If you think about all the interesting crafts you can do with paper, i.e. quilling and scrap booking, and that most are easy enough for anyone to do, knowing you can do simple things like this with an edible medium to decorate a cake or other dessert puts makes doing so easy enough for the inexperienced person. The rash of tv reality shows that has swept stations like Food Network and TLC has created an increased interest in cake decorating, but most of the techniques demonstrated require years of practice to master. Using edible paper, even someone with no prior cake decorating experience can execute a professional looking cake.
Edible Paper Uses
Edible paper is actually an icing sheet. The icing is rolled out thin like paper. There are some varieties that are really thin and actually do rip easily. The heavier variety is called premium icing sheets and they are more flexible to bend around the curves of a cake. Icing sheets are sold in letter, legal and pre-cut sheets offering multiple cut-outs of the most popular picture frame sizes. White icing sheets are commonly used to print with food coloring, creating designs that can be applied to a cake or turning your photos into something edible.
Icing sheets also come in a wide variety of colors. The colors are not typically used for printing, but cake decorators cut them into different shapes to apply them to the cake. You can take a punch found at any craft store and punch out snowflakes, hearts and decorative borders which are adhered to the cake with a bit of moisture, i.e. piping gel. These colored sheets are also used with electronic cutting machines to cut designs with precision. The electronic cutting machine can be programmed to print out happy birthday or any design programmed into the cartridge. If a design is to be repeated all around the cake, the cake decorator just inserts the icing sheet on a mat into the cutter, programs the design, pushes a button and instantly cuts out 20 of the same design in a few minutes, something that would take hours to do by hand.
Attaching Decorations to the Cake
I find that piping gel works best to stick the icing sheet to a fondant cake. Buttercream, when it’s still soft, doesn’t need anything else to stick. If you use a crusting buttercream, you can lightly spritz the surface with water. The piping gel can just be brushed directly onto the fondant.
If you’re covering the sides of the cake, cut the icing sheet to the height of the cake and line the straight edge of the icing sheet up with the bottom of the cake. If the top isn’t perfectly straight, you can trim it with scissors. Butt the next cut strip up to the point where you left off. You can also finish off the edge of the icing sheet with a border which will hide any imperfections. The icing sheet will curve around the cake, but folding it in half will make it crack.
If you can use scissors and squeeze punches, there are unlimited design possibilities with edible icing paper.