have taught myself too. It’ll be nice to be able to choose between slowly figuring something out or not having to stop after two hours if you don’t want to!

        I’ve been “meeting” a lot of new cake decorators here on WordPress, which I never expected. It’s a really cool side effect of blogging! Were you expected to know a whole lot about baking when you started working at a bakery? I think it’d be amazing to work in a bakery and it’s probably my ultimate goal, but I don’t have a whole lot of practice with baking. Maybe I can find a place that is willing to take me on and teach me EVERYTHING. Ah, someday!

      • I have a lot of retail/customer service experience and I have worked in one kitchen before (like when I was 16 at a bowling alley!) but for this job, I wasn’t expected to know too much. Like I put some pictures of my cakes from the classes on my resume and just applied to a cupcake shop in town. I got a call like a month later and was offered the job after one interview. So I started off just working the counter and making frostings. Then one of the bakers went on maternity leave and I filled in for her so I got to bake and also decorate sometimes. About two months into the job, I learned that another branch about 40 minutes away (in the city I wanted to move to!) was hiring a baker, so I talked with my boss and I applied!

        Now I have been working as the head baker for about three weeks now and I absolutely love it. So technically at my job, if you only wanted to decorate then it wouldn’t matter that you can’t bake! I am not sure how bigger bakeries work since we solely do cupcakes, but you could always do some research or ask around in your town to see what kind of opportunities there are for you.

        sorry for the novel but i feel like if you have the passion for it then you can totally make it happen! and i agree— it’s super awesome meeting other decorators like you on here =]

      • Bean says:

        Wow, it sounds like you moved up pretty quickly! Thanks for telling me about it, I feel a LOT more comfortable about applying for a job at a bakery knowing that you weren’t expected to be a baking genius. There are a few small places around here that specialize in decorating cakes, cupcakes, and cookies and I’ve got a busy summer planned but I’ll be asking them if they need some help in the fall :]

        Feel free to comment a novel any time!

      • no problem! i definitely worked hard for it but i also found *just* the right skill level experience for me. i mean i was willing to be like “I WILL WASH YOUR DISHES IF IT JUST MEANS I WORK AT A BAKERY” but luckily things aren’t that serious unless you are applying to like a really intense 5 star restaurant bakery kinda thing =]

        so you should go for it! the worst that happens is you aren’t qualified and then you learn what skills to improve on, at least that’s how i saw it!

      • Bean says:

        Yes! I’m going for it! I just drove by a cute little bakery that seems to specialize in cakes and cupcakes (although they have soup too, for some reason) and I think I’m going to ask them for a job first. I think it looks like the best one around here. It really is nice to hear that it probably won’t be a huge deal that I am not an expert baker!

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