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Pulled and blown sugar


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Chef Rubber has the best prices for pumps. Next least expensive, if you dont want to wait... is... are you ready.... your local sex shop. I got my pumps from Chef Rubber, but I do know people who bought them from sex shops and say they are the same thing... but 1/3 of the price. As for the little nibs that go on the end of the pump, you can also get them at Chef, or at the hardware store you can buy 1/4" copper pipe that will work well too. For the burner, I have a spirit burner that I put fondue fuel in, and that works nicely.

Edited for spelling

Edited by Tweety69bird (log)

Don't waste your time or time will waste you - Muse

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  • 2 weeks later...

Good morning! I've decided I'm going to "dabble" a bit in sugar pulling/blowing. I only bought the minimum of supplies, as I don't want to invest much in something until I know it's something I want to work with a bit more. So, that being said, I've got clear Venuance pearls, a pump & hose, and a wooden tube. No lamp or burner yet...is there anything I can use temporarily? Can I nuke it in the micro for a second to reheat, or use the hair-dryer, a heating pad, or a culinary torch instead of the burner? Also, what's up with the wooden tube? I've heard that copper is great too. Is there a difference? And, how do I color this? I've seen the colored pearls - can you use food color gels?

Thanks for any help - I've never done this type of work before. Any other advice (besides, "Watch out, it's HOT!" :blink: )? Thanks!



Bloomington, IN

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I use isomalt for sugarwork, and once I've made the solid disks of sugar after cooking it on the stove and they harden, I soften them in the microwave on a silpat. I would suggest the same manner for the pearls. Start at about 30 second intervals, and keep and eye on it. The wood or 1/4" copper pipe is for the end of the pump and you put your ball of sugar on it. You can use either, and if it has a bit of sugar residue on it, you are likely to get a better seal with your sugar. For heat I use a spirit burner with fondue fuel and it works great. You also want to lightly oil whatever tools you will be using... scissors etc. For cooling, I have a hair dryer that has a cool setting, but you have to figure out how you're going to properly hold your sugar piece as well as the hairdryer... not to easy. Maybe you could try to make some sort of stand so that the dryer is in a position where you only have to turn it on and not hold it. I still have to figure that part out. As for coloring, I use gel colour and I add a drop when I'm microwaving the sugar to soften it. I knead it in with the help of the silpat. It mixes in nicely, and I don't have to worry about colors when I'm cooking the sugar.


Don't waste your time or time will waste you - Muse

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Not that I have any advice on sugar work... But, in school we used the first hair dryer (looks like a duck) shown on this page, which has a stand and is designed for pets... I've seen others use them as well for sugar work.

Pet Dryer

In the whopping 3 times I did sugar work, we used the hair dryer, lamp stand, microwave, pump and copper tube, silpats, scissors, and play-doh for making a mold for poured sugar.

Edited by SweetSide (log)
Cheryl, The Sweet Side
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Gave it a try. Defintely need a heat lamp, and the burner would be nice too. I can't say I was overly successful, but I started to get the hang of it a bit. It's fun! Thanks for the tips!

I should have also mentioned to get gloves. Not only do they help with the heat factor, but also because the shards of sugar can make your fingers raw pretty fast. I had explained in another thread how I made my sugar box. Its much more economical to make it yourself if you have access to a few tools. Glad I could help you out.

Don't waste your time or time will waste you - Muse

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First – I would suggest taking a look at this thread by Simdelish: Special Report on 3-day sugar class with Anil Rohira


This should provide you with some good conceptual and practical advice.

Second – Venuance pearls are a great way to start out – you do not have to hassle with cooking and temperature and they are pretty resilient in their reusability. I have several silicone flexipan 8” rounds – about 1/2- 3/4” deep that I use to set the pearls in and nuke them. The 30 seconds a time is good advice. It takes a little longer than you think and you do not want to get them too hot so keep checking. The flexipans are nice because you can just knead the sugar up with them in them never really have to dump it out.

I think that you will find yourself frustrated without a heat lamp - you don’t need a fancy box or anything – just pick up a heat lamp bulb and maybe a socket on a cord that you can hang over your workspace or a gooseneck lamp. Otherwise the sugar just gets unworkable too fast – getting and maintaining working temp is the real zen of sugar work – once you have sugar management down you can really accomplish a lot. But the lamp makes a big difference – although if you have a warmer for your catering business you might commandeer that – makes an outstanding sugar box.

