Gum paste is an edible substance used to form embellishments to decorate cakes or other desserts. Unlike fondant, gum paste can be rolled very thin, making it perfect to create delicate designs, such as flower petals. The addition of the ingredient, tylose powder, gives the gum paste its pliability. Occasionally, if the paste has set out for too long, it becomes too firm and needs to be softened so you are able to work with it easier. If you purchase gum paste that is extremely hard, to the point of not bending, take it back in exchange for a new package.
Remove the gum paste from the packaging. If the paste has been in the refrigerator, allow it to cool to room temperature before working with it. Using your bare hands, knead the paste like you would dough. Push the paste in with your fingers, fold it over and work it into itself, making it warm from the touch of your hands.
Add the gum paste to the microwave if simply kneading with your hands does not soften it enough for you to begin working with it. Place it in a microwave safe glass bowl and only heat for five seconds at a time to avoid overheating or burning the paste. Continue to microwave in five second increments until you reach the desired softness. This should be used as a last resort if hand kneading does not work.
Roll the gum paste out onto the countertop once it is pliable enough to work with. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top of your countertop to keep the paste from sticking to your surface. Using a rolling pin, spread the paste out evenly and thinly so that you can cut your desired shapes out of it to be formed and painted.
Amanda Long has been freelance writing since 2010. Specializing in technology, crafts and business practices, her articles appear on eHow and Answerbag. Long has also been published in user-training manuals. Long holds a Bachelor of Science in marketing and business management from Northwest Missouri State University.