This tutorial covers how to make sugar orchids. I made these cymbidium orchids for the cake I entered into the Wedding Cake section of my local show. Orchids are beautiful flowers and whilst they can be a little time consuming to make, the end result is worth the effort. This tutorial is better suited to the more experienced decorator however anyone is welcome to have a go.
You need some flower paste or gumpaste to make these you can either buy it or make it. I use a recipe from Inspired by Michelle’s blog http://inspiredbymichelleblog.com/2011/11/28/gumpaste-recipe-for-sugar-flowers/ this is the best recipe I have tried to date and works well for me in in the humidity which you will know is really important if you live in a humid area. Michelle’s blog also has some great tutorials including ganaching and covering cakes particularly useful if you are new to cake decorating.
You will also need some florist wire in a heavy gauge (about 20 or 22) for the column and a lighter gauge (about 24) for the petals which you can get from cake decorating shops. I wire my petals individually because I think the orchids come out looking more natural when they are wired individually.
I also find it very useful to have a few pictures of orchids handy to refer to.
Cut the each length of wire into 3 or 4 pieces and place aside.
Sprinkle some cornflour on your board. Take a small amount of paste and knead it and then roll it into a ball elongate the ball and then start to roll it out. Take the rolling pin and roll from the middle out and repeat on the other side to create a ridge down the middle. About a third of the way along the ridge roll out to the top edge.
Using the templates below (enlarge the picture depending on how big you want your orchids) place one of the petal templates on the paste so that the ridge is running down the middle of the template and cut around it with a sharp knife or scalpel.
Dip the end of the lighter gauge wire into a cup of water and gently insert it into the petal using your fingers to guide it in as in the picture below. Very gently press around the wire to secure it ensuring that it does not poke through the surface of the petal.
Place on the petal pad (dense foam) and rub a ball tool over the surface of the petal and thin the edges of the petal. Press on the veining mat (if you don’t have one you can use a corn husk for the texture) on both sides.
Shape the petal with your fingers to give a realistic shape and rest on a piece of bumpy foam to dry. If you don’t have bumpy foam you could use those cardboard trays they have in fruit boxes or anything else around the house that might give your petals a nice shape.
Repeat for the remaining petals. Turn the templates over when cutting out the opposite upper and lower petals to get a mirror image. Leave to dry
For the column, take a small amount of paste and roll into an elongated tear drop shape. Dip you heavier gauge wire into a cup of water and insert into the pointed end of the tear drop. Very gently press around the wire to secure it ensuring that it does not poke through the surface of the column.
Holding the column firmly in one hand drag your pinky finger down the front of the column to make a slight inwards curve. Place your pinky finger against the column and using your other hand mould the top of the column around the tip of your pinky so it looks like the picture below.
Using a veining tool, toothpick or a back of a knife make 2 lines on the back of the column. Leave to dry. I dry them upright by poking the wire into a piece of styrofoam (I keep the styrofoam packing from things I buy) but you don’t have to do this just find somewhere to dry them where the shape won’t get damaged.
Step 11 – Colouring
You can add colour to flowers by either airbrushing or dusting with petal dust (available from cake decorating stores). On this occasion I chose petal dust which I applied with a stiff paintbrush.
You don’t have to colour them if you don’t want to because they are already white but for the competition I was entering they judge flowers based on how realistic they look so in nature white flowers are not usually pure white so I put a little colour near the base and on the back of the petals.
For the back of the petals I used a tiny amount pink/purple colour and I mixed a little cornflour with it to soften the colour. For the front I mixed a mustard yellow with a tiny amount of a brighter yellow and green and again softened the colour with a little cornflour.
I used the pink/purple colour (straight colour no cornflour) applied to the back of the column (leaving the front white).
Once coloured they need to be steamed which brings out the colour and makes the petals look more realistic. WARNING: Steam can cause burns please be very careful. You can use a kettle or saucepan with water or if you have a steamer you can use that. Hold the petals/column by the end of the wire and wave the petal/column end through the steam a few times. Allow them to dry upright and make sure they are not touching anything (I poke the wire into sytrofoam to dry).
When the column is dry using some petal dust mixed with a couple of drops of clear alcohol (e.g. vodka) paint on some dots on the white front surface and allow to dry. Once dry take a tiny ball of paste and make a small oval shape and stick it onto the top front of the column using the back of a knife make an indentation vertically in the middle.
Roll out some flower paste and place the template for the throat on top and cut around it. Thin the edges using a ball tool and then carefully roll a tool, knitting needle or toothpick from side to side working along the edge of the throat to make a slight frill effect. Using a small amount of water for glue stick the throat to the column as pictured. Allow to dry.
Once dry take a tiny ball of yellow paste stick it near the base of the throat and then drag a tool or toothpick through the centre. Allow to dry. Once dry paint on the markings on the throat and allow to dry.
Carefully tape all the parts of the flower together using florists tape and the flower is finished.