An alcohol lamp as tweety indicated is also a real help – but not something that will cause you to suffer at all – if you have a micro torch or real torch you might want that handy. I personally prefer the gentle ever present availability of the alcohol lamp flame.

I would not recommend oiling anything

A good pair of sturdy kitchen scissors is imperative

Silpats – large – don’t see how anyone ever got by without one

I personally do not like the wooden tube for the sugar pump – I prefer the metal tubes

There have been several discussions in the past regarding sugar – so a few searches might be a good idea



Here are a couple to get you started

And yes - nice snug disposable latex gloves

I always have several boxes available and you go through quite a few in a work session

You want to avoid gloves that are too big as they will be too loose and get in the way

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I got an order for a cake with blown sugar bubbles ( a la martha), and have not done blown sugar in 15 yrs. I have the pump, silpat, and a hot bulb. I'll probably buy isomalt. Has anyone here made the bubbles before, and is there any advice you can give?

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Hardware store and craft store.

Sounds funny but I buy more tools at the hardware store than at William-Sonoma (any restaraunt supply store)

Got a torch, heat gun, and low flame candle burners are necessary. I like to use tetraflourethen from chefrubber to quick freeze some things. You can also assemble a heat lamp box for yourself from equipment at the hardware store.

For blown sugar a heat gun and torch may be too much. It may be necessary to get a hair dryer, and find some way to put it on a stand. Chefrubber sells one that is already free standing. You will also need an air pump. Somthing that draws air in from one end and pushes it out the other. This will be necessary so that you dont draw air back out of your blown piece. Check places for a "fixible syringe".

You will definately want one or more silpats, and or marble if possible.

Thats all necessary, from here on out your molds and utensils are your own creativity. Good luck.

Dean Anthony Anderson

"If all you have to eat is an egg, you had better know how to cook it properly" ~ Herve This

Pastry Chef: One If By Land Two If By Sea

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I got an order for a cake with blown sugar bubbles ( a la martha), and have not done blown sugar in 15 yrs.  I have the pump, silpat, and a hot bulb.  I'll probably buy isomalt.  Has anyone here made the bubbles before, and is there any advice you can give?

If you haven't done any sugar work in a long time - get some practice and don't wait til the last minute. Isomalt is a good idea since it is more resiliant to reworking - but then its also more expensive. Also a good idea to use isomalt on cakes just because it is more resistant to moisture and humidity in the air.

Regarding the bubbles - just give yourself plenty of time, have your cool air blower handy

I find that is good to have a dry box with dessicant at my side and I carefully place the bubbles in it and close it up as soon as I have them cooled of the pipe.

Make several sizes of bubbles from giant peral to about the size of a christmas ornament. You will probably want to make more balls that you plan on - and somehow the cake always wants more balls than you expected - so have a bunch

Give yourself plenty of time since it will take longer than you think - especially if you are out of practice

Get any other delicate work out of the way first since after blowing for a while - the tips of your fingers may be sensitive (especially if this is your first sugar work after a long break)

Cooler sugar produces better shine on the balls and makes shape management easier. Don't overblow the balls for excessive thinness since it is not a competition

Melting to attach using a sugar lamp works better than the torch - but the torch is ok if you are patient

I find that isomalt balls tend to be brittle and react to sudden intense heat (from the micro torch) by cracking so you have to just give it quick little hits - and as always you don't need as much heat as you think

It is also a good idea to warm both surfaces if attaching sugar to sugar

Make yourself a few clear 'wands' of sugar that you can melt to give yourself attachment options

Also - in spite of the obvious danger - attach the bubbles to the cake at the site so you don't lose any in transit and because it seems that people who have sugar decor on their wedding cakes always get married on oppressively humid days. Delay til the last possible moment if that is the case.

Don't forget to bring your gloves, a silpate, sugar lamp and lighting stick in your cake kit.

Edited by chefette (log)
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  • 1 month later...

I did a test run yesterday, and have some questions.

-What consistency is optimal for blowing. I tended to use it when it was just short of runny, because any cooler seemed to set too quickly.

-I'm not understanding what the spirit burner will accomplish, aside from use in the final assembly. Will it leave black carbon? I didn't have the alcohol for that (where to buy?), so I tried an oil lamp, but that left carbon.

