Lucya, who was born in China, raised in Taiwan, and later emigrated to Canada, is largely self-taught in the art of sugar-sculpting, a practice that originated in the Middle Ages. A former dietician and teacher of Chinese cooking, Lucya studied pastrymaking at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.
The peony consists of sixteen sections. Small pieces of sugar paste are rolled and feathered into petal shapes in graduated sizes. These sections are affixed with floral tape to a wire stem around a central artificial stamen in groups of four, and, when complete, the flower is steamed, which gives it a shiny, slightly more relaxed appearance. But take care not to give your sugar flower too much steam—if you do, the sugar will crystallize and the surface will turn dull.
Making Sugar Flowers
20-gauge white wire
Plastic cutting board
3/4-inch-diameter rolling pin
30-gauge white wire
Styrofoam form (for holding drying petal formations)
To make the petal-section centers:
1. Cut 16 five-inch-long pieces of 20-gauge wire.
2. Mix up a glue out of a small amount of sugar paste and water.
3. To make the center of each petal section, using a small brush, dab some glue onto the tip of a piece of wire. Mold a small piece of flower paste around the tip of the wire. Allow to dry until hard, for approximately 1 hour. Repeat process for each piece of wire.
To make the small petals (you will need 16 sections of 3 petals each):
1. Place 3 pea-sized pieces of sugar paste between 2 pieces of plastic wrap on a plastic cutting board. Using 3/4-inch-diameter rolling pin, roll the paste once in each direction to form a petal shape.
2. Remove top layer of plastic wrap. Using the veiner tool, give the petal an uneven edge.
3. Transfer petal to the foam pad. Run the small end of the ball tool around the edge, rolling it half on the foam, half on the sugar paste, to give the petal a ruffled appearance.
4. Roll the large end of the ball tool around the center of the petal to create a cupping effect.
5. Working so that the petal section is hanging upside down, wet the bottom of one petal, and wrap it around the tip of the petal-section center.
6. Fold the other 2 petals into thirds, and attach them to the wire, bunching them around the first petal. Insert petal section into Styrofoam form so that the section is hanging upside down, and let dry for approximately 1 hour.
To make the outer petals (you will need to make a total of 12 petals—4 small, 4 medium, 4 large):
1. Take a slightly larger piece of sugar paste, and repeat the process described above (roll out in plastic wrap, and use veiner and ball tools to shape petal) to make 4 outer petals. Repeat again, making 4 medium-size petals, and 4 large petals.
2. Moisten with glue, and attach 1 petal to each of the smaller 12 sections. Let dry for approximately 1 hour.
To assemble the flower:
1. Cut 1 five-inch-long piece of 30-gauge wire, wrap it around the center of a stamen, and fold the two ends of the stamen so that they are pointing upward.
2. Attach the 4 smallest petal sections—the ones with only 3 petals—to the stamens with floral tape. You may need to bend the wire or the petal a little to attach the sections.
3. Working from the center out, add the remaining sections, starting with the smallest and ending with the largest.
4. Hold flower 6 to 7 inches away from the spout of a kettle, taking care not to burn yourself on the steam, and steam peony until petals are shiny and less stiff.
Lucya’s Custom Cakes
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
CMC (carboxymenthyl cellulose)
P.O. Box 1584
North Springfield, VA 22151
Sugar-paste modeling tools
Six-by-five-inch nonstick boards
Medium ball tool
Orchard foam pad
3/4-inch-diameter nonstick rolling pin
Yellow stamens for peonies
Moss-green floral tape
20- and 30-gauge white and green florist wire
New York Cake & Baking Distributor
56 West 22nd Street
New York, NY 10010