What is Sugar Art?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Sugar art is a specialty within the candy and pastry making field which involves using sugar to create complex shapes, scenes, textures, and patterns. Displays of sugar art appear in a wide variety of settings, from wedding cakes to store windows, with it being especially common during the winter holiday season. Artisans at the top of their field even attend competitions to pit their skills against those of others, and the displays at these events can be quite astounding.

Sugar art is used to create designs, like flowers, on wedding cakes.
Sugar art is used to create designs, like flowers, on wedding cakes.

In order to do sugar art, people need training in working with sugar. A wide variety of techniques can be used for this art, including blown and pulled sugar, and all of these techniques require skills and practice. Sugar can be very finicky to work with, and sometimes dangerous, in the case of sugarworking techniques which involve heating sugar to high temperatures.

Bakers who work with sugar art may decorate pastries.
Bakers who work with sugar art may decorate pastries.

A skilled artisan can create a range of shapes in blown sugar, including animals and ornaments. Pulled sugar may be used to create ribbons of sugar and similar decorative items, and people may also work with sugar which has been molded into various shapes. While some artisans work with plain sugar, most use colorings, for everything from surprisingly realistic flowers to delicate blown sugar ornaments on a holiday-themed cake.

This art form is highly perishable. Sugar art will start to weaken and melt if it is exposed to moisture or high temperatures, and many sugar creations are also very delicate. The perishable nature of sugar is one of the things about sugar which appeals to some artisans, as their ephemeral creations are designed to be enjoyed for a brief period of time only.

Some people specialize in edible sugar art, such as decorations for cakes. Others may use stabilizers which are not safe to eat to make more long-lasting sculptures. Culinary schools sometimes include a display of stabilized sugar art as an end of semester project, with students working together to build a scene entirely in sugar. Candy stores may also use this art as a seasonal decoration, and small decorations are also given as gifts in some cultures.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@empanadas - It's very true. Just like everyone is saying here how difficult it is to work with sugar. If you cook sugar too long, then you run the risk of caramelizing it which can throw the entire recipe off. If you don't cook it long enough you can consider the same thing to happen. Every now and then if you are watching cake competitions, you will see someone mess up a recipe.


Is it true that if you cook sugar too long it won't "work" right? What's the big deal if you cook it a little longer or a little hotter or not hot enough?


@BelugaWhale - Sugar Art is a really impressive site to behold, but you're right in that it is very difficult to master and it's a very fragile medium. There are also international sugar art shows that you can see either online, on TV, or in person. I personally would never actually go to one because I wouldn't want to be the demise of someone's hard labor.


@win199 - Aside from everything you just mentioned, sugar is very fragile as well. Once you have it in the shape or design that you desire, you often run the risk of cracking, dropping, or breaking it. One little bump could spell total doom and disaster for your work of art. Globally, sugar art is difficult to master pretty much anywhere, but it is a very impressive sight once it's complete.


Sugar is a very difficult, very fickle medium to work with. This is probably the reason why you don't see a lot of people working with sugar on a lot of those cake making/decorating shows. There are sugar art shows, however, that are very cool indeed and I'd recommend them to pretty much anyone.

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