Making gum paste birds
Starting sugar craft can seem very daunting. There is a huge variety of products and equipment available so I’ve been trying to come up with things to do with my limited palette of skills and equipment. Sugar craft can become an expensive hobby so starting off with a limited amount of ‘stuff’ allows you to experiment and develop your skills before spending a vast amount.
With that in mind, here is a gum paste bird utilising brush embroidery. Instead of buying specialist icing colours, I use food colouring mixed with icing sugar and brush embroidery gives an impressive effect which only requires a brush and a piping nozzle.
I began by modelling a bird shape from gum paste. I described how to make gum paste in the article about making gum paste butterflies. You need to thoroughly knead the gum paste and be careful when modelling to give a smooth finish without any cracks. If you are not totally happy with the surface of this gum paste bird, royal icing can be used to smooth over any imperfections, and in any case, the brush embroidery can hide a multitude of sins.
I chose to make a blue tit but this design could easily be adapted to become any bird, just make sure you have a good photograph to refer to for the colouration. I mixed a yellow royal icing to pipe with and used brush embroidery to create the feathered underbelly of the bird. For more details on how to do this, please see my article ‘Brushing up on Brush Embroidery’. You need to pipe all the areas of each colour all at once, working from light to dark and thinking about which way you are pulling the icing so that the feathers build up nicely. I then moved onto the blue wings and blue cap and finally the green back of the bird. It’s nice to vary the way you do the brush embroidery to give the impression of the different feathers of the bird.
To finish the blue tit, I used black food colouring mixed with icing sugar to carefully paint the black colouration around the bird’s head and the eyes. To give a greater depth of colour, you can use dusts. These are available from specialist cake decorating shops. You should dust the edges of the feathers in a darker colour than the colour of the brush embroidery to give a greater sense of depth. This dusting stage isn’t necessary if you don’t want to buy these specialist dusts but it’s a nice finishing step when you become more confident with sugar craft.
The sizes and colours of these birds can altered to become a variety of bird species, which can be grouped together for larger cakes and placed individually on cupcakes. The design can be as simple or complex as you like so these birds are a great project to develop your skills and push your imagination.