Thursday, October 4, 2012

Sugar Sunflower Cake Decorating Class

"And the yellow sunflower by the brook, in autumn beauty stood."
(William Cullen Bryant)

One week ago, my friend Nuree and I took a sunflower cake decorating class at Sugar Flower Cake Shop, located in The Arts Building on West 37th Street in Manhattan. Sugar Flower Cake Shop uses local, sustainable and organic ingredients, and is known for the detailed, realistic sugar flowers that often adorn their wedding and special occasion cakes.

My Cake, From Finish to Start to Finish

Say hello to my little baby cake, with sugar flower petals and a chocolate crunchy center atop a peanut butter buttercream-frosted vanilla cake with chocolate filling! All the sunflower yellow reminded me of my Miami bachelorette party hotel.

My adorable sunflower cake

We were each given a personal-sized round cake to frost with delicious icing. My cake was wonky, which made it difficult to ice, and they called it a "lucky cake"; but like rain on your wedding day or bird poop on your head, I feel that's probably just something they say to make you feel better about a less than ideal situation. 

My naked cake on a board on top of an inverted gum paste container

Using an offset spatula, I applied the crumb coat, a very thin layer of frosting. Then the cakes went into the refrigerator for the frosting to set up a bit while I worked on making sugar petals. After the crumb coat, I applied the final frosting and smoothed the surfaces with a plastic bowl scraper.

Buttercreaming our cakes

To make the petals, I rolled out gum paste in a sunflower-y hue, and ran it through an old-fashioned pasta machine to get smooth, thin sheets. 

Rolling out sugar gum paste for the petals

I created petals out of the gum paste sheets using a metal cookie cutter, and thinned out the edges with our fingers to make them look more life-like. Then I pressed each piece into a silicone flower veiner to give the look of real petals.

Individual petals, cut and veined

We set our petals to dry on baking sheets lines with large bubble wrap, which allowed them to curve naturally and gently rather than lie flat.

Curvy sunflower petals

I put 16 petals on my cake -- 8 for the bottom layer and 8 for the top layer -- and used a pastry bag to pipe buttercream in the center of the petals so that the chocolate crunchies would stay in place. Chocolate crunchies in cakes are just leftover cake toasted to remove moisture.

Half of the petals with buttercream center
All petals in place, stray crunchies to be brushed off

Ta-da! Here are the final products with dots piped at the base. Mine is the one at top and bottom right, and Nuree's is the one on the bottom left.

Too cute to eat... but I did, of course!

I had a lot of fun and hope to take another cake decorating class soon!

Some of the pretty sugar flowers in the shop

Tasty Buttercream

Yesterday, I received an email with the recipe for Sugar Flower Cake Shop's basic buttercream.

  • 320 g sugar
  • 100 g water
  • 280 g egg whites
  • 80 g sugar
  • 900 g butter (softened, see notes below)

Notes on Butter
  • 900 g of butter is equivalent to 2 lbs.
  • To soften, leave on the counter until it comes to room temperature, or use the microwave carefully. Start with 20 seconds and then do 10 seconds at a time until it is soft enough so you can easily stir it, but do not melt it!

  • Boil the 320 g sugar with the water on medium-high in a stainless steel pot until it reaches 248 degrees. This will take a little bit...
  • Meanwhile, using the whisk attachment on your stand mixer, beat egg whites on high until they reach soft-peak stage. Switch to low speed and slowly add the 80 g of sugar. Crank mixer back up to high until mixture reaches stiff-peak stage. Turn mixer off.
  • At this point, your boiling sugar should be near 248 degrees. Keep an eye on it.
  • Once the temperature is reached, remove from heat, turn stand mixer on low and slowly begin pouring sugar into your stiff egg whites. Avoid pouring over the whisk -- it will make a mess! The pouring process should take a few minutes. It's a good arm workout!
  • Turn mixer up to a medium speed and allow the meringue (your mixture of whipped egg whites and boiled sugar) to cool. Set a timer for 45 minutes. We normally go make a few sugar flower petals at this point.
  • When the buzzer rings, it's time to add the butter. Go for a little scoop at a time. Once incorporated, add more. If at any point, it starts looking curdled, crank the mixer up higher and walk away for 20 minutes. Don't worry, it will come back to normal.
  • When all of the butter is added, you are set -- flavor as desired!
  • Use your bowl scraper to scoop out all of that deliciousness.

Let me know if you try this buttercream!

Back to those warm yellow flowers...

Image: Wedding Paper Divas

Sunflower happens to be new to the Pantone Spring 2013 color palette. The Pantone Matching System is the authority and market leader on color. For event collateral, I've had to look through Pantone swatch after Pantone swatch to help get things just right!


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks~ It was fun but I can't imagine how involved a large cake with intricate flowers would be!


I love your comments and interacting with readers. Thank you!