How To Handle And Work With Pastillage

How To Handle And Work With Pastillage

Ok so first of all, what exactly is pastillage? Here is a nice description found from wikipedia…

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A thick sugar paste, similar to gum paste, is molded into shapes. When dried, it is hard and brittle. Made with gelatin, water and confectioner’s sugar, it hardens quickly and can be shaped for a short while by hand, and after hardening, with electric grinders, cutters, sandpaper and assorted files. (Source)

Pastillage (pronounced PAHS-tee-AHJ) can be used to make very large and complex structures. The gelatine contents causes it to dry very hard and very quickly as opposed to gum paste which stays soft and dries slowly. Because of this fast drying property, pastillage can be a very tricky material to work with so I am going to try to give you some tips to help make it a little easier to work with.

Here is our recipe for pastillage, in case you need it.

1. When mixing pastillage in a mixer, often you reach a smooth white texture before all of the icing sugar is mixed completely. So you will need to mix it for a bit longer to make sure all icing sugar at the base of the bowl is also mixed in with the gelatine. If you mix this dough by hand, place all the icing sugar in a bowl or just on the table. Make a well in the center of the icing sugar, then pour the very hot gelatine mix in the center and start mixing from the center with a wooden spoon. Once it’s cooled down a bit by mixing with some of the icing sugar in the middle, continue to mix it by hand. Be careful and ensure the gelatine has cooled down so you do not burn your hands.

2. Scrape the pastillage out of the bowl and soak the bowl immediately with water because if there is any remaining dough stuck to the bowl, it will be very difficult to clean if you let it dry.

3. While the dough is still relatively soft, divide it into small parts (approximately 200-300 grams) and store them in individual plastic bags (can be plastic sleeves) and keep all the bags in an air-tight container. This will make it easier to just grab and use in future and you won’t have to cut through hard pastillage to get a workable amount later on.

4. Keep this air-tight container in the fridge if you have to store it for more than a week. Gelatine inside the dough is protein which can get moldy if it is not dry. So parts produced from pastillage that are completely dry will not get moldy but because we stored the rest of our dough in the container while it was still soft and moist (because the water contents are still not dry), the dough in the container will eventually get moldy. If you do not wish to store your pastillage in the fridge, and prefer to keep the storage container in room temperature, you have to use a food preservative such as 202 (Potassium Sorbate) melted with the gelatine mixture. Preservatives are not recommended in today’s health conscious society so don’t use it unless you really need to. If you do, a safe ratio is half a gram of 202 for 1kg dough. So for example, our pastillage recipe has a total weight of 869g so half a gram of 202 is ok.

5. When ever you want to use pastillage, take 1 bag at a time (unless you need more than that) and heat it up (inside the bag), in the microwave oven. This is called “conditioning pastillage”. If you want to use this magic dough all the time, you have to practice this part of the process and master it. How long you need to heat the dough is an important question. Here is my formula for this.

Let’s say we have 200g. First, remove the last digit. So 200 becomes 20. Then divide 20 by 2. So we have 10. So 10 seconds in the microwave will give you a good start for a 200g portion. Keep in mind that this formula doesn’t mean that you will have perfectly conditioned pastillage every time. There are other factors. Like, what is the temperature of the pastillage before you place it in the microwave? Did it just come from the fridge? How powerful is the microwave you are using? etc. The trick here is just to heat it up in very short amounts and check it each time. Another thing…if you have previously used and heated this portion of pastilage (for example…it’s left over from a day ago), it may have lost some of its moisture contents due to evaporation. So you may need to add this “lost” water back in to compensate. So just spray some water on the pastillage and knead it in after heating.

6. Let say you remove the dough from microwave and you realize the dough is too warm. If it’s too warm, it will be in a sticky state and it will tend to stick to the table while kneading, making it a little difficult to knead properly. So take it out from bag and spray some cooking oil spray on the surface of the table or sprinkle a bit starch (don’t use icing sugar). Start kneading till the dough reaches room temperature. If you start rolling or molding or shaping while the dough still warm you will realize that the pastillage quickly develops a dry skin around the surface, and trying to cut it is almost impossible because it sticks to your knife. If you are trying to shape a figurine, cracks will appear before you are able to finish it and you will have start all over again. So make sure you have it in an optimal condition before you start using it.

7. At this stage you may want to use some shortening on the table and your hands. This will help to keep the dough from sticking on the table and your hands. If you use corn starch here, it will stop the pastillage from sticking, but it will also cause it to slip back and forwards on the table, specially when you are shaping pieces between the table surface and your hands.

