Have you been dying to try your hand at gum paste flowers but are unsure where/how to begin? Well, calla lilies are probably one of the easiest sugar flowers to make so they’re a great place to start! And, they look so elegant and real when they’re finished that everyone will be impressed.
Start with your favorite type of gum paste. For those seeking the easy route, your local craft store sells Wilton Ready-to-Use Gum Paste that will be fine for these flowers. There are other brands you can buy online, but I prefer to make my own using Nicholas Lodge’s recipe, which I’ve described in a previous post.
Roll the gum paste between 1/8 and 1/16-inch thick. I don’t make my calla lilies nearly as thin as I do my rose petals. Don’t worry – they’ll still look dainty and delicate. Cut a petal using a teardrop-shaped cutter.
Place the petal on a thin piece of foam and use a ball tool to lightly thin the edges. Calla lilies do not have a lot of ruffles so don’t go crazy here. To thin the edges, hold your ball tool like you hold a pencil – this will keep you from using too much force and tearing through your petal. Place the ball end 1/2 on the petal and 1/2 on the foam. Applying gentle pressure, slide down the edge of the petal. For this flower, it is better to use long strokes rather than short quick ones, which creates lots of little ruffles. Ruffle the petal from the narrow end to about 2/3 of the way to the wider end.
Wrap this petal around a cone. The easiest thing to do is use the cone-shaped cups you see at water coolers, but I’ve had the darnedest time finding those in Gainesville! To improvise, I just made some cones out of card stock. Wrap the petal around the top of the cone so that you leave a small hole at the top and one side overlaps the other. You may need to apply a little clear vanilla, alcohol, or water to “glue” the edges together.
Use your fingers to gently curl the edges of the petal upward. I like to give the point of the petal a small pinch to help keep the curls in place. Depending on the gum paste you use, you might need to repeatedly curl the edges as the petal dries. With the recipe I use, you can curl once and forget it! Anyway, let the petals dry overnight.
Meanwhile, make the center of the calla lily, which is technically called the spadix. The size of the spadix depends on the size of your calla lily petal. The general rule I use is to make my spadix about a half inch shorter than my petal. Roll yellow gum paste into a snake that is slightly tapered on one end. At the fatter end, insert a tooth pick or wire. Here, I actually used uncooked spaghetti noodles – but be careful! The spaghetti will hold mini calla lilies but it is not strong enough to hold larger ones. Once the spadix has dried, brush it with a very light coating of clear alcohol and roll it in corn meal – looks just like pollen, doesn’t it? Let it dry a bit more.
Once both the petal and the spadix are dry, color your calla lily, if desired. To color your calla lilies, I find that petal dusts work the best. My favorite brand is Crystal Colors but there are many others out there. For this calla lily, I brushed “autumn blaze” orange on the edge of the petal and gently brushed it towards the bottom. Then, I brushed “forsythia” yellow up the center of the petal. I like to overlap my colors slightly so that the shades blend nicely on the finished flower. And don’t forget to color the backs! I like the backs to have slightly subtler colors.
Then, apply a little clear alcohol (or use royal icing if you want the bond to be stronger) to the base of the spadix and insert it into the petal. Remember how you left a hole at the base of the petal? The toothpick holding the spadix should fit perfectly through that hole! Let these dry overnight again.
Next, you need to steam your flower to set the colors. I’ve seen this done in many ways: with a steam iron, with a clothes steamer, or simply over a pot of boiling water. However you choose to do it, the idea is to steam the flowers for just a few seconds. You’ll notice that this slightly melts the color powders and will really blend your colors. After you’ve steamed the flowers, they need to dry for a few minutes – and then you’re done!
FYI, I used “impatient pink” and “forsythia” yellow on the calla lilies in the sugar bridal bouquet. There are thousands of color shades out there so be creative!