Time for the second in my ten part series, this week I'm talking about the modern and artistic cake decorating technique: wafer paper.
If you are wondering what wafer paper is, think back to your childhood – did you ever use one of those boxed cupcake kits including little white discs printed with your favourite children's character as a decoration? Well chances are...they were wafer paper (sometimes called rice paper).
Until relatively recently (I'm talking within the last couple of years) I wasn't aware that wafer paper could be used in cake decorating in any other way than those little cupcake emblems. Most likely because it was a material my mum never used in her cake decorating, and I had grown up learning about sugar flowers. Oh what a new and exciting world I opened up for my cake designs, however, when I discovered the truth. There is so much that can be achieved with wafer paper.
SOME OF MY FAVOURITE EXAMPLES:
FLOWERS AND LEAVES. From peonies to stephanotis, and from eucalyptus to olive leaves – there are so many different blooms and greenery to be created with wafer paper. Due to their very lightweight nature, flowers and leaves made from wafer paper make for wonderful arrangements on a cake design as they attach to icing very easily and without the risk of pulling or damaging the cake.
If left 'raw' the petals or leaves can have an almost translucent appearance, which works well for some flower and leaf varieties, and for striking or minimalist designs. Alternatively some painting techniques create a soft, almost chalk like, texture – which is my personal preference when creating more realistic wafer flowers and leaves for a modern, artistic and nature-inspired wedding or celebration cake. Wafer paper flowers and leaves can be paired with many other decorating techniques, in much the same way as Sugar Flowers.
ABSTRACT FLORALS. Botanical wedding and celebration cakes are a style focused way to express a nature-inspired personality, and more and more I'm seeing designs which concentrate less on the factual accuracy of a flower or leaf and more on the overall shape, texture, and feel. With this technique it's less about what the flower is supposed to be replicating, and more about what it is supposed to be representing. For example a delicate and slightly ruffled, simple, five-petalled wafer paper floral element, with no stamen or centre detail, could be used to create the feel of romance on an artistic cake – without the need for it to factually represent any particular flower. Alternatively, combine abstract wafer florals with a touch of metallic for a gorgeously style focused and creative design.
This is an area of wafer paper I am only just beginning to experiment with, and certainly something I've only just touched the surface with in terms of possibilities. I can't wait to bring abstract wafer florals further into my designs, as I find new ways to use the technique.
WHERE TO START?
If you are a beginner to wafer paper and want to know where to start – the easiest thing to create (in my opinion) would be some simple leaves. You can start as basic as simply cutting out single leaf shapes from some white wafer paper, perhaps to use in addition to some sugar flowers or as a feature on their own. You can then progress by practising colouring techniques, before wiring them into a little sprig/twig.
To create wafer paper flowers your best bet is to find some simple video or photographed tutorials online (or source a specialist book, of where there are a few) and then patiently practice, as it can take time to get the hang of using the paper. Judging how wet or damp to make the wafer paper for the desired result is both an experimental game and something you learn with experience. Simple shaped flowers, that don't require too much manipulation of the petals for good effect – such as ranunculus, might be a good one for beginners.
Abstract florals on the face of it are the easiest wafer paper technique – as there are no rules and anything goes. The reason I don't suggest starting here, however, is because although it's hard to go completely wrong, it's not easy to get it pleasingly right. It can be difficult to understand how to balance the techniques within a cake design and create something modern and style focused rather than just messy.
My best piece of advice for wafer paper is to have fun experimenting, and practice – a lot. Once you've played around and discovered methods that work for you, creating the feel you are after, then you will find you can take your cake decorating to another level.