-what is the best way to achieve a uniform thickness? I apply it to the tube by making a depression in a ball, and sticking it on, abou 1/2" down from the tip. But it tends to be much thinner on one side than where I cut.

-Because I work with it while it's very hot, I find that after cutting it off the tube, it's still too soft to set down. But if I wait too long I'm afraid it'll crack when I cut it. So what I do is cut it, and toss it around in my hand under a fan, until t holds its shape. Is there a better way?

-After each bubble, I have to put the nozzle under the lamp, so I can pry the remaining sugar off that's blocking the opening. This takes a long time, and I'm sure there's a method that's better.

Thanks again for all the invaluable advice. It has been very helpful.

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If you are serious about pursuing sugar work you really should attend at least a demo class as seeing the work done is very helpful. Alot of this is tough to describe

You are working the sugar waay too hot and soft

It is best when cooler and stiffer - though still pliable - hence the skill in getting the right environment around the sugar with the box and the lamp - you don't want it hot, you don't want it cold - you want the whole mass to be just right for the work session.

I guess the consistency you are looking for is like a very stiff modelling clay - or if you work with pastillage or doughs when they are cold and you need to knead them to make them pliable - when it is juuuust pliable

If you are using a sugar pump with a metal tube - you warm the tube tip over the spirit burner - buy the alcohol at the hardware store - it is usually in a blue can.

wrap a sliver of sugar around the warmed tube so that your ball of sugar will adhere well to that. Some people just form a ball and pop that onto the tube - I stick my thumb in the ball and start a hollow then adhere the ball to the tube.

You want to start slowly pumping the air in - just a puff then more it should be a little tough - you should doubt that it will actually work - this will give the best shine and most even gloss to the ball - as well as the best shaping

You want to keep the ball even as you gently pump more air in and use the blower to help you if you need to - this help cool areas that are warmer and would blow out more quickly - you want to have as evenly cool a lump as possible - the base is typically a bit thicker since the lump mass retains the most heat.

You want to cool the ball in front of the blower so it does not deflate or misshape at this point.

I cust the ball off the tube gently while doing this - alternatively you can use the lamp to gently warm the stem and slip the ball off or warm the base and cut

Even after that you will want to hold the ball up to the blower to continue cooling and before setting in your box

After removing the ball - I warm the tube over the spirit lamp in one hand while cooling the ball in the other, then I am able to swirl off the excess sugar and am ready to go with the sugar collar and all on the next ball.

Sugar work takes time and practice - its an exercise in patience and zen

Edited by chefette (log)
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Ohhhhhh... I have a wooden tube, but it occurs to me that a thinner metal tube might help in terms of cutting and shaping, as well as removal of hardened sugar. Thanks for that advice.

I had tried blowing the firmer sugar, and it just didn't seem to be pliable enough. I'll try it again, with a bit more patience.

It's great fun, albeit frustrating.

I'd love to take a course at Notter's but until then, I'm on my own, with a little help from my friends. :wink:

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If you need to make various size ubbles you can use solid wooden dowels as well. Way faster than blowing individual balls.

Take a small disc of sugar about 1/4" thick and slowly push a lightly oiled dowel through it forming a thin layer of sugar over the dowel, think a "sheath" of sugar. Pull the dowel out and close the bottom of the tube with our pointer finger and thumb in an "O" shape. Slide you fingers up the tube pressing the enclosed air towards the tip thereby forming a bubble. Cut off the tail to desired lengh and viola, bubbles in a jif.

You can used different size dowels for different bubbles. Rolling pin = big bubbles. Handle of a wooden spoon = small bubbles. Hope this helps.

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My pump has a wooden nozzle, so it turns out I didn't need the alcohol burner, but one I got into a groove, I found that it wasn't necessary. I also used a hairdryer on my first 30, and then realized that it wasn't necessary either.

I ended up taking the advice to work with it a bit firmer to start, and just hold it under the light when necessary. I didn't let it get too thin (not worth the risk), but instead took it off the nozzle when I could see a uniform bubble through the middle.

The isomalt is so forgiving; it allowed me to play and rework the sugar infinitely, which was a great help in the first dozen or so.

Didn't need a torch until it came time to set up, and I just melted a wand of sugar and let it drip onto each bubble. It was an effective method, and I had the whole thing set up in 15 min.

I bought the lightbox from ChefRubber, and hope to get another order like this, now that I have a new skill. It had been 20 yrs. since I had the chance to blow sugar, so I was pretty nervous.

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