Please note that this wonderful sugar medium (which is made of sugar, egg whites, shortening and gum powder) is often referred to in the U.S. as both gumpaste and gum paste. To learn more about this naming discrepancy see Correct Terminology: Gumpaste or Gum Paste . To add to the confusion, Australia, Great Britain and in parts of Europe, it is called florist paste, flower paste or floral paste. In South Africa it is known as petal paste.
There are quite a few choices available when it comes to which type of gumpaste you will be using. I think which gumpaste you choose is a rather personal decision. One thing you might want to consider is the cost factor. Homemade gumpaste is more economical, but a couple of the drawbacks are that it needs to be made in advance and, since it has no preservatives (some contain fresh egg whites), it must be refrigerated between uses or, for long-term storage, frozen. Ready-To-Use (RTU) gumpastes are much more convenient because you simply open up the bag and away you go and, since they do contain preservatives, they do not require refrigeration. You do, though, pay a higher price for this convenience. That being said, I have included some things you should consider when picking the one that is right for you.
Guidelines for a Good Gumpaste Selection
You may have to go through a little trial and error at first, but then again, you may find the gumpaste of your dreams on your first date. Whether you decide to use homemade or ready-to-use gumpaste will depend on your personal preferences, but here are a few guidelines that will help when you are making your final choice: The gumpaste should have an even consistency, be soft and pliable, easy to roll out thinly and dry quickly, but not so quickly that you are unable to finish the details on the flowers, leaves, faces, objects, etc. you are working on. It should hold its shape as it is drying on a support (i.e. not droop). Once it has dried it should have a nice, smooth, porcelain-like finish and, most notably, it should be resistant to breakage.
My favorite gumpastes are Wilton’s Ready-To-Use Gum Paste and Squires Kitchen’s Sugar Florist Paste. Both meet all the above criteria as well as one I love that I failed to mention earlier: the ease of use factor, i.e. it is ready when I am because, unlike homemade recipes, which need to be refrigerated or frozen to keep fresh, I do not have to wait for it to warm up or thaw since it keeps at room temperature. I have used some of the other gumpastes listed below and if you are wondering why I did not keep trying all of them, it is because I am extremely happy with the results I have had with these two (i.e. the petals I have made are thin and have a delicate texture). With such wonderful results there is no incentive to keep on experimenting. When I know I have got a good thing going I stick with it…just ask my husband. So, when you find one that works for you take my lead and just latch on to it.
Ready-To-Use (RTU) Gumpaste
Ready-to-Use is commercially made gumpaste and comes in both packets and tubs. It is offered in sizes ranging from 8 ounces to a whopping 10 pounds. The ones I have found in Europe range from 100 grams (3.5 ounces) to 1 kilo (2.2 pounds). Some gumpastes are available pre-colored which can be handy if you are making a lot of one type of flower, leaf, or an assembly line of one item etc.
Here is a list of gumpastes to choose from:
Wilton Gum Paste (consistent and readily available at cake decorating stores, craft stores & chef supply stores)
Squires Kitchen’s Sugar Florist Paste (it is wonderful to work with and it comes in a handy, resealable foil bag)
These are premade mixes that just need water added but must be made 24 hours in advance.
Homemade/Commercial Gumpaste Recipes
The following are the names of some gumpasters who have made their DIY recipes available on the Internet and/or in their gumpasting books. Please read their instructions carefully before attempting to make them and be sure you have all the ingredients on hand before you start. Be advised that they may require the use of a heavy-duty stand mixer such as a KitchenAid.
Nicolas Lodge: This is my go-to recipe which uses Tylose powder. It is very nice to work with, but must be made 24 hours in advance so that it matures.
Linda McClure: Another recipe that uses Tylose powder.
Scott Clark Woolley: His recipe uses Tragacanth powder.
FYI: The Tylose powder I have used is CAI (Confectionary Arts International) Tylose Powder. I have read that it is the best brand available.