Isomalt / Sugar Sculptures Lifetime & Shipping

Sugar Work By Jackie Updated 10 Apr 2009 , 2:15am by kincaellan

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Jackie Posted 20 Feb 2009 , 11:13pm
post #1 of 17

In reference to:

I wanted to start a new thread talking about logistics of making and shipping sugar sculptures.

Other members have noted that sugar is almost impossible to ship because of its life expectancy and weakness.

Originally Posted by k8memphis

Hmm, not trying to be a downer here, but sugar doesn't have much life expectancy. Weakens and looses gloss quickly. Might not pack well.

I have never worked with sugar in this medium before so I will definitely be leaning on the pros here for info and ideas.

Would using ISOMALT instead of sugar and cooking it at a higher tempurature make it harder, and less likely to melt?

Also if every piece was treated with a Food Grade Shellac (confectionary glaze) to protect it from sweating, and humidity, possible?

16 replies
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imakecakes Posted 20 Feb 2009 , 11:45pm
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I have no idea how to use blown sugar and I still consider myself a newbie compared to others on the boards here...however......

Is it close to the way I have heard people making their own silicone molds for sugar bottles? Lots of people have done those on here, could it possibly be a starting point for brainstorming?

How far in advance did you make the bottles? Did they lose their shine over time? How long did it take? etc...

Another on earth would you cut and serve a cake covered in hand made sugar art???

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Jackie Posted 20 Feb 2009 , 11:52pm
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Originally Posted by imakecakes

Another on earth would you cut and serve a cake covered in hand made sugar art???

Hmmm... good question!! icon_smile.gif

What if we created some sort of structure (think chicken wire, but sturdier) that sits on top of the actual cake, and can be carefully lifted off as 1 piece?

Then ultimately the entire thing could be treated with a non-food safe varnish/sealant (industrial strength?) after the wedding, and possibly exhibited at the Tacoma Art Musem for an extended period of time. (Assuming of course they were interested in this)

In any case, at least that way i could at least keep it!

I also think that method would solve a lot of the food safety and handling issues

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Brownie1954 Posted 21 Feb 2009 , 12:07am
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I took a class at the Notter School of Pastry Arts in Orlando four years ago. I haven't had much chance to practice what I learned, as I have been busy with my cake/chocolate business. I can tell you this, anytime you make sugar pieces you have to add a bowl of lime stone in with it. This keeps the moisture away from it, so it should be put in the box, or display case you have your piece in.
We packed up and took home our creations. Ewald couldn't stess enough to pack it all with extra care. Mine made in on the flight home, but that was me holding it on the plane. I can't imagine any sugar piece making a flight in one piece on it's own, the way boxes are tossed around. And what about heat and humidity during the flight. and on the delivery truck? This may not be a whole lot of information, but I raise my eyebrows on this one.

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Jackie Posted 21 Feb 2009 , 12:53am
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You know, the more I think about it the more I like it.

I could build a structure, using chicken wire, wood, PVC, whatever, that is basically hollow, and could sit over the cake, with approx 4 inches to spare on all sides.

Then all the different peices, be it gumpaste or sugar, could be treated with Krylon or some other sealant. Since the sealant is not food safe, that would be OK, since it is not actually coming in contact with the cake.

After all the different pieces are attached, we can do one more final spray of sealant to seal the entire thing, then create a barrier on the inside of a food safe product (cardboard/wood then, parchement paper?) so that nothing with sealant on it actually comes in contact with food.

The entire sculpture could be made days ahead, and lifted over the cake the day of the wedding, then lifted off when its time to eat.

This also means we do not need a full 10 layers of cake, in fact we could have only 5 or 6 (which would be more appropriate for the size of the reception)

Also I don't mind find a "best" packaging/shipping method either.
I could experiment with different glass/art packaging/shipping methods and do the 12 food drop test. Then create a step-by-step "how to" package and ship the pieces for maximum safety.

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kjt Posted 21 Feb 2009 , 1:58pm
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What if we created some sort of structure (think chicken wire, but sturdier) that sits on top of the actual cake, and can be carefully lifted off as 1 piece?

Oh...I see a plan beginning to take shape here...I'm wondering if maybe not necessarily as ONE piece, but three or more separate pieces that sort of stacked or fit together; that way it would be much easier to manage. Where is Doug?!? icon_rolleyes.gif I believe the concept of a sturcture to hold the decorations is a workable one! So excited for y'all about this project thumbs_up.gif .

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playingwithsugar Posted 21 Feb 2009 , 6:28pm
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Jackie -

Check through the posts under member name kincaellan

That's Chef Jeff who is mentioned in the other thread. He shares a lot of good advice on working with hot sugar.

Theresa icon_smile.gif

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Chippi Posted 22 Feb 2009 , 6:55pm
post #8 of 17

Congrats!!! Jackie and Heath icon_smile.gif I've been reading your threads on your wedding cake and found a pretty good tutorial on sugar pulling:

HTH's .........I will also give sugar pulling a try for your cake if you decide to do that, it really seems like something I may really enjoy.

PS. my daughter is getting married July4th, her son's bday is July 2nd, her bday is July12th and everyones going to Vegas after the wedding! I hope I survive all these cakes! lol

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KHalstead Posted 23 Feb 2009 , 1:55pm
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Jackie, I just wanted to add that there are websites that sell blown sugar balls and flowers and fact there is a guy on here I think his name is flowerguy or something like that on here and he sells them on his site...maybe you could contact him or someone else that is selling these pulled and blown sugar things and find out how they're doing it. Surely they're not making them and sending them out the same day and expecting people to use them the day they receive them. There has to be a way!

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-K8memphis Posted 23 Feb 2009 , 2:27pm
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Notice that he does not ship roses. Everything else is carefully sealed and once you open the packaging, the clock starts.

