How much do you know about sugar art? You've undoubtedly seen the impressive decorations on cakes and other delicacies, but did you know that there's a wide world of techniques and tools used to make this incredible artwork? You can easily fill several massive tomes with information on the many styles of sugar art, but if you're wading into this new world for the first time, then it's helpful to keep a tight focus. Pastillage is one material found in a variety of different types of sugar art, and learning a bit about it will help you to understand better how the masters can sculpt such beautiful creations.

What Is It?

Many sugar art techniques rely on various forms of sugar paste. These materials are easily moldable and shapeable, providing a workable medium that will not immediately dry out or harden. Pastillage recipes vary, but most consist of only a few ingredients. Like all mediums used in sugar art, pastillage consists primarily of sugar and water with additional binders. In its completed form, pastillage resembles a thick paste or dough. In this form, pastillage can be molded, stretched, and shaped as needed to build almost any structure.

How Is It Used?

Although pastillage has many uses, it isn't the only sugar paste used by confectionary artists. Gumpaste, for example, is lighter and easier to work with when designing smaller structures. If you've wondered about things like tiny sculpted flowers or fancy sugar text, these decorations were likely created with gumpaste. The higher strength and shorter drying time of pastillage make it more suitable for large, structural components. Everything from elements of sugar buildings to edible support components such as columns or handles may be made from pastillage.

The fast-drying properties of pastillage can also be useful for professional decorators. While gumpaste or other mediums may be more suitable for delicate tasks that aren't time-sensitive, the demands of professional work sometimes mean that the ideal material must take the back seat to practical choices. In these cases, pastillage offers a reliable and quick-setting alternative.

Can Amateurs Use It?

Yes! Pastillage is relatively straightforward to make, with many recipes requiring only a handful of ingredients. Pastillage can be stored once made, but "warm" pastillage will set quickly, so it is necessary to work rapidly. Pastillage that has set will still require several hours to a day to fully harden, but its relatively quick drying time means that you can use it to form the structure of your artwork before beginning fine details. While working effectively with pastillage takes skill and practice, it is a material that you can easily start using in your kitchen at any time.