With pastillage, there is often no wastage. Place all the off cuts in to the bag before they develop a skin, and you can use it again by heating it up in the microwave and mixing it all together again.

8. VERY IMPORTANT – Make it a habit of cleaning the surface of the table with wet towel followed by dry towel. Also do this with your cutting tools and modelling tools. If you are cutting a shape out of rolled pastillage (eg. using a stencil) with a pen knife, it is a good idea to clean your pen knife after every movement. If you do not do these things, there will be small chunks of pastillage that dry on the edge of your knife, on the surface of the table or even in palm of your hands. These chunks will cause problems and you won’t achieve smooth, clean results.

9. The time it takes to completely dry a piece of pastillage depends on thickness and volume. Placing the pastillage on a flat piece of corrugated cardboard is a good way to shorten the time it takes because the slightly uneven surface allows for some breathing underneath the pastillage. Large hand shaped pieces resting on a bed of starch (in a tray) is very helpful. The starch will withdraw moisture quicker and also maintain shape and form while drying. For example, if you were to mold the shape of a ball, and place it to dry on a flat tray, the perfect shape of the ball will be compromised. Drying it in a tray filled with starch will keep it exactly how you left it.

10. How you glue pastillage can vary depending on the situation and requirement. Each with its own pro’s and con’s, here is a list of gluing methods I use.

  • A brush in a cup of plain water.
  • A water spray bottle.
  • A brush in a cup with a little bit of egg white.
  • A brush in a cup with a little bit of Tylose and water (mixed).
  • White chocolate
  • Royal icing in a paping bag.

In some cases I will even use very hot liquid pastillage with a little addition of water (over melted in the microwave). If done correctly, and not moved around too much while drying for a couple of minutes, this method will hold like cement.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and you learned something from it. Don’t forget to check out our recipe for pastillage. It is the same recipe I have been using for years to successfully produce thousands of cake decorations on thousands of cakes. If you have any of your own tips regarding pastillage, feel free to leave a comment below. Thanks again!

About the Author
Serdar Yener
Chef Serdar Yener has over 40 years of experience in cake decorating. His vast international experience & artistic talent has been acknowledged by his peers both in Australia and abroad. He has competed in International competitions and been awarded "Best Pastry Artist" in Igeho, Switzerland 1987 & “Best Pastry Chef” in Singapore, Food Asia 1990. His Sugar centerpieces are displayed in museums at Champagne in France, Culinary Art Museum in Switzerland & The National Museum in Singapore. Serdar has also judged at major culinary competitions in Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and USA World Pastry Championships. After years of leading pastry operations in many international 5 star hotels in Europe and Asia, he moved to Gold Coast, Australia in 1992 and opened his family business to produced thousands of wedding and novelty cakes. In April 2014, Serdar and his son Serkan founded Yeners Way Online Cake Art Tutorials. An online cake tutorial website where he publishes detailed video cake decorating tutorials that make it possible for almost anyone to replicate his amazing creations. Since then he has connected with thousands of subscribers worldwide and is delighted to impart his knowledge of accumulated tips and tricks with the next generations of cake decorators.
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78 Comments

  • Hi Chef, Please I need your advise. I want to make a gravity swing supported by 1.60mm wire, out of pastillage and when it is dry, place a sugar figure on top of the swing. Would the swing be able to hold the weight of the sugar figure or do I have to find something else to use?
    Thanks so much for your tips.

  • Omagoodness

    Good afternoon Chef. I am making a pastillage wheelbarrow (overall dimensions are 15×40 cm including the handles. Thickness averages 5mm). I plan to use royal icing to assemble. Are there any storage considerations! Required in 2 weeks. Thank you in advance. 🇨🇦

    • Serdar Yener

      No, just protect from dust. Thanks

      • Omagoodness

        Thank you. Another question. I am having trouble getting some pieces of my wheelbarrow to stay attached. The large pieces (even with small surface areas for glue) are holding together well with royal icing. However, the legs and handles are not staying. I have used all gluing methods you mention above without success. I have experimented with the hot pastillage and water but no luck with that either. You say that it will hold like cement if done correctly. Can you give me a bit more direction here, such as how much water/pastillage to use. Obviously I’m not getting the proportions right.
        The other methods have held for 1-2 days and then fell off when the structure was touched or moved.

  • hi. my question is if you don’t have a microwave, what other options we can use to condition the pastillage?

  • Hello! Getting ready to try this today! I have been trying to make a tiara out of gum paste and finding it just too fragile, which is why I’m trying this. My question is this: How do I place it in the upright position to dry? I have been wrapping the gum paste around a round container on a sheet of wax paper, with the inside of the tiara coated in shortening so that it slides off the wax paper later. Will this method work with the pastillage? Thanks in advance!

