I often get asked, "Why should I make my own gum paste?", and "Is it difficult to make my own gum paste?" The answer to the second question is, "Most definitely, no!" and the answer to the first question is what prompted me to lay it all out in this post. If you love making sugar flowers, there is no substitute for homemade gum paste as it is far superior to anything else.
1. Homemade gum paste gives you much better results - finer & more delicate flowers, faster drying time & longer lasting flowers
When I first learned how to make sugar flowers, I was not taught about the benefits of making my own gum paste. I would buy ready made gum paste from the store to make my gum paste decorations or flowers (sorry Wilton!), and get frustrated about how they wouldn't dry in the finicky humid Singapore weather, or stress about whether my decorations would hold up when they are finally placed on my cakes.
I only learned about the benefits (and joys) of making my own gum paste from Maggie Austin, an acclaimed cake designer & sugar artist. Once I tried her recipe & saw the results from making my own gum paste, I was hooked. I later adapted her recipe slightly, increasing the gum/tylose powder (or CMC powder) & decreasing the shortening to suit Singapore's notoriously humid weather. I prefer to use tylose or gum powder because of its whiteness.
What's the difference between commercial gum paste & homemade gum paste? Homemade gum paste will usually have a higher proportion of gum/tylose powder, which strengthens it & helps to hold its shape better. Commercial gum paste will usually have more additives which may not react well with high-humidity environments. With homemade gum paste, you know exactly what ingredients are in your paste so you can control & adapt your recipe in accordance with your preferences.
2. Flowers made with homemade gum paste will stand the test of time SO much better
Ok, so this is a variation of the first point, but it is so incredibly important that it warrants repeating & emphasising here again. I have tried several brands of commercial gum paste that are available in Singapore (e.g. Wilton, Satin Ice, Red Man), and have always had problems with my sugar decorations wilting or getting soft. With my from-scratch gum paste recipe, my decorations dry within a good time and I know exactly how to keep them looking beautiful & fresh for months. If you know of any good commercial brands, let me know in the comments below! However this leads me on to my next point.
3. It is easy to make gum paste to a consistent quality, and cheaper too
Making our your own gum paste sounds like a complicated thing to do, or something only "serious" cake decorators would do. If more people knew how simple the recipe & method is, I'm convinced that more people would do it. It literally takes only 4 ingredients & 10 minutes (including the time it takes to measure the ingredients) to make gum paste. There is no heating or baking involved - you just need to mix the ingredients in the correct order & knead it all together.
Unlike homemade fondant, the quality & consistency of homemade gum paste is easy to control because the method is so simple. So therefore I would recommend making your own gum paste, but using a quality commercial fondant brand for your cakes.
Making your own gum paste is also significantly cheaper than buying gum paste from the store. Once you have done it a couple of times & have seen the kind of results you can get with it, you will never go back to buying your own gum paste particularly when you know how cost effective it is as well.
4. Gum paste is easy to store - it can last for 2-3 weeks in the fridge or up to 6 months in the freezer
While I use up my gum paste quite fast as I love to make sugar flowers, you actually don't need a lot of gum paste to make a couple of sugar flowers as the petals are usually thinned out so much. So you might find that you have quite a lot of leftover gum paste. Gum paste keeps very well however - up to 6 months in the freezer.
5. Gum paste is a very flexible medium, so it's good to always have some on hand if you love cake decorating
Homemade gum paste is extremely malleable, stretchy & resilient when it's fresh. Fondant has no gum powder or gum additive so it lacks the stretch of gum paste. Many pastry chefs use a mixture of 50% gum paste & 50% fondant (called 50/50) for modelling a myriad of other sugar decorations, as it gives them a best of both worlds. Therefore it's always handy to have some gum paste on hand, not just for sugar flowers but for other cake decorating needs as well.
I hope that this article has convinced you of the benefits of making your own gum paste. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below & I'll be happy to help!