Dazzling and Delicious: How to Add Sparkle to Your Cake
Go with the Glow
Want to add some DIY sparkle to a special confection? We collaborated with pastry chef Jason Schreiber to create five dazzling desserts for the winter 2014 issue of Martha Stewart Weddings. Here are his expert dos and don’ts for adding glitter and glitz to your wedding cake, or any special dessert.
—Elizabeth Regalia, Associate Digital Editor
To give this strawberry cake an out-of-this-world effect, we sprinkled silver sanding sugar and teensy wilton stars over its swiss meringue–buttercream frosting.
Find Your Shine
Anything that is marketed as edible should be safe to apply to a cake in a reasonable amount. "As a general rule, you should never put non-edible materials on a cake," says Schreiber. "Luckily there are tons of options for edible glitters and luster dusts on the market, available at craft and specialty stores like N.Y. Cake."
Schreiber stenciled each stalk of amber on this cake with a luster-dust-and-vodka mix, then topped the cake with some luster-dust-painted wheat sheaves tied with a satin ribbon. Underneath, almond cake meets its ideal match: chocolate ganache.
Remember: Cake is for Eating!
Sure, you want to wow 'em, but first and foremost you want to make sure your dessert is delicious. A good tip: Be smart about where you spread your sparkle. "I try not to put large amounts of glitter in parts of the cake that I know are going to be eaten whole—not because I think it will hurt anyone, just because I find it unappetizing," says Schreiber. "In terms of glitter, a little can go a long way!"
This gilded confection was made by pressing rectangles of edible gold leaf onto fondant.
Mix Your Own Magic
If your wedding palette doesn't include silver or gold, you can mix a shimmer that's more your shade. It's harder to mix glitter because the larger particles don't easily fully combine. So go instead with luster dusts which can be mixed like any paint, either in their powdered form or after they've been combined with a liquid. “Once you mix a color that you like, make sure you have enough of it, as it can be hard to mix a second batch that looks identical!" says Schreiber.
To give these gum-paste petals a pearly sheen, Schreiber painted each one with custom-mixed shades of dry metallic luster dust and sparkle dust.
Add Alcohol (Really!)
Mixing luster dusts with a liquid creates a different look than applying it in powder form; it creates a more opaque shine. It's also easier to control where the pigment goes, since it becomes the consistency of a watercolor paint instead of a powder that can drift everywhere.
But there’s an option that’s better than water: alcohol. “It's best to use since it evaporates much faster and therefore has less of a chance of melting the sugar in the fondant or gum paste,” says Schreiber. Any clear alcohol will do, but the higher the proof, the higher the shine. "You might not want to drink it, but it's great as a medium!” The high-shine finish shown here comes from brushing on a mix of luster dust and vodka.
Prep Your Surface
Any wedding cake frosting will hold glitter as long as you treat it properly. Sticky frostings like buttercream don't need any treatment, but you will need to combine the glitter with alcohol or another liquid in order to apply it to smooth surfaces like fondant or marzipan. Dry luster dust is a fine enough powder that it will stick to fondant or marzipan on its own, but it will not create an opaque shine unless you mix it with a liquid, says Schreiber.
To create this dazzling design with a glittering trim, Wendy Kromer sprinkled scalloped edges with gold-colored sanding sugar and 10-karat-gold twinkle dust.
Make it Stick
It's usually best to add the sparkle as a final touch because you don't want to knock the glitter off the cake as your working on other details, but it doesn't have to be added at the last minute before displaying the cake. Properly applied glitter should stick to the cake and store well in the refrigerator along with any other decorations. "Some glitter will fall off during transportation, but not enough to worry about," says Schreiber. "You don't need to worry about spraying the glitter to keep it in place. It's very clingy!"
Standing tall over this dessert bar is a golden cake covered in fondant and brushed with luster dust.
Bring on the Baubles
Why should your diamond ring be the only gem in attendance to your wedding? Edible sugar jewels secured to fondant with clear piping gel up the wow factor of any cake. Expert tip: gems can get foggy if stored in a humid spot, but a little vegetable oil will shine them right up. The tasty baubles here came from Global Sugar Art.
Sparkle from the Inside
Like the idea of guests cutting into something shiney? Us, too! But there's a right and wrong way to do it. "We once tried to bake sanding sugar into the cake batter and it was a total bust," says Schreiber. "All the sugar dissolved in the oven!" You may have better luck baking edible glitter directly into the cake batter by mixing it in with the dry ingredients, but whether or not you want to alter your cake flavor with added shimmer would be up to you.
Golden lady apples painted with edible gold luster bring out the natural golden hue of the caramel layers in this tower by Nine Cakes.
Find more original ideas for customizing your day and expert advice to lead you to the aisle in our annual Ultimate Planner by downloading our app and buying the digital issue for only $.99.