  • Hi Chef Serdar, You have inspired me be more creative, than you. I have a few questions if you would not mind answering:
    You use spray oil for the pastillage instead of starch, is that better ? – can I use solid oil like Trex (Crisco).

    • Serdar Yener

      Hi, Adrian, there is 2 reason that I am using oil spray instead starch 1. to give to pastillage a little longer lasting surface so I can work longer. 2. with oil I have cleaner result and does not slip on table. I actually use hard fat sometimes to work with small pieces. One thing I have to warn you about oil or fat, Pastillage will turn yellowish if you keep few months on the shelf. Yes of course you can use crisco. Thanks

      • Thank you Chef, when I make royal icing I add a drop off blue which seems to make it very white. Can I do the same with the Pastillage ? I made pastillage many years ago using gum tragacanth. Do you have an opinion on the difference ?

        • Serdar Yener

          Yes, dot of blue will make a little difference with pastillage too. Titanium di oxide is actually better for the purpose. I do not have much experience with tragacanth paste to compare with pastillage . Thanks

  • Hi Serdar,

    I look forward to meeting you in Brisbane next month. I am busy making my comp peice and planned to finish in modelling chocolate and attach pastilliage feathers will this work or should I consider using fondant with pastillage mixed in where I will place feathers? I would have preferred one medium but if you advise it’s better to use fondant I can make it work as feathers will cover the fondant and the connection seam between the two mediums.
    Thanks for all of the information you provide.

    Michelle

    • Serdar Yener

      Hi, thanks for asking. Pastillage feathers in terms of strength is the best choice in my opinion because anything else gets weaker when rolled thinner. Pastillage does not give that kind of problem and you can roll as thin as you wish. Good luck.

      • I have made the feathers using your recipe they are fantastic thankyou,
        What I am wondering is what’s the best option to cover the cake modelling chocolate or fondant as the feathers need to be attached I don’t want them to fall off or the oil in the chocolate to make them soft??

        • Serdar Yener

          What ever you coat you can attach pastillage pieces with a drop of chocolate or royal icing . My recommendation pock a few cm hole with skewer at the point of touch so the glue you use also penetrate under need. Good luck

  • Bonjour Chef!
    Je ne veux poser aucune question. Je veux juste vous dire que vos connaissances m’éblouissent. je suis pâtissière et aucun des chefs que j’ai rencontré n’a vos connaissances. En tout cas aucun d’eux ne partage son savoir et ses connaissances autant que vous.
    Merci encore pour votre générosité
    Katie

    • Serdar Yener

      Je vous remercie. Je crois que l’enseignement est de se relier à une personne avec une chaîne. Vous ne pouvez pas manquer une seule sonnerie. J’ai utilisé le traducteur. J’espère que cela a du sens.

  • When attaching my pastillage dragon to my buttercream cake parts of the dragon will be in contact with the buttercream. Do I need to seal those parts with confectioners glaze or something like it so that the moisture in the buttercream does not degrade my dried pastillage figure? Thank you!

    • Serdar Yener

      We are talking about the real problem here. If I use buttercream I would do the dragon out of modelling chocolate. If I have to make pastillage dragon I would cover the cake with fondant.

  • Hi Chef Yener! Thank you for this site. I am attempting to make the piano in black. As many of the others have stated the pastillage turns crumbly after adding black coloring. I used wilton gel paste and also candy color. I was wondering if I made another batch of pastillage could I add the coloring into the gelatin mixture before adding to the mixer?

    • Serdar Yener

      Yes absoulitly it is a problem. I guess some kind of enzymes in colours if you use a lot break through the protein of the gelatin. I would do it this way: finish the parts you want to do black in white , let them dry and air brush with black color couple of layers , give 5-10 minutes time in between. That will do it right.

  • Dear chef Yener,
    During your videos you talk a lot about the right condition for pastillage. I use the microwave and your formula but sometimes its doesn’t work, especially with small amounts. With a little cooling down it will be workable again but then I don’t know how I can see the pastillage has the right consistency. I wonder, do you have tips or clues of how I should know the pastillage is right?

    Thank you in advance!

