Wafer paper is but one of many mediums in the wide world of cake decorating. Its distinctive look brings a rustic elegance to rolled rose flowers, adds a modern twist when layered with torn edges, and can create amazing 3D effects when cut and shaped in just the right way.
I had never used wafer paper before and so decided to set out on a little journey to learn more about it, and what I found was an endless wealth of possibilities. A great starting point was Wafer Paper Cakes by Stevie Auble (the queen of wafer paper!), which I highly recommend.
So what exactly IS wafer paper? It's mostly potato starch, dried out and flattened into an 8 1/2" x 11" sheet. It's totally edible but doesn't have much flavor. Historically speaking, wafer paper has been used in dessert preparation for centuries, all the way back to medieval times, and in recent years it's probably most well known for being used to make nougat. Wafer paper also comes in different "grades" or thicknesses; for these flowers I used the thinnest available (grade 0) but it also comes as thick as card stock which makes it very versatile. And, not only do the wafer paper flowers make a statement but you can make them in advance and store them in a cool, dry place for up to several weeks.
Back to the fun stuff. While I haven't experimented with all of the different wafer paper styles yet, I have tried what I think to be a pretty easy yet impactful look: the rolled rose.
How can you make rolled roses out of wafer paper? Colored sheets of wafer paper are first cut into squares. Each individual square is then cut into a wavy spiral, brushed with piping gel, and rolled onto itself to create the most charming little flower you've ever seen.
You can purchase pre-colored wafer paper sheets, or color them yourself with edible oil-based paints or dry petal dust. For my most recent project, I opted for the dust. Brushing dry petal dust onto the smooth side of the wafer paper gives the sheet a really lovely watercolor effect. When you roll the roses together, the color becomes more opaque and rich (thanks in part to the piping gel holding it all together).
The wafer paper also has two sides, one smooth and the other rough. Color goes on the smooth side, and piping gel goes on the rough side that way, when you roll it onto itself, the smooth colorful side is what you see. The finished flower is then pressed into a small gumpaste disc that acts as a backing and holds the whole thing together.
You can watch a short Hyperlapse video of me cutting and rolling a set of the wafer paper roses here. I apologize in advance for the weird angry bird face I'm making! I was deep in concentration and wasn't paying attention to the crazy nostril-flaring, chin-squishing, stink-eye expression you can see in this fine piece of cinema. BUT you do get a good overview of the rolled rose process. I promise to remedy the awkward facial expressions in future videos!!
I really loved making this cake, not just because it was for a dear friend's daughter, but because I got to try something new! I'll definitely make more rolled wafer paper roses for cakes in the future. Here are some detailed shots of the Disney-inspired cake below!
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