Michelle Darmody: Baking with Sugar paste flowers

WHAT better way to celebrate the onset of spring than with flowers. At this time of year daffodils are peeping through the earth and splashing gardens and roadsides with yellow, and bluebells are beginning to carpet woodlands with their beautiful hue.

You can add some of this colour and delicacy to your baking with sugar flowers. They take time to make but can be very effective. As weddings become more commonplace in spring and early summer these flowers can be used to decorate cakes for friends and family.

There are a number of videos online that can be watched as tutorials. They really do help with the little nuances and tricks that are difficult to convey in print.

Before you start it can be handy to make a muslin puff filled with cornflour. It allows you to lightly dust your surfaces so that it does not coat the sugar paste too heavily.

Place a small amount of cornflour into the centre of a muslin square and gather it up at the sides. Tie it with ribbon or elastic band then tap it on your work surface to dust evenly. Also it is wise to keep the sugar paste wrapped in clingfilm or in a sealed freezer bag as you work. It will stop it hardening and becoming rough.

When you are covering a cake in icing you need one that is solid and that you can trim to a flat surface if necessary.

A light and fluffy sponge will not do. The recipe included here is for an 8in round cake and it can be scaled up as needed. By covering it with a layer of butter cream it allows for much neater fondant, stops crumbs and helps to smooth out bumps.

Pink sugar roses

  • A packet of sugar paste
  • Pink natural food colouring
  • Cornflour for dusting
  • Equipment
  • Cocktail sticks
  • A stand or piece or board that the sticks can be pressed into and allowed to stand up
  • A cutter for cutting rose petals

Firstly make a cone for the centre of each rose. Roll a piece of white paste into a ball and then roll or press one side into a point. Stick a cocktail stick into the broad end of the cone and place it on a stand to dry.

Knead a drop of colouring into the sugar paste. Roll the paste very thinly on a clean surface dusted with cornflour. Use your cutter to cut out petals. Gently flute the sides of the petals so they are not completely flat.

Lightly dampen the first petal and wrap it tightly around the cone, so that when you look down from the top you cannot see any of the white of the cone. Leave one petal hanging out slightly, then dampen the next one and wrap that around the opposite side of the flower to the first petal, but not so tightly. Continue until you have a rose the size that you desire.

Leave the flowers to dry on the stand overnight.

Orange madeira cake

  • 250g of soft butter
  • The zest of 3 medium sizedoranges
  • The zest of 2 lemons
  • 320g of caster sugar
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 225g of self-raising flour
  • 75g of plain flour

  • 180g of orange juice (weighing it makes it more accurate)
  • Preheat your oven to 170degrees and line an 8-inch round tin with parchment.

    Beat butter, zest, and sugar until light and fluffy.

    Add the eggs slowly until combined.

    Sieve the flours and stir them into the batter with the juice until the mixture is smooth.

    Scoop the batter into your tin and bake for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean.

    Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

    Icing your cake

    • Fondant icing — about 675g for an eight inch cake
    • Icing sugar for dusting
    • For the buttercream
    • 150g of soft butter
    • 300g of icing sugar
    • 1 tsp of vanilla essence
    • 1 - 2 tbs of milk

    Whip the butter, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until soft, pale and fluffy. Beat in the milk, as necessary, to loosen the mixture.

    To ice the cake, first cover it with a layer of the buttercream, making sure to have a smooth even surface and fill in any gaps. It is nice to create a sharp edge around the top of the cake to lay thefondant on.

    Allow the buttercream to cool in the fridge for about 30 minutes while you roll out the fondant.

    On a clean worksurface, lightly dusted with icing sugar, knead the icing so that it is soft enough to roll easily. Roll the icing as close to a circle as you can. It will need to be the width of the top of the cake plus the two sides.

    Using your rolling pin gently drape the circle of icing over the top of the cake. Smooth the fondant using a cake smoother or pallet knife and push out any air bubbles and creases, start on the top then work down the sides. Cut away any excess icing at the base.

    More on this topic

    The Menu: Food news with Joe McNamee

    Wine with Leslie Williams: The best pink sparkling wines and champagnes

    Restaurant review: Cobh's Seasalt Cafe

    The Currabinny cooks: Tasty treats with local strawberries and raspberries

    More in this Section

    Underarm tactics: Meet the scientist on a mission to end body odour

    FoodCloud's local solution to a global problem

    Versatile youth sold on hip hop’s bling and drug culture

    Support acts make their mark as Walking on Cars rock Musgrave Park

    Latest Showbiz

    KT Tunstall details emotional journey to find biological father and half-sisters

    Lizzo stole the show at the BET Awards – here’s why she’s such a body-positivity icon

    Phillip Schofield will take Amanda Holden claims ‘on the chin’

    Twitter thread lets you pretend to be Beyonce’s assistant for the day

    More From The Irish Examiner