I’m about a month into my cake decorating course now, and I don’t feel like I’m getting much better at it! I am, however, coming to appreciate just how difficult it is to create those wonderful feats of decoration that you see on lavish wedding and birthday cakes. What really drove this home was when we recently made a little figurine out of Mexican paste.
Mexican paste is basically a type of icing that dries really, really hard – ideal for fiddly models, but not so much for eating! Making the Mexican paste itself shouldn’t be that difficult, as long as you can source gum tragacanth (or a substitute, like tylo/CMC powder) and liquid glucose. I found my tylo powder on eBay and the liquid glucose in a large Morrisons.
When you come to mix it, you’ll find it stays quite dry and powdery for ages before it comes together to form something quite similar to sugarpaste. However, something went wrong with my mix and I had to add much more water than the recipe called for to get it to come together. It was still a bit too dry after it had matured for 24 hours, so I made another batch last week – and the same thing happened again! My tutor said it’s possible there’s a problem with my tylo powder, so just be aware of this when buying yours.
Anyway, I managed to do some work with the original batch of Mexican paste despite all that. We spent the entire two-hour lesson making a model of a girl, complete with a dress, hat and all limbs intact. I found it pretty difficult because we had to concentrate on making several very small parts, which had to be the right size and had to be affixed to the model in the right way. Unfortunately, I fell behind a little and had to accept help from the tutor to get it all done on time, which I hated but it had to be done.
You can see the results of my (or our) efforts above. We made the legs first, then the dress, head, hair, hat, hands and shoes. Mine doesn’t look as delicate or detailed as some of the other women’s models, but I’m still pretty happy with it! I’m not sure if I would do this again off my own bat, especially because I seem to be unable to get on with making Mexican paste, but I certainly appreciate the hours that expert cake decorators put into making bigger, more elaborate models!