For a few years I was ‘crazy baker girl’ obsessed with making and decorating all sorts of desserts. Gradually, I pretty much quit baking… why, I don’t even remember. Maybe because my blood sugar was borderline high, maybe because the desserts I like to make are mostly unhealthy, who knows…
After my niece visited last month and we decorated cupcakes, some of the itch to bake returned. Apparently big round colorful sprinkles with disgusting amounts of food dye will cause this. Ok, probably not the cause, but they were pretty and it got me thinking about decorating again. Anyway… you don’t care about all of this – so let’s get on with it – below is a tutorial on how to make EDIBLE AUTUMN LEAVES! (I’m ashamed to admit that this time around I used a box mix for the cupcakes themselves; thus, you will not be finding an actual cupcake recipe here. Frosting, now that’s another story – I’ve got a great one for you).
How to make your own gumpaste autumn leaves:
You will need the following:
- a jar of gumpaste mix (you can find it in the cake decorating section of your favorite craft store), or you could choose to use marshmallow fondant (recipes for it are easy to come by on the internet) if you don’t mind a slightly thicker leaf.
- plastic rolling pin (or you can use a regular one or a wine bottle or something of the sort wrapped with press ‘n seal or plastic wrap).
- A leaf cookie cutter (I used an Ateco plunger cutter I bought on Amazon.com which embosses the veins, but a regular cookie cutter is fine)
- aluminum foil
- food coloring (either the typical kind, or gel paste, or petal dust powder… I haven’t tried natural colorants with this yet, but let me know if you do!!)
- inexpensive new soft paintbrushes (you want them to be new since this is for an edible item) – they make special brushes you can find with cake decorating supplies, or just buy a few soft craft brushes.
- a clean paint palette (you can buy one for a dollar at a craft store by the painting supplies) or little paper cups, etc.
- alcohol or extract (ie vodka or an extract such as lemon or almond – note: the extracts will leave a bit of flavor in the leaves)
How to make the leaves:
- Mix your gumpaste following the instructions on the jar (or make your marshmallow fondant).
- Take a small piece of your gumpaste or fondant and roll it into a ball (about 1.5 inhes). Using your rolling pin, roll onto a smooth surface that is lightly greased with shortening. Flip and rotate each time you roll. Roll it out so it is very thin, but not so thin you can see through it or it breaks apart when moved. The marshmallow fondant may be slightly more difficult to roll as thinly – try to get it to about half the thickness of a sugar cookie perhaps… or a thickness that won’t look silly for a leaf.
- Cut leaves using your cookie cutter. If you don’t have the kind with a plunger that will emboss the leaf veins, you will have a tiny bit more work to do.
- To make veins (method 1): Grab a piece of thin foam (they sell little pieces of shaping foam with cake decorating supplies – like the one purple one shown in the photo above, or you could likely use a piece of foam you have sitting around – or even one or two soft paper towels folded up to form a surface with a bit of give. You’ll also need a tool to create the veins (once again, they sell veining tools, but you could use a palette knife, a butter knife, or something with a narrow edge that is not overly sharp). Set one of your cut leaves on the foam, and gently impress/draw veins onto your leaf with your tool. Be sure not to press too hard – you don’t want your tool to cut through the gumpaste or fondant.
- To make veins (method 2): Find a NON-poisonous leaf from a houseplant or outdoors. Make sure it is one that has a good set of raised veins on it. Set the real leaf with the bottom of the leaf facing up. Place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the leaf so that the leaf does not come into contact with your edible leaf. Now place your edible leaf on top of the real leaf, aligning the center vein lines. Rub gently in a circular motion (or roll with pin very gently) so that the veins will be imprinted onto your edible leaf.
- Optional step: if your leaf seems to be too thick on the edges, you may thin the leaf edges. This can be done by using a special ball tool, or something that has a smooth round tip on it (for example, I found a letter opener at home that had a ball on the tip). Using the ball, gently smooth along the outside border of your leaf, thinning the edge as you go. Do not flatten it so much that it cannot be picked up.
- Crinkle your tinfoil and set all of your leaves on it to dry. The purpose of this is to give you an uneven surface so that your leaves will look as though they have curled as autumn leaves naturally do. You may carefully adjust the foil under each leaf so that they are positioned as you wish. If you’d rather leave your leaves flat, simply set them on uncrinkled foil to dry. It is best to let them dry overnight, though I will admit – I only let mine sit for about 4 hours before I painted them (which led to a few broken parts).
Now, the fun part! Painting your leaves:
- Pour a small amount of each color onto your palette (I had red and yellow on hand, and made orange by mixing the two).
- Add tiny drops of alcohol or extract to each color. If you are using powder, you’ll need a bit more, if using gel you’ll only need a couple drops, if using the standard liquid, you’ll need a few drops as well. Mix well with a toothpick or brush.
- Paint a thin coat of whatever color you’d like (you don’t want to saturate the leaf) onto your leaf and then dab and blend one or two other colors, particularly around the tips and grooves of the leaf . Make sure your color is thin enough so that you can easily get it to fill in your vein lines. Trial and error is the best way to figure out how to paint these. Looking at real fall leaves may also help. Depending on how much paint you use, these will need to dry for a few hours.
- Gently press the leaves onto your frosted cupcake or other baked good and enjoy!
Did you think I forgot about the frosting recipe? Heck no – that’s the best part!! Click HERE if you’d like to see the recipe I modified (it’s a great blog with tons of recipes!)
Vanilla Frosting Recipe: (this recipe is Lactose-Free)
- 1 stick (8 Tbsp) margarine (I use Fleischmann’s unsalted), softened
- 8 Tbsp. shortening (I use half a stick of plain Crisco)
- 2.5 Tbsp vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 5 1/4 cups powdered sugar (UPDATE: I have since reduced the amount I prefer to around 4 cups – just depends on how sweet you want it – start tasting around 3.5 cups!)
- 2-3 Tbsp milk (I have successfully used vanilla almond or soy milk, and plain oat milk)
Beat margarine, shortening and vanilla extract until creamy (if you use Crisco, make sure to beat long enough so that there are no little lumps). Add salt and then mix in 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time until well combined. Add 1 Tbsp of milk at a time, until you reach desired consistency. *This is great with cinnamon – try adding about 1 tsp or so.
P.S. Be on the lookout – I’ve got plans for apple pie galore later this week!