How to create an Isomalt Tree
Ever wonder if you could make an isomalt tree topper your cake? I’m here to tell you that you can – and it isn’t even that difficult!
This year I was lucky enough to participate in the Sugar Art for Autism collaboration that brought sugar artists together from around the world to create pieces of sweet art inspired by special artists – those on the spectrum of Autism, and those who support them. My piece was inspired by a painting by Nekea Blagoev, an artist out of Australia – you can check out more of her work here, she does beautiful work! The thing I liked about this painting was its textures – I really felt it would lend itself to an interesting cake – plus I thought that tree would make a great topper!
Making the tree topper
The tree in the painting is somewhat bare looking, but not in a dead way, so I wanted to reinterpret it a bit, because I felt like it would be represented with some color in it. I had seen some sculptures in the past that were made of wire and glass and I was inspired to try and recreate that look for the cake. What started out as a pure experiment ended up in a success!
I knew I wanted to use wire, and a few months ago I had been playing around with isomalt and wire frames when I was playing with dragonfly wings (you can read more about that here) and while I didn’t have luck with something large like the bug wings, I had a feeling that the frame would work on a smaller scale, so I went with that concept. It worked, and here’s how you do it:
What you will need :
For this isomalt tree, you actually only need a few items – I love projects that require very few tools/supplies, don’t you? (NOTE: this post includes some affiliate links – but please know that I never link to any products that I don’t use or have used myself. These links do not create any additional cost for you, my favorite reader, but possibly help support this blog)
- Paper/cloth coated floral wire. The specific gauge is not important, but you want it not to be the thinnest wire, as it needs to hold up the isomalt. I used 24 gauge, but 22 would be fine too, or heavier – depends on the look you want.
- Isomalt – I used Simi Cakes pre-cooked isomalt, which is one of my favorites, but if you want to cook up some of your own, you should go ahead. The amount of isomalt will really depend on how many leaves you want to make. For this tree, I didn’t use a ton, probably a large handful of the pre-cooked tabs.
- Food color – gel or powder. I used gel, because the amount was so small, I knew I wouldn’t be adding too much gel to the melted isomalt. You have to be careful not to add too much of something that has water (like gel food color) to isomalt. So, if you’re doing a lot of isomalt, consider powdered color.
- Silicon mat – I use a Silpat
- Heat-safe bowls – I use these silicone bowls, but anything that is microwave safe and heatproof will work. Silicone bowls are nice because the cooled isomalt won’t stick, and you have less waste.
- Wire cutters, or some cutting tool to cut the wire into lengths
- Microwave or other heating element. I always use a microwave, but if you like to heat your isomalt on the stove, go ahead!
That’s it – let’s get started
Making the tree
To get ready, cut your wire into 3-4″ lengths. I didn’t spend too much time measuring – I like easy – so I cut each individual wire into 3 approximately even pieces. I’d love to tell you exactly how many lengths you will need, but again – it depends. You can always make more if you don’t think you have enough – but start with a good number, at least 20 pieces. The tree I made used about 40 pieces.
Once you have all your pieces of wire, you’ll bend and twist each one so that you have a little enclosed loop on the end of each wire:
Finish all of your loops and set aside.
Melt your isomalt and color. A rubber spatula is helpful for mixing in the color – I use this mini one, which I love for isomalt! Allow the isomalt to stop bubbling and cool down a bit so that it is not too liquid, otherwise it will not stick to the spatula. it should have somewhat of a slightly viscous consistency.
Take each wire loop, dip into the heated isomalt and pull back out. Dip the entire loop into the isomalt, but not much further down. You want the isomalt to catch all the edges of the loop – see below:
Once you have dipped your loop, lay it on a silicone mat to cool. Keep dipping all your loops and lay them out to cool – this will not take long (the cooling process, that is!)
Once they are cooled, take a paper towel dipped in a bit of vegetable oil and wipe each loop – this will protect the loops from moisture and clouding up.
Now comes the fun part – making the tree!
First I made bundles of loops – taking 3 loops, I twisted them together and set them aside
Once all the bundles were made, I then put them together one at a time and twisted them together, creating various combinations of bundles, and then twisted the whole thing together to form a tree.
I then took extra wire and wrapped it around the base to keep all of the bundles together and to form more of a tree trunk look.
The beauty of the wire is that you can move and arrange the branches and the wire loops in whatever configuration or shape you want to achieve your isomalt tree.
To make the topper into something that could be inserted into a cake, I took two bamboo skewers and inserted them into the wire trunk and then twisted more wire around the skewers to hold them in place. If you were going to insert this into a cake, I recommend that you insert a large straw into your cake, and then insert the tree into that, to ensure that the wire does not come in contact with your cake. You can fill the straw with melted chocolate to hold the skewer more securely as well.
This was the final product – I was really happy with the tree – the pictures don’t capture the way that the isomalt tree catches the light as well as it does in real life – so I guess you’ll just have to try it yourself! Don’t forget to visit the collaboration and see all the amazing sugar art pieces!