See that bow on top of that cake? Guess what. It's completely edible. And I'm going to teach you how to make it!
It doesn’t actually taste like much of anything, but it won’t detract from the taste of the cake either, if you decide to slice right on through it. (Which would probably be pretty tough to do.) I have tried to add sugar to the mixture but it never worked out correctly, so if you figure out how to give this bow a taste, please let me know!
Bows aren’t the only thing you can make with this method either! (Flowers and butterflies would look gorgeous too, no?) There’s another cool thing about it too! You can use the scraps from your project to make your own home-made edible glitter for all your other pretty desserts! To do that, just take the clippings that you’d normally throw away after you finished the project and cut them into tiny pieces using scissors or tiny paper punches. When I held my clippings next to the edible glitter I bought, I couldn’t tell the difference!
You’ll have to plan a little ahead of time if you want the bow or the glitter to be ready for that cake you made because it takes about twelve hours for it to completely dry, plus the assembly time but when people see the cake topper you made, it'll make the time seem like a small investment.
Ideally, you should practice making the bows before you need to put one on a cake, just to get the hang of it. Making them is a little tricky at first but once you get used to the way the gelatin works and feels, it'll get much easier.
The bows will last for a long time once they're dry as long as you keep them in a closed container, away from moisture and heat. So if you practice making them and end up with a masterpiece, you can keep it around until you need it.
Step 1: Ingredients
Ok, here’s what you need:
Unflavored gelatin (like Knox)
A clean paint brush
A non-stick surface, like a pattern board for fondant. (I used Duff Goldman’s Texture Tiles, which were at Michaels for $5)
Take one packet of the gelatin (about one tablespoon) and put it in a small bowl with 2 ½ tablespoons of water. Give it enough time to soak up the water completely, about five minutes.
After that’s done, put it in the microwave for about five seconds. Gelatin melts at really low temperatures, so that’s all you’ll need to liquefy it.
Let it cool for 5 to 10 minutes. When it cools to the right point, a layer of… well, scum, will form on the top. (Image 1.) Take a toothpick or stick of some kind and lift that layer off. If it won’t stay on the stick, let it cool for a few more minutes and try again. It should come off mostly in one piece. Discard that part. Once that’s done, it should look like the second picture.
Step 2: Painting the Gelatin
By this time, it will probably be too thick to do anything with, so throw it back in the microwave for another five seconds. When it comes out, add the food coloring and mix it around.
To make the pink/red in the bow, I only put one drop of regular liquid food coloring in there. If you want it to be more intense, you could always add more or use gel food coloring.
(You can also paint the dried gelatin afterward, with a mixture of high proof vodka and food coloring, so if it dries a lighter color than you anticipated, it’s not a total loss but it's not ideal. If you do paint it, the gelatin will warp when it gets wet. Make sure you have two non stick surfaces you can sandwich it between, and put a book or something on top until it dries again.)
Once you have it the right color, dip your paint brush in the gelatin and paint it onto the non-stick surface, like in the picture. If you can, try to make the middle of the board a little thinner than the edges. Ideally, the whole thing will be painted incredibly thin but in the very least, the middle should be as thin as you can get it while keeping the gelatin in one long gooey rectangle.
I made mine pretty thin, stretching the gelatin to cover two and a half boards, which worked out perfectly for the bow, which ended up measuring about five inches across. If you want the bow to be to smaller, you can trim the gelatin down after it's dried. If you want a bigger bow, you'll have to find a bigger surface for it to dry on.
My original surface had a simple pattern on it, so it came off pretty easily. Be careful with patterns that are deeper. They’ll cause the gelatin to pool in certain spots, which will make it pretty difficult to peel off the board without cracking it.
Now you wait. It will begin to thicken up pretty quickly, but it takes about 12 hours to fully dry. You’ll know it’s dry because you’ll hear it popping off the board because it shrinks a little as it dries. The first time this happened, I walked all over the house trying to figure out what that crackling noise was. I figured it out about a half an hour into the search. Scared the crap out of me.
Step 3: Cut the Strips
Now that it’s all dry (and weirdly plastic like), slowly pull it off the board if it's still stuck in some places. It’s amazingly strong, so you don’t have to worry too much about ripping or cracking it but be gentle just in case some parts are weaker than the others.
Take out a pair of clean scissors (you could even use fancy craft scissors with zig zags or other designs as long as they're nice and sharp. My set of 10 scissors for $10 weren't up to the task because they weren't sharp enough) and clean up the edges so it’s a nice rectangle.
Then, cut the rectangles into strips. Mine were about half an inch thick and as long as the board they were on, minus me cleaning up the edges.
Step 4: Forming the Loops
This is where it gets a little tricky. Take the strip and bend it in half, trying not to crease it anywhere. You kind of have to fidget with it to get it right. Don't force any thick spots because they'll break before they bend. (This is why the middle needed to be thin.)
Once it looks good, warm up some more of the gelatin (if you have some left over. If you don’t, make a tiny bit more. It can stay clear) and dip the opposite end of your paint brush in it, and put a dot of the gelatin where you want the edges of the bow to attach. Just pretend it’s Elmer’s glue. You might have to hold it there for a little while until it stays stuck, or you could use paper clips like I did.
While those are drying, trim a little bit off the ends of the strips you have left, and make smaller loops. And then do it again with even smaller loops. You don't have to go much smaller, but having loops the same length as the first ones would look a little funny in the middle of the bow.
Step 5: Form the Bow
While you wait for those to dry, you can begin assembling the larger ones, if you feel they’re stable enough. Use some of the gelatin to glue the edges together, forming a star with the loops like in the image.
Make sure you glue everything together on top of your non-stick surface, or you’ll end up chiseling gelatin off your table. (Not that I’d know first hand or anything…)
Once that’s stable, add in the smaller ones on top of the first row, but staggered so they fit between the original loops by adding a little gelatin to the edge of the glued end or where ever you can. The more spots they're "glued" to, the more stable your bow will be. It doesn't have to be sturdy enough to stand on but keeping it stable is good.
You kind of have to mess around with it to see what looks best. Keep adding the loops until you feel like it’s nice and full. If you're having trouble, take a look at a regular bow that people put on gifts to see how the loops are arranged.
Also, make sure to give yourself time (enough for the "glue" to start acting like glue) between each major addition, so it doesn’t all fall apart on you.
Let it dry overnight. When it’s totally dry, you’d be surprised how durable it is! If it seems less than sturdy, add some gelatin to the spots that seem weak, kind of like you're using hot glue.
Now you can put it on top of a cake! I used a couple dabs of corn syrup to make it stick.
Now sit back and bask in the ooo's and ahhh's that comes out of everyone's faces when they see what you made!