Egg-Free, Gelatin-Free, Vegan Gumpaste

Gumpaste is an edible, pliable dough that dries hard.  It can be used to make molded figures that will hold fine detail, or it can be rolled out to make fine flower petals and leaves.

10407618_10153473614314179_94184020958320810_nConventional gumpaste is made with egg whites or gelatin, gum powder, and sugar, making these edible works of art unavailable to those who can’t or don’t eat eggs and gelatin.  Thanks to the wonderful folks at the Vegan Meringues – Hits and Misses Facebook group, we have learned that “aqua faba,” or the liquid drained from a can of beans, can be whipped into stiff peaks much like egg whites.  It can act as an egg white substitute in many recipes, including gumpaste.  For best results, use chickpeas or another mildly flavored bean, but they all work.

Vegan Gumpaste Recipe


  1. 10561630_10153477714274179_5151322778470141430_n1/2 cup aqua faba (the drained liquid from a can of chickpeas or other mild-flavored beans)
  2. 2 pounds powdered sugar (about 8 cups), divided
  3. 4 Tablespoons Tylose powder or Gum Tragacanth (use less if you don’t want it to dry quite so fast)
  4. 4 teaspoons shortening


  1. Reserve 1 cup of the powdered sugar and set it aside.
  2. Add the chickpea liquid to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed briefly, until liquid becomes frothy.
  3. Turn the mixer to the lowest setting and slowly add the remaining powdered sugar, making a soft consistency royal icing.
  4. Turn up the speed to setting 3 or 4, until the mixture reaches the soft peak stage. It should be shiny, with peaks that fall over.
  5. If you intend to color the entire batch a single color, add gel or paste food coloring at this point. Aim for a shade darker than your intended final shade, because your creations will lighten as they dry.
  6. Turn the mixer to the lowest setting and sprinkle the gum powder into the mixture slowly.
  7. After the gum has been added, briefly turn up the speed to high in order to thicken the mixture.
  8. Sprinkle some of the reserved powdered sugar onto a flat work surface, and scrape the gumpaste onto it. Rub the shortening onto the palms of your hands and knead the paste, adding the reserved powdered sugar as needed, until the dough is soft, but not sticky.  Note: You may not need all of the sugar! The dough will be at the right consistency if you can pinch it, and your fingers come away clean.
  9. Wrap the gumpaste well with plastic wrap, and place in a well-sealed zip-top bag, pressing out as much air as possible. Place in the refrigerator for 24 hours to allow the paste to mature.
  10. Allow the paste to come to room temperature before use (you can speed this along by kneading a small amount in your hand). Before use, place a small amount of shortening in the palm of your hand and knead this into the paste. Gel or paste food colorings can be kneaded in at this stage.
  11. Gum paste dries out very quickly. Work with only a small amount of the paste at a time, keep all unused portions well-covered at all times. Always wrap the paste well and return it to the refrigerator after use.
  12. Store gumpaste in the refrigerator, or in the freezer (well-wrapped!) for longer storage. If you intend to freeze your gumpaste, allow it to mature for 24 hours in the refrigerator before freezing.
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Egg-Free, Vegan Royal Icing

11156303_10153549051979179_4586253457956840215_nRoyal icing is not the sort of icing that you use to cover a cake.

It dries hard, but the meringue within it keeps it lightweight, making it just right for making flowers or other piped, edible decorations in advance, to be placed onto a cake later on.

Royal icing is also used to glue together the pieces of gingerbread houses, and to adorn them with snow-covered rooftops and hanging icicles.

royal icing drop flowers
Once made and fully dried, royal icing decorations will keep indefinitely.

Store them in an air-tight container and keep them out of the light so the colors won’t fade, and you’ll have decorations ready to go at a moment’s notice.


You can even pipe tiny little flowers onto sugar cubes and serve them at your next fancy tea party, or at  bridal shower.

Make sure to pull out the silver sugar tongs for perfectly proper serving…or package them up in cute little bags to give as gifts to folks who like that sort of thing.

Conventional royal icing is made from egg whites (either fresh, or powdered and reconstituted), confectioner’s sugar, and cream of tartar, which is a problem for those who can’t or choose not to eat eggs.  Thanks to the wonderful folks at the Vegan Meringues – Hits and Misses Facebook group, we have learned that “aqua faba,” or rather the liquid drained from a simple can of beans, can be whipped into stiff peaks much like egg whites.  It can act as an egg white substitute in many recipes, and royal icing is no exception.