My question is who will assemble this? It is usually humid in July. For best effect the sugar pieces need to be opened and assembled as last minute as possible. Consider all our differing skill levels and add in shipping, not to meniton distance.

Jackie, be a bride for your wedding.

Really consider the dried fondant/gumpaste tiles--a stunning tiled cake or tiled table top to place your cake on could be created. Then we would all be holding your cake up that day.

Determine a certain thickness and dimension like 1/4 inch thick and 2x2" or whatever size. Even 1x1 and we could send in several in case of breakage--but the broken ones could still be incorporated too. Could be done in advance--no additional pressure on you.

Or could be random sizes no bigger than 2x2 or something. By adding 'grout' that would work.

You could cover a foam plateau too. Just placing tiles is a daunting task.

If you want to replicate that sculpture light thing, get one person to do it for you. It would really suck if the sugar strands started wilting--it would happen last minute. The stress would be enormous.

I mean I can't imagine making that thing myself and expecting it to hold up for longer than several hours, a day or two much less making and shipping by hundreds of well meaning cake buddies.

Those things are created in one day and are moved a few feet within the hotel by the pastry chefs. You don't see sugar sculptures sitting around as dummy cakes. kwim

Y'know the 'glass' windows that movie people crash through and shatter and burst? Those are made of sugar. Would love to see that process.

I made a fish lately with curliques on his head within a few days they had wilted.

Random sugar sweet wedding musings for you.

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cupcakemkr Posted 23 Feb 2009 , 2:44pm
post #11 of 17

What if you used styrofoam dummy cake for the pieces and do a smaller wedding cake like you mentioned, bascially having 2 cakes, one edible one non-edible.

I think you two are super sweet to include everyone on making your your day special. I agree with K8 - really Jackies you are going to want to enjoy this day, you don't want to be assembling a cake last mintue it could make your day crazy hectic. Just a thought.

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playingwithsugar Posted 23 Feb 2009 , 4:30pm
post #12 of 17

Don't worry, Jackie! We'll figure something out!

Theresa icon_smile.gif

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sadsmile Posted 25 Feb 2009 , 6:40pm
post #13 of 17

How is a cake going to support all that weight? And what kind of stem needs to be used to insert peices into the cake? (I may not do anything because I have never done blown sugar work before) These questions just won't leave my brain..LOL

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timhenk Posted 9 Apr 2009 , 3:47am
post #14 of 17

Isomalt will definitely be a better option than regular sugar, as it resists humidity a little better. But the other poster is correct that you should keep it in a box with limestone or some other desicant to keep the humidity out. But don't let it touch the limestone, which is toxic. And be careful when handling it, because it can kick up a lot of dust which will irritate your lungs.

Yes, cooking the sugar to a higher temp helps, but it also makes it more difficult to use. You need to keep it a lot warmer while working with it, and it is harder to pull and stretch.

If you're using blown sugar, it's usually not all that heavy. A small piece of sugar can yield a pretty big piece of the sculpture. Poured sugar, on the other hand, is very heavy.

I haven't used the shellac, but imagine that it would help wiht the humidity.

Hope this helps. Let me know if I can answer any questions.

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tonedna Posted 9 Apr 2009 , 4:19am
post #15 of 17

I been concern from the very begining about the whole thing..
Edna icon_redface.gif

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kincaellan Posted 10 Apr 2009 , 2:10am
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I heard my name and came running...
Sorry for the slow contributions, I am in Australia touring around getting new inspiration and sharing knowledge. They have HORRIBLE internet service in Australia. These last 3 mths have been a test of patience between the heat, humidity, and internet.

To the questions posted...

Isomalt is food safe but a severe laxative in large amounts.
If you wish to keep the topper then all you have to do is pour a clear sugar base over tinfoil and build your topper up from that. You can hide the edge with ribbon or royal icing piping. The tinfoil prevents the moisture from the cake destroying the sculpture.

There is Food Lacquer for chocolate and sugar. It's made in China and India from the ground up shells of giant beetles. The same beetles they use for most of our other food shine, hard candies, chocolates, etc. that you buy at the store. You can find it on line quit readily. Just look for food shellac or lacquer. Definitely buy the already aerosol canned ones, the powder is cheaper but harder to use. Yes you've all been eating bugs and never knew it. You don't have to build any special stands etc any more then if you used SKITTLES candy on a cake.

I have pieces that are in a display case with NO desiccant or silica gel that are 12 years old. We also ship our bubbles and such individually wrapped(or in small bunches) in ziplock baggies and as long as they are kept sealed airtight from humidity and cool they last for a long long time. We're taking years. I only suggest using a desiccant if you are making a showpiece or live in an area with over 60% humidity for isomalt but again, if the display case is AIRTIGHT it shouldn't matter.

Shipping bubbles and small items will always have a litle breakage. We include an additional 10% of an order to ensure customers get their full order or at least close to it. In the case of fish and swans, we include extra feathers and fins etc. it is jsut sugar and you can melt them back together easily enough. Lot's of bubble wrap, shredded paper, and big boxes are a must.

Shipping Big sculptures etc only occurs by private courier or personal delivery. I have flown pieces to San Diego for events from Edmonton Alberta Canada and as far as Europe. Generally you will assemble some parts on site to ensure it looks awesome in that case.

I hope that helps, I'll read through all the posts again to see if there is anything I missed.

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kincaellan Posted 10 Apr 2009 , 2:15am
post #17 of 17

If you put a few dowels in the top layer of cake just like when you board and dowel the other 6 tiers then that structure will take the weight of the sugar sculpture. As long as you pour a base and build up from that.

Check out the ukrainian wheat cake topper on my website SUGAR gallery to see what i'm talking about.

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