Decorating with sugar sheets is a blast, and you're in for a seriously exciting adventure if this is your first time. Edible sheets of paper let you run wild with your decorating ideas, creating lots of different shapes and designs and working all kinds of cake magic. (Plus, they're totally easy to master!)
You'll see two different types of sugar sheets out there: long and skinny sheets that are designed for use as cake borders, and ones that look like patterned sheets of paper—which you can cut into shapes with food-safe shears or punches.
First, let's walk through some basic tips for working with sugar sheets, then we'll talk about a few of the zillions of fun things you can do with them.
Storing Sugar Sheets
Why are we starting with storage tips? Because sugar sheets are delicate and highly sensitive to heat, cold and moisture—so it's important to make sure the sheets you buy are still flexible and in great shape when you're ready to use them.
You'll notice that the sheets are attached to a clear backing (sort of like stickers or labels), and come in resealable packaging. Make sure you only remove the backing from the portion you're planning to use right away, since the remainder will stay in much better shape if you keep the original backing on.
After you've peeled off the part of the sheet that you want to use, put the unused portion back into the resealable package right away. Don't let it sit out while you work. Press out any excess air from the package, and close it using the built-in seal. Never keep sheets with different designs in the same bag, since they might bleed into one another. Store your sheets in a cool, dry place—but don't refrigerate or freeze the unused portions since that can dry them out.
Prepping Your Sugar Sheets
Here's how to get your sugar sheets and your cake ready to go.
1. Plan Your Design
You'll need a plan before you start decorating, so you don't end up wasting your sugar sheets. Map out the elements you want on your cake, including borders, single shapes or toppers.
2. Frost Your Cake
The frosting is important, because sugar sheets need something slightly tacky to stick to. A cake freshly frosted with buttercream is ideal, but you can adhere sugar sheets on the firm surface of a crusting buttercream or fondant -topped cake, if you use a little gel icing or royal icing as "glue." Use a white or light colored icing in that case, to make sure it doesn't show through. You can also lightly mist your cake with water to help the sugar sheets stick. You'll also need a fairly flat surface to stick the sugar sheets on, so get your fondant or buttercream as smooth as possible first!
3. Get the Sugar Sheet Ready
Now that you've frosted your cake, gently remove the sugar sheet from its packaging. Cut off the amount of sheet you think you'll need, and put the rest back in the package. Now, cut or punch out the designs that you'd like on your cake—and you're ready to go.
Decorating with Sugar Sheets
How to Create a Border
Sugar sheets that are especially designed for borders can just be attached to your cake along the perimeter. Work slowly to make sure you're applying the sugar sheet evenly. You may even find that it's easier to apply the sheet if you leave the backing on as you go, then remove it only when you're ready to smooth the sugar sheet onto the cake. Once the sheet is stuck on there, you can run an offset spatula along the edge to gently flatten it.
How to Attach Shapes to a Cake
This is easy: Just cut out (or punch) the shapes you'd like to use, and adhere them on top of your cake or along the sides—anywhere you want them. (Always make sure you remove the backing after you cut out your shapes.) Now gently press the shapes in place, and make sure the sugar sheets have actually adhered to the frosting. Don't press too hard or you'll leave a dent in the frosting. You want a smooth, seamless look. If you need to, you can use a small spatula to flatten out any rough edges.
How to Make Cupcake Toppers
Sugar sheets work just as beautifully on cupcakes! Start by cutting out a circle about the same size as the circumference of your cupcake. Next, ice the cupcake with buttercream, and make sure the top and sides are smooth. (You can dip the sides in sprinkles too if you want.) Now, stick the circle-shaped cutout on top of the cupcake, and gently press it into the icing. If your cutout is slightly larger than the iced area, gently press on it to spread the icing to the exact size of the cutout.
Salvaging Dried-Out Sugar Sheets
Are your sheets cracking? That means they've dried out, but never fear! You may still be able to salvage them. Try this fix: Brush a little (just a little!) bit of water on the shiny side of the sheets—the side that you'd adhere to the icing. Now let the sheets sit for about 15 minutes before you cut them. This might just bring them back to life. But if the sheets are still cracking after you do that, you may need to bite the bullet and buy new ones.
Freezing or Refrigerating Cakes with Sugar Sheet Decorations
If you've decorated your cake or cupcakes with sugar sheets, you can safely refrigerate or freeze them. But since quick changes in temperature or humidity can make the decorations wilt or ripple, you'll need to be extra careful. If you've chilled your sugar-sheet-covered desserts, give them plenty of time to slowly reach room temperature in a cool, dry place before you serve them. That will guarantee your cakes and cupcakes will come out looking perfect, and ready to show off your gorgeous sugar sheet creations!