People often get confused about the difference between fondant and gumpaste. It's an understandable confusion when you consider that they look and act exactly the same while rolling out. The difference is all in the way they dry.
Fondant is primarily used to cover cakes and while it does slightly harden, it will never support the weight of itself. Using fondant for decorations works great as long as the decoration lies flat against something, but if you need a complex shape that supports its own weight, gumpaste is what you want.
Gumpaste has a different chemical makeup from fondant that allows it to completely dry in a specific shape. It becomes brittle, almost glass like. If you were to drop it on the floor (I hope you never do) it would shatter, not fold in on itself. You would never cover a cake with it… especially since it has a slighlty chemical and unpleasant taste (in my opinion). But it is edible and great for impressive decorations.
To illustrate the difference between the two, below are some purse cakes we did a few years ago:
If you'll notice the handle, it stands straight up without cracking or falling apart. Thank you gumpaste. The fondant is great for covering the cake and making the folds of the pockets, but it would never dry enough to be used for this effect.
Two important things to remember when working with gumpaste:
1. Give it sufficient time to dry. It depends on how thin or thick you roll out the gumpaste, but as a general rule its a good idea to try to make your decorations the day before using them, just to be safe. If you are using VERY thin and VERY small decorations, you can get away with just an hour or two. But play it safe.
2. Keep it in the desired shape until COMPLETELY dry. Gumpaste may be great but its not magic. It will not hold its shape if its not totally dry.
To see the Gumpaste Bow Tutorial, click here.