Sugar pearls can offer the finishing touch to turn a plain frosted cake into an elegant masterpiece. They can be applied directly to fresh buttercream frosting, hardened buttercream frosting and fondant-covered cakes. You can simply press them into fresh buttercream frosting, which acts as a glue as it dries, but hardened frosting and fondant cakes require an edible glue to hold them on the cake. Edible pearls are often made of hardened fondant, or a combination of ingredients including sugars, starches, syrup and dextrose. They come in a range of colors, sometimes with a shiny pearl finish.
Make small indentations in the cake with a small fondant ball tool or the tip of a paintbrush to mark the location for each pearl. The indentations also help hold the pearls in place.
Place your choice of edible glue in a wide shallow bowl or plate. For example, you can add water to a small ball of gumpaste a few drops at a time, blending the water to thin the gumpaste from dough to edible glue. Other edible glue options include tylose glue and thick royal icing. With tylose powder, add water a few drops at a time until you achieve a glue-like consistency. Royal icing is made by mixing water with powdered sugar and meringue powder to a stiff consistency.
Pick up the first pearl with a pair of bent-tip tweezers, squeezing the tweezers firmly enough to hold the pearl but lightly enough to avoid crushing it. Grasp the upper two-thirds of the pearl, leaving the bottom third untouched.
Dip the pearl into the edible glue. You don't need to completely cover the bottom third of the pearl; a small drop of glue is sufficient.
Press the pearl gently against the cake inside the indentation. Small pearls should stick right away, but larger pearls might need to be held in position for about a minute until the glue sets, especially if applied to the sides of a cake. Release the tweezers. Repeat this process with the remaining pearls.
Pearls are much easier to place on the horizontal surface of a cake. You can also apply them to the sides, though it might take longer to ensure they are set.
Keep the edible glue covered except for when in use to prevent it from drying.
Pearls are applied to cakes with fresh buttercream frosting in much the same way, except there is no need to make an indentation or use edible glue. Simply pick up the pearls with tweezers and press them in the fresh, wet frosting.
Obtain a set of bent-tip tweezers to store and use with cake decorating supplies, keeping them separate from tweezers for medical or cosmetic use.