  • I am making a large stacked cookie Gingerbread Christmas tree with a carrousel in the centre(between top and bottom). I am hoping to maka the cente pole out of pastillage, about 1.5 inches in diameter and approx 12 inches long. I need a support for the gingerbread on top so was wondering if a 1/2 inch x 8 inch pastillage plate attached to the pole will be strong enough to hold about 2 lbs. of gingerbread. It will also be supported by candy sticks around the plate like in a carrousel.This is a gingerbread contest entry and I cannot use anything that is not edible.Thanks

    • Serdar Yener

      Hi Pat, I wrote an answer but I am not so sure it worked so I write again . As far as I can picture your project it should work but you have to dry the pastillage parts probably a week till they are completely rigid. Thanks

  • Good day. I have 2 questions:
    Can you use a fondant extruder with pastillage,
    or even a cookie extruder?
    I’m doing a music bar spiral around a cake,
    just touching the cake at one point. Do I build
    the one line of the music bar as a whole or
    break it up in sections?

    • Serdar Yener

      Hi,Hainley, what I understand you want to use fondant extruder to make music bar and place this lines in a spiral shape around the cake . And the lines will be individually positioned parallel.Wow, good luck to you.. I would not do that, too much for not much. I would roll the pastillage paper thin and cut flat stripes instead lines. The stripes will be 4 cm x 20 cm and dry them individually over cake rings, not on the cake. Do what you have to do with lines and notes . Piping !!! . That is it. Organize this stripes on the side of the cake to achieve the spiral shape. Do not join them too organized . Irregularity makes it abstract. Thanks

  • I want to airbrush the Stetson hat I am making. Once dry can it be handled to place on the cake, and do I need to seal it before I airbrush it?

  • hi im having problems, i saw a youtube recipe it said 16oz confect sugar, 1.5 tablespoon of Tylo and water… it comes out like play dough

    • Serdar Yener

      Hi You need combining agent to produce a paste from icing sugar (confectioner sugar). In that recipe, only tylose and water been used . Techniquewise is okay . If you don’t like the texture change the amount of water. Also, you may consider trying my recipe

  • Hi Serdar, I sent a message thanking you for the recipe for pastillage. It mixed perfectly even though I adjusted it slightly. I’ll be trying it this weekend and will post pictures. Thanks again.

  • Hi,
    I am new to your website. I recently viewed a tutorial for the fishing boat when you had your free trial. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it and yesterday I purchased 5 tutorials. I have watched 2 so far and they are fantastic. I can’t to try them. I was wondering if you could put a tutorial together that shows how to make sugar flowers ie. roses, peonies, tulips and hydranges etc.
    Thanks,
    Angela

    • Serdar Yener

      Hi Angela thanks for your compliments. Sugar flowers is in my agenda how to dissect, learn , produce cutters and making flowers . I can not give time . I am sorry.

  • Hi, chef, I made a piece of pastillage five minutes ago, it is quite soft and smooth, thank you for your recipe, I like it, but I have a question, it is smells not good, I want to increase some vanilla flavor in to the pas tillage ,is it ok to increase the flavor?

    • Serdar Yener

      I know … Because of high gelatine content. Yes absolutely you can add more flavours in the recipe. You have to use flavours which has no colour . I use white vanilla powder . You can also try essences.

  • Hi Chef Serdar , can I use the pastillage straight away or I have to let the pastillage seat in the room temperature overnight before I can use it ? Thanks x

  • what preservative do I use and how to keep Pastillage from molding

  • I am trying to color my Pastillage black like the “M” you did in the video. However it got very crumbly. I added some water and that didn’t help. I also added wet gelatin and that didn’t help. Finally started over. I would still like the letter to be black is there a special way to color the pastillage black without it getting dry and crumple?

    • Serdar Yener

      Yes I understand excessive amount of colour may turn the pastillage in to undesired texture . Good quality gel colours are good to use. You can also achieve by making the letter and few layers of air brush with half an hour in between. The only thing is you need another day.

  • Hi! Would you have a recipe for gum paste? I make a lot of flowers and I haven’t really found the best gum paste recipe. Do you also use pastillage to make flowers? Thank you!

    • Depending on the flower, we use either rolling fondant with extra icing sugar inside or pastillage. You can mix the two together to find a nice consistency. We will be posting recipes for rolling fondant and pastillage in future. Thanks

      • iI love your tutorials but it is very difficult to produce perfect results without good fondant. pleasebe kind enough to publish a recipe for fondant. I only make cakes as a hobby for family and very close friends. Thanks in advance!

        • Serdar Yener

          Dear Shirlene I do have a fondant recipe but I can assure you that it is not better than Satinice or Pettinice. Please work with one of this two for good result . If you doing figurines use gum paste of any of these brands. If I use pastillage in our tutorials for some parts you better use pastillage instead fondant for quick result. If I have better information in the future I will publish for all of you . Thanks.

  • I made the pastillage first time and it was great. However, I have just made it again, and it is sticky and spongy- can I save it??

