HOW TO MAKE A SUGAR PEONY (THAT’S GLUTEN-FREE & VEGAN!)
What you’ll be making!
There are SO many YouTube videos on how to make sugar flowers but when you’ve got dietary requirements, it can be really difficult to know what type of kit to buy to ensure what you’re making won’t poison your guests.
And okay, it’s a sugar flower. It’s probably not going to be eaten. But the fact that it’s touching the cake it’s sitting on will be enough to set some people’s food issues off (and by food issues, I’m using this as a blanket term to cover intolerances, allergies, autoimmune diseases and so on). For others with either religious or vegan principles, the very knowledge that (e.g.) egg has been used is enough for it to be avoided.
So here’s a sugar peony that has been made using tools and food substances that are both gluten-free and vegan. (More on this later.)
First things first: this blog post assumes you already know a little bit about sugarcraft and making flowers. If you’re not sure whether you do, see if you can answer yes to the following questions. If you can’t, it’s probably wise to do a few easier flowers first.
Do you know what a ball tool/veiner/foam pad/28 gauge wire is?
Have you done a few sugar flowers before?
Are you patient enough to wait 24 hours before finishing your flower?
Oh all right, the last one doesn’t really require prior knowledge of sugarcraft but it does remind everyone that patience is paramount.
So far I keep talking about the flower as though it’s actually made from grains of sugar. Surprise, surprise, it isn’t. The sugar I’m talking about is a flower modelling paste that’s made from the following ingredients:
Sugar, glucose syrup, water, stabilisers (tragacanth, xanthan gum, palm oil), preservative (potassium sorbate), humectant (glycerine)
For anyone who’s used to using modelling paste (sometimes called gumpaste), you’ll know it usually contains eggs. If you want to buy the one I used, you can find it here at Sainsbury’s. (Apologies to any non-UK readers – maybe you can ship it in?)
By the way, if you’re wondering about the 1 star review that someone gave the flower modelling paste online, all I can say is I’m astonished. This paste has proved far better than many of the more expensive pastes I’ve bought and it hardens just as quickly as Squire’s or A Piece of Cake.
Anyway, back to the peony! I’m going to assume you know how to make the middle of a flower. For a peony, it simply needs to be a round ball hooked onto a 22 gauge wire (or a pre-bought foam ball on a wire).
As for cutters, you can buy peony cutters (a real time-saver) or you can use rose petal cutters and cut out notches from each petal with the base of the cutter. I much prefer the proper peony cutters but if you’re trying this for the first time to see if you like the end result, it might be better to stick with rose petal cutters rather than fork out for new kit.
A standard black veiner is the one I use and I’ve got another petal veiner to help sandwich the wire to the petal. If you’re vegan, you’ll need a synthetic paintbrush. A full list of ingredients and tools is at the bottom of this post.
How to make the peony bud
At last! you cry. You’ve been waiting so long!
Paint the peony ball middle with water (not too much – about the same amount you’d use to make an envelope sticky). (And yes, this goes for the foam ball or one made from sugarpaste.)
Place the wire into your oasis (or fondant ball) so it stays upright.
Roll out some modelling paste onto a lightly dusted board (with cornflour) until it’s almost thin enough to see your fingers through.
Using the smallest peony cutter, cut out 5 petals.
Vein each petal with the black veiner.
Put each petal onto the foam pad and run a ball tool around the edges to make them slightly frilly.
Working quickly, place a petal over the peony ball and smooth into place.
Place another petal opposite it. The two should slightly overlap in the middle.
Paint the edges of the backs of the 3 remaining petals.
Add each one to the peony middle but allow each to overlap the next. For the 3rd petal, this will mean tucking it under the 1st so only smooth them down after all 3 are in place.
You should now have a covered peony bud.
And if you can’t wait for the rest of the instructions, take a look at the pics below to see how the bud transforms into a much larger flower.
How to make the bud larger
Take the next size larger cutter. Cut out 7 petals, vein and ball tool as before.
Paint the base and left & right sides of the petal.
Place it onto the bud making sure the middle of the petal goes over the end of the last petal put on. Smooth down the left hand side.
Paint the base and left & right sides of a 2nd petal.
Place this petal to the right of the 1st but slightly underneath the 1st petal. Smooth down the left hand side.
Repeat for the 3rd petal. Tuck it under the left side of the 1st petal.
Now do another row but space the petals out a bit further. They should naturally start to come away from the bud now and this row should take 4 petals.
Smooth over the top of the petals so that they curl inwards.
You now have a large bud.
How to make the flower much larger
This bit requires twiddling. Twiddling means putting paste onto a wire so that it’ll stick to the petal, harden and then mean you can pull the petal away from the bud while maintaining its shape.
A point: if you’ve never twiddled before then don’t beat yourself up if you can’t seem to get it right. It takes a lot of patience and the following rules:
Always use fresh paste that hasn’t been allowed to dry out
Loosely hold the wire with your left hand
Make sure your fingers are completely dry (you may need a slight dusting of cornflour – note: slight!)
Try to get the paste as thin as possible – it shouldn’t look like a caterpillar
Don’t twiddle more than the length of your petal. If anything, it should be 3mm shorter.
The hard part
Roll out the modelling paste and use your largest cutter to cut out anything between 10 – 15 petals (depending on how large you want your flower to be).
Vein and ball tool each petal (one at a time; keep the others hidden under an A4 wallet so they don’t dry out).
Put the petal into a peony veiner and leave it open.
Twiddle a 4 inch 28 gauge wire and press it into the middle of the petal.
Sandwich the veiner together so that the wire is pressed firmly into the petal.
Open up the veiner and you’ll see the wire has practically disappeared!
Gently take out the petal and place it in a flower former.
Repeat with all the petals and allow to dry for 24 hours.
24 hours later…
Tape a piece of florist tape directly underneath the peony bud.
Take each wired petal individually and place it against the bud, taping as you go.
Each petal should overlap the last until a whole row has been done; the final petal should tuck under the 1st.
Repeat with a second row.
Believe it or not, your flower is now complete!
Here’s how your flower can look on a large cake:
White peony on a chalkboard gluten-free wedding cake
So there it is. A gluten-free vegan white peony made from sugar. And like the cake above, I hope your experience trying to make it really did make you happy ever after 😉
List of ingredients & tools
Cornflour (or cornstarch)
Peony or rose petal cutters
Flower former (or empty fruit container)
22 & 28 gauge wires
Small long-handled scissors
Oasis (or a large ball of fondant)
Florist tape cut in half (widthways)
I’d love to know if you’ve tried out this peony. Do let me know your thoughts below!