Sugar Decor

welcome back for the “really big”, blog. Covering a lot of things today, so stay focused…lol. To be honest, we are just scratching the surface today. It takes years to gain mastery in “sugar craft”. Personally after years of trying to up my game in this specialty, I sought out the best. I spent 2 weeks with Ewald Notter, a master of both sugar and chocolate showpiece work. Google him, hands down the best in the world….the Wayne Gretzky of pastry. So, I feel pretty confident sharing with you today. Here is one of mine from a few years ago.

6″ miniature, poured, pulled and blown sugar

first we will look at types of sugar work, then basic preparation methods. And thirdly, other similar forms of decoration….simpler ones, that require a little less skill.

Pulled sugar

The sugar has been cooked, and the now-liquid sugar is poured onto a silicone rubber mat. Any coloring is now added. The sugar is then folded repeatedly into itself, until the sugar is, while still flexible, cool enough to handle. The sugar is then stretched out and then folded on itself repeatedly. This process incorporates air into the sugar, and gives it a bright lustrous sheen. The sugar can then be sculpted by hand into various shapes, made into ribbons, or blown.

Blown sugar

In blown sugar, a portion of pulled sugar is placed on a rubber pump which is tipped with either wood or metal. Pumps are most commonly hand pumps. While being blown, the sugar can be shaped, often into animals or flowers. Blown sugar cannot be quickly cooled by dipping it in water, so chefs must use fans to cool the sugar, all the while rotating it, so that it does not come out of shape. This technique is very useful in making balloons for wedding cakes.

Cast sugar

In this technique, sugar is poured into molds. This technique produces sturdier pieces than the pulled and blown sugar techniques do, and it is almost always used for the base and structural elements of showpieces. Cast sugar can also be used in many other recipes such as those for cakes.


Making a rose out of pastillage

A thick sugar paste, similar to gum paste, is molded into shapes. When dried, it is hard and brittle. Made with gelatin, water and confectioner’s sugar, it hardens quickly and can be shaped for a short while by hand, and after hardening, with electric grinders, cutters, sandpaper and assorted files. Some recipes will contain an acid[1] in the ingredients list, such as vinegar or cream of tartar.

Pressed sugar

Granulated sugar is mixed with a minimal amount of water, and is put under pressure. It hardens into a solid piece. Though this is used for showpiece bases, it is less often used because of the time required to produce it, and its lesser aesthetic value.

Rock sugar

The liquid sugar is blended with a small amount of royal icing. The heat from the sugar causes the air incorporated in the icing to rapidly expand, causing the mixture to grow to several times its original volume. The mixture is quickly poured into a lined dish, and placed into a blast chiller to set. This process produces a sugar mass with the texture of volcanic pumice, the color of which is determined by the color of the sugar syrup.

Spun sugar

Spun sugar around a bite-size dessert

Sugar syrup is made into long extremely thin strands which can be shaped to make things like birds’ nests. The sugar is gathered on a fork or a special tool designed for spinning sugar and is flicked in long strokes over succeeding pipes.


1.Make sure that you use a pot that is very clean. Any debris or grease will crystallize the sugar. Copper works very well but is expensive and hard to keep clean. Stainless steel also works very well. If you have copper pots and are willing to spend the time maintaining them, then all the better, but the cooking time is only reduced by a fraction.

2.Make sure to use the correct size pot. If you are making a caramel, when you add the hot heavy cream into the bubbling sugar, it will increase in volume greatly due to the production of steam. If the pot is too short, it will bubble over.

3.Combine the sugar in a sauce pot with enough sugar to hydrate all of the sugar crystals. A common ratio is 4 parts water to 1 part sugar, but you can use a lot less water to fully hydrate sugar. This reduced amount of water also helps cook the sugar faster. The more water there is, the longer the sugar will take to reach the temperature you are looking for, because the additional water takes longer to evaporate. Water is the vessel that will get the sugar hot and start the cooking process, but once the water evaporates, the sugar will continue to cook on its own. Make sure that all of the sugar has been fully hydrated. Any dry crystals will crystallize all of the sugar.

4.Make sure that there are no sugar crystals on the side of the pot. These crystals can crystal- lize the rest of the sugar. Use a clean brush dipped in water to clean the inside of the pot. This brush should be a brush that is not used for anything other than this purpose. Pastry brushes with grease will drip grease into the pot and contaminate the sugar, crystallizing it.

5.The optimal heat source for cooking sugar is an induction burner, since it heats from the bottom to the top. Flame heat can affect the cooking of the sugar negatively, causing it to cook unevenly. However, if you are using a copper pot, you will need to use a flame. Always cook sugar over the highest heat possible to prevent crystallization.

6.Cook the sugar to the correct temperature; always use a thermometer.

Click on the image for a brief video tutorial on plated desserts.

Thanks so much for stopping by, and don’t forget all you up and coming pastry cooks, advanced culinary and pastry arts is starting soon. Early enrollment before May 30th is $149 for the full 16 week program. After this date enrollment will be $449. Cheers, and have a great day!