I've had a number of requests for a tutorial for the butterflies that I covered my mom's birthday cake with. They aren't difficult to make! All you need is the right supplies and you can make your own colourful sugary butterflies to decorate cakes, cupcakes, or even cookies with.
The butterflies are made out of gum paste which is a sugar paste that contains a natural gum called Gum tragacanth. It is soft and mold-able and dries very hard. The butterflies don't have a flavor, the gum paste just tastes crunchy and sweet.
You can buy a powder that you have to mix but I always buy the premixed gum paste because it is the perfect consistency and one bag lasts forever in my fridge.
Next you need a butterfly shaped cutter. I had a hard time finding one that I liked. All the cookie cutters were too big and too cartoony looking. I ended up buying this punch that is supposed to be used to cut wilton sugar sheets. When you take the pieces apart you can use it as a cookie/ fondant cutter. It was about the same price as a cookie cutter and you can find this punch at Michael's and other craft stores along with the gum paste.
To paint the butterflies you need gel food colouring which you can also find at craft stores and most kitchen stores that have a decorating section. It doesn't matter what colours you choose for the wings I would suggest also picking up a jar of the black food colouring because you'll need it to outline the wings
Luster dust and disco dust look great on the butterflies but if you don't have them/can't find them it's not a big deal. They are optional if you want to add an extra bit of sparkle.
Before you start cutting out and painting your butterflies use some folded tin foil to make a "V" for the butterflies to dry in. This lets them dry with their wings up. Make sure that your V isn't too narrow, you want the wings to be open enough so that you see the design on them and not the blank bottom of the butterflies.
For painting the butterflies it is best to use vodka instead of water to dilute the food colouring. Water makes the gum paste soggy and sticky and the colour does not show up as vibrantly. I pour the vodka into a little dish and dip my brush in it when I want to dilute my colours.
Put a swipe of each colour that you're going to use in a separate little dish or plate and then use the vodka to dilute a bit of it on your brush
Then outline the butterfly with a swipe of more concentrated colour. I used the same pink that I had diluted for the outline but you can use any colour as long as its more concentrated or darker than your first wash.
Then dilute some black food colouring and use your brush to paint along the edge of the butterfly so that the black goes right down to the surface that you are painting on. You can make the outline thinner or thicker to change the shape of the wings.
Once the butterflies are dry they will keep for months! If you are using them to decorate a cake with only put them on the cake on the day that you need them. If you put them on a day or two ahead they can get a bit soft from sitting on the icing. I put mine on the cake the day we served it and then the butterflies lasted another two days in the fridge.
These little butterflies are so fun to make because you can be as creative as you want with their wing designs and they look stunning grouped together on a cake.
Gum Paste Butterflies
- Gum paste
- small amount of butter or shortening
- Any colour of gel food colouring
- Black gel food colouring
- butterfly shaped cutter
- rolling pin
- tin foil
- paint brush
- disco dust or luster dust (optional)
- small dishes to put the vodka and the gel colours into
- towel or paper towel to wipe your brush clean on
1. Set up your painting area:
Make the V shape out of tin foil. Put a swipe of each colour you are using into a different dish and fill one dish with vodka.
2. Roll out and cut the butterflies. Put scraps back in gum paste bag
3. Paint butterflies with light wash. Then outline with a concentrated colour and blend that into the wash with a clean brush dipped in vodka
4. Add other accent colours
5. Outline butterflies with black. Add shimmer or glitter and move to dry on V shaped tinfoil. Allow to dry overnight.