Creative Cake Decorations: How to Make Gelatin Plastic
If you’re looking for ideas for creative cake decorating, you have come to the right place. Learn how to make gelatin plastic, and you’ve got an impressive cake decorating skill for life.
Photo via Nellie Cakes
Gelatin plastic is not difficult to make. It’s simply a matter of mixing together gelatin, water and food coloring. Using a fairly low amount of water will allow the gelatin to become hard once it dries; a slow, gradual drying process allows you to get creative with cake decoration. While the gelatin is still malleable, you can cut it into shapes, sculpt it into ribbons or bows, or just let it harden in an avant-garde, freeform fashion.
Cake decorator Pam Banyard created these beautiful gelatin flowers to decorate her daughter’s wedding cake.
Once hardened and dry, the gelatin plastic keeps beautifully, and can be used to adorn cakes with colorful, translucent forms which echo rock candy or (if you’re feeling particularly fancy) stained glass. No matter what look you go for, the finished product is bound to impress.
Photo via Pam Banyard
Oh, the places you’ll go
The supplies for this project are actually quite open-ended.
The things that you’ll definitely need to make gelatin plastic are plain gelatin envelopes (we’d suggest starting with at least 6 or 8), water and food coloring. While you can pour the gelatin on to sheets of parchment to thicken to the point where you can manipulate the mixture, we find that it’s actually easiest to pour the mixture on top of an overturned plastic lid, such as a flat bakeware lid. Avoid lids with words or imprints, as they will be reflected in the gelatin (you can easily avoid a few words along an edge, but avoid something with, say, a huge logo imprinted in the middle).
From there, you can get creative with how you treat the gelatin once it has had the chance to become firm. You might choose to form the gelatin into spirals, in which case you’ll need a dowel, lollipop stick or something to form the spiral around; you might choose to use your favorite cookie cutters to cut out shapes.
The recipe appears below, along with several suggestions for creative ways to shape the gelatin plastic into creative cake decorations for your gorgeously iced or fondant-coated creation.
In the works: making gelatin plastic. Tutorial photos via CakeSpy.
Can you eat gelatin plastic?
Gelatin plastic is primarily considered a garnish. Will a bite be harmful? No. Nothing in gelatin plastic is toxic, and all of the components are commonly used in confections. So it is completely safe for consumption.
However, given the fact that it is plain gelatin, which has no added sweetener or flavoring, it might not be the most toothsome decoration. So while you can rest assured that it is non-toxic, let’s just say that these shapes might be best removed from cakes before consumption, as you would birthday candles.
While gelatin plastic is easy and open-ended, one aspect which is not as flexible is the drying time. Plan on giving the gelatin plastic at least 12 hours to completely harden before using it in cake decorating projects. If not completely hardened, it can warp and melt, which we are pretty sure is not the look you’re going for.
How to make gelatin plastic
- 2 envelopes plain gelatin (per color you’d like to make)
- 6 tablespoons water (3 tablespoons per packet of gelatin)
- Food coloring
- Medium saucepan
- Cookie cutters or other methods of shaping the gelatin
- A non-imprinted lid from a plastic container
Combine the gelatin, water and food coloring in a medium saucepan. Whisk everything together to combine. Once combined (it’s OK if it is still a little grainy), place the pan over medium-low heat for about 30 seconds, or until the gelatin has dissolved and the mixture begins to thicken. It may slightly bubble along the edges of the pan.
Pour the mixture into the top of the plastic container. Spread it gently with the back of a spoon, to both ensure even coverage and to discourage bubbles. A few tiny bubbles are inevitable, but try to break up cloudy patches or bubble clusters. Don’t fuss with it too much, as the gelatin will begin to set quite rapidly.
Let the gelatin cool on this surface for 20-30 minutes. The entire disc should come off of the plastic surface with no trouble at this point; test it by trying to lift an edge. It should come off like a resealable label, with slight tackiness but little resistance.
Use your cookie cutters to cut the gelatin into shapes of your choosing; or, cut the gelatin into strips to form spirals or form ribbons. You can also pour the gelatin into chocolate molds!
Note: If making spirals, wrap the strip of gelatin gently around a rounded surface, such as a dowel, straw or lollipop stick. Coating the round surface with plastic wrap can help with removal.
Or, you might choose to create a ribbon. This can be done by creating a series of loops and holding them together in the center, as in this tutorial.
If making more advanced or involved shapes, make sure that you have a support structure to keep things in place while the gelatin dries, as it can tend to warp while it hardens.
Let the gelatin dry for at least 12 hours (it may take longer for thicker pieces). If you let flat shapes dry on a baking sheet, be sure to rest a sheet of parchment paper on top to keep them from warping; however, even warped shapes can make interesting decorating components.
Note: Let your gelatin dry on a covered surface, be it on a work area or a parchment-lined baking sheet. Do not let the shapes harden directly on a counter surface, as it can be quite difficult to remove once it hardens. Do not use plastic wrap to cover the shapes, as it can capture moisture and keep the shapes from drying properly.
Once your gelatin plastic is “set,” you can remove any bits and pieces you’ve had to keep it in place, and it is ready to use in your cake decorating.
Store your finished gelatin plastic in a single layer in airtight containers for up to 1 month. Avoid extremely hot, cold or humid conditions.