It’s one of the worst feelings when you’re making a cake. You’ve rolled out your sugarpaste, held your breath and covered your cake and… there’s a tear! Panic sets in and you are faced with one of two options: tear the sugarpaste off, throw it in the bin and never pick up a rolling pin again (how many times have I felt like that, ha!) or, take a deep breath and fix it. Why does it happen?
here are a number of reasons I’ve found over the years that can cause ripping and tearing in your sugarpaste. The most common of which is simply that the suparpaste hasn't been kneaded enough. Dry and hard sugarpaste is more likely to rip and tear. You need to knead! Knead it for a few minutes until it becomes soft and pliable. I find the outside temperature and humidity plays a part in how long to knead for. For example, in the winter I have to knead for a lot longer than I do in the summer. If your sugarpaste is basically a block of ice, you can pop it in the microwave on 10 second bursts to help it along. Be careful though as sugar gets very hot very quickly. (If you have a particularly powerful microwave, I would suggest 5 second bursts). Dry sugarpaste that has had the air get to it is the worst! If you’re storing an open pack of sugarpaste to use in the future, I recommend putting it into a sealable sandwich bag and then into a tupperware container. Once the air gets to it and it has dried out, it can be very hard to salvage. Similarly with out of date sugarpaste – by the time it reaches its use by date it usually goes quite hard, it becomes hard to knead and will likely crack and tear. Another reason I have found is if the sugarpaste is too soft! I’m aware this now sounds like a contradiction to my first reason, but stick with me. Sugarpaste can be quite temperamental and if the paste is too soft, due to extreme heat in the summer, or if there has been too much liquid added to the sugarpaste through colouring or flavouring, it can be too soft and therefore it won't hold its own weight, causing it to rip or tear. To prevent this, you can add small amounts of tylo/CMC until the consistency feels a bit tougher. In terms of colour, I recommend to use concentrated paste colours as opposed to liquid colours for this very reason, as you don’t need to use as much, therefore you won't be changing the consistency of the sugarpaste. I also buy certain pastes; black, red, dark blue and dark green, already coloured for ease. Too much buttercream underneath the sugarpaste can also be a reason for tearing. This is due to the buttercream using the sugarpaste to soften. You only need a thin buttercream layer for a crumb coat and one that is quite dense in texture. It's cracking! Ok, so what do we do if it’s started to crack? It depends on how deep the crack is but we want to stop it in its tracks before it becomes a tear. If you find your sugarpaste is cracking around the edge of your cake (the most common place for cracks) you can, nine times out of ten, get rid of this by smoothing the sugarpaste, either with your hands or a smoother. The cracks are the sugarpaste separating, so if we use our hands or a tool to essentially push the sugarpaste back together it will usually solve the problem. Work in circular motions with your palm or smoother until the cracks lessen and vanish. If it’s gone further and you do have a bit of a tear, you need to work quickly to join it back together. Firstly, see if you can gently bring the two pieces of sugarpaste back together by pushing at either side (try not to use your fingers as it can make matters worse by poking holes accidentally). Once you have the two pieces of sugarpaste back together, use the previous method to smooth gently in circular motions to lessen the crack. If there’s a line visible where you've joined it, you can always cover it with a well-placed decoration. It's torn in two and there's no salvaging it! If the above methods haven’t worked or if you have a full blown hole in your sugarpaste, don’t panic! You can patch it up. Roll out the same colour of sugarpaste and cut out a shape that resembles the hole. Place this into the gap and gently smooth it into place with your hands and/or a smoother. There may be a faint line visible once patched up but again, a carefully placed decoration solves most cake decorating problems!