To create the flames for some bonfire-themed cupcakes I’ve been working on, I wanted a glimmering, transparent look, so I quickly settled on sugar glass to carry out the design.
I normally don’t recommend recipes, since I mess around with them all the time and figure most folks have some reliable source or approach of their own to execute a specific culinary plan, but I’ve had some good success with the first of the lollipop recipes listed HERE. The ingredients are simple and the instructions pretty straightforward and reliable.
It’s worth noting that this recipe does deliver sugar glass that has a decidedly golden hue. If I were really stuck on the idea of having a dead clear glass, I would probably use Isomalt instead (or research and fiddle with more candy recipes, though I’d probably be too lazy for that).
Designing & Creating a Mold
Trying to make each, individual tongue of flame sounded a little too detailed and masochistic for what I was trying to accomplish, so I opted to take the saner route and fashion the foil into troughs that I could then break up by hand into what I hoped to be charmingly rustic and individualized flame shapes. I spritzed the entire thing with a non-stick cooking spray as a “mold release agent”, as they say in sculpture. I’m not sure how necessary that was, but it made me feel better – if not more oily – at least.
If I wanted more rigor, I would build a food-grade silicone mold, which works very well for reproducing nicely-detailed designs in sugar or chocolate. I discarded the idea in this case because I figured that with the investment (and then finding a place to store it) you want to make sure you either 1) will really enjoy that sort of thing (or it’s truly important to you), 2) will be using that design again, or 3) you’re making enough money off it to afford a one-off mold.
Setting up for Success
I picked a steep-sided pot to contain any splatter. This was a good thing when it came to adding the food coloring at the end: it fizzed in a potentially distressing way, but only for a moment and it stayed very contained due to the taller pot.
I tried, also, to plan my colors strategically. Going for a mix of red and orange flames gave me the opportunity to use only one batch because I could first mix the red, pour that into half the mold, and then add yellow to make orange and finish things up.
I use hot plate for these things because ceramic cooktops like My Precious (er, my regular, five-burner induction range) all carry ominous warnings about them being able to survive pretty much anything but… melted sugar. I got this hot plate on Woot for cheap when I was seeing if I liked using an induction cooktop before taking the plunge. It did a noble service, so I don’t mind putting it in harm’s way for my intermittent sugar experiments and I’m glad to see it still serving a purpose.