Egg-Free, Vegan Royal Icing Recipe

10995107_10153477714279179_4914398163554628346_n5 Tbsp. aqua faba (the water drained from a can of of chickpeas or other mild-tasting beans)
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 pound (about 4 cups) confectioner’s sugar

Beat all ingredients on high for 7-10 minutes.  Use immediately.

If you intend to color your royal icing, it’s ideal to add the color while you’re beating it, and to color the whole batch.  If you need to split your batch into multiple smaller batches for making multiple colors, it may lose a bit of its loft if you stir the colors in after the fact with a spoon.  It will still work, but it’s not ideal.

Cupcakes with royal icing flowersRoyal icing dries out very, very fast (except when you’ve piped a beautiful rose and you would like to put it onto your cake…then it will take forever!).  While working with royal icing, keep your bowl carefully covered with a damp cloth, and if you need to set down your piping bag for a few minutes, carefully cover the tip so that it doesn’t dry and clog.

You can pipe royal icing decorations onto waxed paper or parchment paper, and peel them off when they are dry.  If you have trouble with the paper pulling up as you lift your piping bag away, try taping the paper to the back of a cookie sheet or baking pan.

All icings are somewhat sensitive to the heat of your hand when you are using the in a piping bag, and aqua faba royal icing especially so.  While you’re working with it, it may become too soft to get sharp edges on your decorations, so if this happens, place the piping bag into the refrigerator for a few minutes until it stiffens up again.  Don’t forget to cover the tip carefully!

Allow your royal icing decorations to dry completely before storing them in an airtight container, out of the light.

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Rainbow Prism Cake

My husband and daughter recently sang in the Cambridge Science Festival Chorus‘s production of

Songs of Electromagnetic Radiation

so it seemed only fitting that I should make a cake to match the theme for the post-performance party.

Rainbow Prism Cake

Rainbow Prism Cake

The party guests were wowed by the candy glass prism on top of the cake, and they all rushed to take pictures of it, and to take pictures of themselves standing next to it.

They didn’t realize the surprise that was in store for them once it was cut.


Cut Rainbow Prism Cake, revealing the rainbow layers inside.

Molding the Prism

The first task was to make a candy glass prism.

It’s possible to make candy glass using table sugar, but sugar caramelizes at a lower temperature than the one necessary to make the glass, so it has a slightly golden hue rather than being crystal clear.  For the bright, vivid colors of a rainbow encased in a clear prism, using isomalt was the answer.

Thankfully, once it’s initially made, isomalt glass can be reheated several times for reuse, so I made a single batch of it and tinted small amounts in rainbow colors, using Americolor gel colorings.

Isomalt in rainbow colors

A lovely array of rainbow-colored isomalt.

I had made molds using matboard (the kind used in framing pictures), rolled teflon, and teflon mouse tape.  The molds consisted of two triangular faces for the prism, three rectangular sides, and multiple slats that could be added or removed sequentially to create the stripes of the internal and external rainbows.

Prism Rainbow Internal

Internal Prism Rainbow

Prism Rainbow External

External Prism Rainbow

I heated up each color and poured, then moved on to the next when it has solidified enough.

After pouring all six colors, it was clear to see that they were really separate segments stuck together, but I was able to smooth them out with careful use of a culinary blowtorch, a flat block of wood (protected by teflon, of course), and a weight.

Prism Rainbow

Pretty rainbow!

Assembling the Prism

I assembled the prism by melting the edges with a combination of a culinary blowtorch and using the surface of a cast iron griddle.  It’s delicate, fussy, and somewhat dangerous work (I only got one small sugar burn on a finger), but worth it.  One of the sides was broken during assembly, but I decided we could do without the bottom.

Assembled Rainbow Prism

Rainbow Prism, sans input light beam.

Assembling the Cake

Initially I thought I would make all of the layers from scratch, but the baking aisle at the supermarket tempted me with six perfectly colored cake mixes for a dollar apiece, so they came home with me.  Each mix made a single 8″ layer, and I torted them to approximately 1/3 of their original size (the rest go into the freezer, because surely there will be a future need for rainbow cake?).

I filled between the layers with Italian meringue buttercream, plus a hidden layer of blackberry jam between the blue and violet tiers…since some people feel that dropping indigo from the spectrum is not acceptable.

Rainbow Cake Layers

Rainbow Cake Layers

I iced the outside with the same buttercream, hastily added ridges to the sides, and piped a border.  The candy glass topper was added immediately before serving, so that the moisture from the icing wouldn’t damage it.

Rainbow Cake Frosted

Rainbow Cake, Frosted

Voila!  Rainbow Prism Cake to wow the geeky masses (and wow them it did).

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