    • Serdar Yener

      yes . what is happened , you whip too much and add too much air in to it . it turns to a mush mellow. Dont worry just wrap and keep in air tight container in the fridge . when you start using you going to heat in microwave and knead it . it will back to normal condition. thanks

  • hi, if I wanted to paint on pastillage, what do you suggest.Do I have to ‘seal’ it first(if so what with). and what do you recommend….a little vodka with gel paste??

  • Hi. I have a problem. When I colouring pastllage, especially red or black, he becomes crumby. What I’m doing wrong. Tnx

    • Serdar Yener

      You are not mentioning what kind of colour that you using . Specially for deep dark colours if you use too much colours Pastillage may loose its consistency. adding extra water will improve the texture . If it is still crumbly just little spoon of wet gelatine , microwave and knead . additional icing sugar if need it.

  • Hi There! Just wondering, how long does the dried pastillage last if stored in an air tight container? Thanks!

    • Serdar Yener

      protect from dust, moisture, heat, ants and little fingers it will last for life time. If eating no more an issue you can also use clear lacquer spray to make it sealed.

      • I made your pastillage recipe and made a couple of pieces with it just to practice. I let them dry and got hard of course. I put the pieces in an air tight container and placed the container in the basement. After three months I took a look at the pieces and they were moldy. What could have happened chef Yener? thank you in advance!

        • Serdar Yener

          If you don’t use (202)preservative 0.1 percent. 1g for 1000g dough. that’s what happened because gelatine is protein . Okay this is what you have to do. when you finish your items even they look like dry but they aren’t . keep them in room temp for a week than you store them .

    • Serdar Yener

      When pastillage completely dry You can keep in room temperature. Protect from dust, moisture and ants..If you keep in freezer or fridge it will be wet again. Thanks

  • Hi, I live in Spain and the weather is rainy and very humid. I made the 2 sides of the coach as directed and left them to dry for a day. However the wheels buckled when I put the roof on. If I used the melted pastillage glue- would it hold better then the royal icing?? Also not sure about how thick to roll the pastillage for various parts of the coach. many thanks in advance.

    • Serdar Yener

      Hi elaine i think you have a problem at the point where your wheels touching the coach body use more royal icing in that area . also you can use little cube of dry pastillage under need the coach to carry the weight

  • Hi, what consistency royal icing did you use for attaching the wheels? mine keeps breaking-now on the 3rd attempt on joining the 2 halves together!

    • Serdar Yener

      Hi Elaine I would like to help you to solve your problem. Could you please ask the same question with a little more details. are you asking about carriage sides . if so please join the wheels with little sloppy royal icing and wait for 24 hours to make the next gluing step . Make sure two sides connected with 2 cm joint. you can make royal icing sloppy with extra egg white instead water that will be better. I hope I answered your question. If not please ask again with more detail. Thank you

  • Last week I posted a problem I had with my gum paste but I just realized I never asked the question. How can you remedy to a gum paste that cracks as it dries out.?

  • Hi,
    same thing as Jocelyn happened to me; however, when water was added the mixture got all clumpy. The lumps never dissolved. I could not work with it. Any help on this would be much appreciated!

    • Serdar Yener

      posible problems
      1. If you make small recipe during short boiling evaporation may happened too much. so adding little more cold water to mixer will solve the problem.
      2 You did not bring the water gelatine glucose to boiling point.

      • thank you for your quick response. I have a question: when should I add the extra water? in the gelatine glucose mixture before it boils or after all is in the bowl? thank you so much in advance! love your tutorials 🙂

        • Serdar Yener

          Hi kleiza . When you follow the recipe and realise that the paste does not combine into your desired texture, you can add a few tablespoons of water to the mixer, one tablespoons at at time, till the right consistency is achieved. Another case if the paste becomes too dry during work, after few times reconditioning in the microwave, you can also add more water and knead it. Good luck.

  • It does, I will try it again. Thanks so much for your response.

  • I just made this and it is very dry. Did not take all of the powder sugar either. Left a LOT in the bowl. Used exact measurements and used corn syrup instead of glucose. Any suggestions as to what might have gone wrong? I was able to get about 400 grams but it definitely was on the dry side. Is there any way to save what I have?

    • Serdar Yener

      Hi Jocelyn, apologies for the delay in response. It sounds like theres not enough water. This may happen due to evaporation during the boiling stage. You can always add little more water in to the mixer when this happens. Just add as much water as needed to combine it all together. If you add too much water, the paste will be too soft to work with but it will not effect the end result. Too much water = softer, harder to work with, longer to dry. Too little water = harder, more difficult to work with, dries quicker. It’s all about finding the right balance. Hope this helps and thanks for trying 🙂

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