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Making Sugar Figures – 5 Top Tips for Success

Making Sugar Figures – 5 Top Tips for Success

Making sugar figures is a skill that many cake decorators want to master, particularly those making novelty styled cakes.

Antarctica Explorer theme 60th Birthday Cake, by Julie's Cake in a Box, Beverley, East Yorkshire
Pagan Handfasting Bride and Groom Wedding Cake Toppers

Making sugar figures for cake toppers is a fabulous way of adding character and personalisation to a cake.

Whether it is a representation of the birthday girl/boy or a wedding couple on top of their wedding cake.

I just love making sugar figures, and in this blog, I am going to share with you my 5 TOP TIPS to help you get started. 

TOP TIP NUMBER 1: Use the right paste

This is perhaps the MOST IMPORTANT tip I can pass on to you!

Too often, I hear of cake decorators struggling when making sugar figures, and the majority of the time it is because the paste is not suitable for the job.

Whilst you can use sugar paste (or fondant) with added CMC/Tylose powder, it just won’t be quite as good (or easy to work with) as a purpose made modelling paste.

Advantages of using modelling paste:

  • Modelling paste doesn’t crack
  • It stays pliable for longer, giving you a longer working time
  • The paste smooths and blends really well
  • It holds its’ shape well

There are many commercially made pastes on the market and they all work really well. You may have to try a few different brands to find out which works best for you.

My personal preferred choice is Saracino Modelling Paste. I find it really good to work with, you can colour it yourself with gel colours, but they also have a range of fabulous ready coloured pastes.

It comes in 250g packs or 1kg tubs. You can also buy the white modelling paste in a 5kg bucket, for those (like me) who make a lot of models!

Saracino modelling paste white
Saracino coloured modelling paste, modelling sugar figures by Julie Rogerson

A couple of my favourite pieces I have modelled in recent years

TOP TIP NUMBER 2: Use the right tools

There are a huge variety of different tools on the market to choose from these days.

Below are a few of my favourites that I use when modelling

Dresden tool - modelling sugar figures by Julie's Cake in a Box

Dresden Tool

Such a simple looking tool, but totally versatile and an absolute must for all cake decorators. You can buy these for around £3, so they don’t break the bank either.

Perfect for texturing hair for models with the thin end or blending seams with the wider end, plus many other jobs besides!

Ball tool for sugar figures, Julie's Cake in a Box

Ball Tool

Again, a simple, relatively cheap tool, which comes in a variety of sizes. It is a good idea to have at least a couple of different sizes for different purposes.

I prefer the metal ball tools, as the plastic ones have a ridge around which can make marks in your work.

Disposable scalpel for making sugar figures by Julie's Cake in a Box

Scalpel (or other very sharp small knife)

These are fabulous for making very clean, precise cuts when modelling sugar figures, where the scale you are working in is fairly small.

Creating eye sockets for sugar figures, by Julie's Cake in a Box
Creating a mouth for sugar figures, by Julie's Cake in a Box
Texturing hair for sugar figures by Julie's Cake in a Box

TOP TIP NUMBER 3: Getting the proportions right

Achieving the correct proportions when modelling sugar figures is one of the areas that can be difficult when first starting out.

A couple of ways to avoid this are…..

Human proportions for modelling sugar figures

Using a chart like this will give you a guide to the proportions for both adult and child sized models.

Usually measured in ‘heads’, the chart helps you to keep your sizes in check.

You can use these guides to draw yourself a template for the correct height of the model you wish to make.

There are many different versions of these guides available online.

Wooden artist mannequins such as these are available in different sizes, and can be used to help with proportions for figures.

They are also really useful for re-creating different poses that you may want your figure to be in.

TOP TIP NUMBER 4: Use supports when you need to

Trying to make sugar figures without any support is not a good idea.

Even for the simplest of figures, you will need some kind of support, for example, to keep the head in place.

For more complex figures, you will need internal armatures, which give you plenty of scope for creating different poses.

Gardening Gran birthday cake, Beverley, East Yorkshire

Simple figures:

For fairly simple figures, such as a sitting figure like this, a single support, such as a wooden skewer or cake pop stick, inserted down through the body, will support the head in place securely.

Some people like to use dried spaghetti when modelling, however I find that for figures, you need something a little sturdier.

My preferred choice is a plastic cake pop stick, as it is food safe and will not splinter when cut to size.

Weightlifting gym themed birthday cake, Beverley, East Yorkshire

More complex figures:

Figures like these will need a more solid internal support system, almost like a skeleton frame for the modelling paste to be moulded onto.

These can be made from materials such as armature wire or strong florist wire (18/16 gauge is best).

The internal armatures can be bent into different positions, enabling your sugar figure to be posed in any way you choose.

TOP TIP NUMBER 5: Practise, practise, practise!

If you are going to take anything from this blog, I hope it will be this:

PRACTISE, PRACTISE, PRACTISE!

My first attempts at sugar figures were a little dodgy to say the least! But with patience, practise and trying out different pastes, tools and techniques, I found the right materials/equipment to suit my style.

I hope this has left you raring to get going with your own sugar figure modelling adventure, so why not start by trying out some of my FREE PDF pictorials, to make these simple, cute girl and boy sugar figures?

Using basic tools and simple techniques, the step by step instructions and full colour photos make these ideal starter projects.

Free sugar modelling figure tutorial by Julie's Cake in a Box
Free sugar figure tutorial - cute little boy model

Interested in more FREE cake decorating tutorials?

Visit my website to find out more

I also run face to face classes at my cake studio in Beverley, East Yorkshire

Julie Rogerson