In the not-too-distant past, Wilton added a fourth course to their cake decorating classes offered at most Michael's stores: Advanced Gum Paste Flowers. I lucked out and snagged one of the last slots in this extremely popular 4-session class. I don't think I'll ever feel about gum paste the way I do about royal icing; I found myself missing my piping bag during last night's class. Gum paste is billed as inedible (yet it's Kosher). I've heard of kids who love eating it (probably the same kids who love eating paste and scented erasers). The main issue with the inedibility of gum paste is that as a flower it's oftentimes made into a collection of pieces held together with wire (full of lead) that's been wrapped with floral tape (full of latex, which spells anaphylactic shock for anybody allergic to latex who consumes a gum paste flower that's had latex from floral tape leaching into it). There are ways of safely displaying gum paste flowers on a cake, namely by sticking their stems into straws or flower spikes. In the first session of the course, we learned how to make a small filler flower, the gum paste blossom. The setup includes quite a few things from the kit you need to purchase for the class, namely a gum paste storage board, a medium-sized blossom ejector, an impression mat, florist tape, 26-guage florist wire, and pearl stamens. You'll also need scissors, a 9" fondant rolling pin fitted with pink guide rings, a dusting pouch filled with a 50/50 mix of powdered sugar and cornstarch, an angled brush, a sealed container of gum glue adhesive (which is a pinch of gum paste dissolved in a tablespoon of water; it will keep for weeks after you've made it), and, of course, gum paste. In the class we used a 50/50 blend of fondant and gum paste, which provides a slightly longer working time than straight gum paste.
Hold it over the gum paste and push down. Do not use the plunger yet! Once you've made the cutout, remove the ejector.
Make a curve in the stem and hang the flower up to dry someplace. Ideally you'll be able to easily find a gum paste flower drying rack to hang your flowers from, but I found that the light fixture over my dining table works just fine! Gum paste flowers should be stored in a cardboard box away from temperature extremes and light. I'll try to post more about Course 4 soon; it's a wonderful addition to the Wilton curriculum!