Lotus Blossom Floating Centerpiece: Wafer Paper Molding, Part 3

Category: Techniques & Tips

This final installment of Wafer Paper Molding combines the skills developed in Part 1 and 2 into a floating centerpiece. Advanced wafer paper flower forming with cocoa butter will take full advantage of wafer paper’s strength, lightness and ability to hold complex forms.

Materials List

  • Wafer Paper
  • Freeze Spray
  • Colored Cocoa Butter (Alabaster and Pearl White, Princess Pink, Green, Lime, Chocolate Brown, Aureolin Yellow, Forest, Black, Gold, Red. Plain.)
  • Colorants: Red, White. Gel: Green, Blue. Powder: Blue Pearl.
  • Miscellaneous: Water, Vegetable Oil, Fondant, Royal Icing, Food Lacquer and Plain Dragees

Equipment List

  • Caviar Kit
  • Silicone Molds, Raised Half -Tulip Small and Large
  • Glass Dish
  • Miscellaneous: Sculpting Tools, Plastic Tweezers, Armature Wire, Clay

For this final project, wafer paper sculpting is paired with molecular gastronomy caviar, sculpting and cocoa butter painting. Cocoa butter painting will be the focus of the next how-to series, with in-depth information on the painting techniques introduced here.

The centerpiece is a water sculpture. Because the focus is a lotus flower, foreground and background elements as well as their placement and size are considered during the design sketch.

Reverse painting is a classic glass painting technique that lends itself to creating the floating fish and kanji script of the design. Cocoa butter is used to paint the fish in successive layers. Working from the INSIDE of the glass and backwards, final details are brush painted, then scales, then base colors, then a final backing layer of white. Cocoa butter on glass is water-proof and will be stable so long as environmental temperatures are considered.

A touch of whimsy is introduced by the appearance of a frog climbing out of the centerpiece. The frog is sculpted with fondant over a wire armature, which allows for extra thin limbs and increased strength. While sculpting, drape the rough build onto the centerpiece container to ensure a good fit. Eyes and skin texture are made with plain dragees pushed into the fondant. Refine details and finish with royal icing.

The frog must completely dry. A coating of food lacquer helps prime and seal the paint surface. Fingertips are used to rub on colored cocoa butter, using the warmth of the hand to meld colors and create luminosity. Dark green accents details, contours and define joints. Green, yellow and white are rubbed on in layers to build a realistic color. Use paint brushes for precision details and to paint the eyes.

Cocoa butter painted pieces can be made ahead and stored prior to assembly.

Part 1 and 2 of this series introduced all the techniques used to make the lotus flower petals and lily pad. Tulip silicone mold halves are a good starting shape for lotus petals. Instead of covering the entire mold with wafer paper, a custom shape is cut to suit the lotus.

Each lotus petal base is airbrushed front and back with dark pink. This pink base will reinforce the petal’s details and create the illusion of opacity for what would be a thicker part of the petal in real life.

The stamens and lily pad are very rich, solid colors. It would take successive layers of airbrush to build such a dense color. This heavy a coloring by airbrush could accumulate too much moisture on the wafer paper and soften it. Because of this, heavily pigmented water is used to mold the wafer paper. Note: pre-colored wafer paper takes longer to dry and can be a little harder to work with.

Stamens are made in pointed strips on a compound curve mold half. These strips are water-glued onto a half-dome of wafer paper that was previously molded on something like the back of a tablespoon.

The lily pad is formed on to a custom sculpted base. Torn chunks of wafer paper are placed onto the form because a large sheet of paper is too hard to work with. One layer with overlapping edges is best. Too many layers and the paper will crack and tear as it dries.

 In order to survive for the duration of the event, any wafer paper surface that will be placed in the showpiece liquid must be completely coated with no less than two layers of cocoa butter, three-plus layers for support elements like the flower base and lily pad. Moisture will eventually wick into unpainted gaps and swell the wafer paper. Insufficient coverage will result in eventual element failure.

The lotus blossom has a waxy finish that will be emulated by dipping each airbrushed petal into a translucent pink cocoa butter. Plain cocoa butter is tinted with Princess Pink in order to create a vibrant, but subtle, finished petal. Allow the excess cocoa butter to drip off of the base so that the bottom of the petal is the thickest part. A cocoa butter dipped petal can be quickly solidified with a hit of freeze spray on both sides.

Sort petals by shape and size. Have extra petals on hand so that there are plenty of fit options when assembly starts. Assembly will be from the center outward.

Dip a petal’s base in cocoa butter and place onto the stamen cluster. Use freeze spray to “tack weld” the leaf into place. Use a small paintbrush to apply more cocoa butter followed by freeze spray to reinforce the seam as necessary.

Translucent and opaque “gravel” is made using a caviar kit. This simple to use kit is used to make edible balls of color. Precise measuring is required for the ingredients so a digital scale is recommended. Making the caviar is a short and straightforward process.

An edible caviar “batter” is mixed first and can include flavorings, colorants and in this example, blue pearl powder for an iridescent finish. The centerpiece used both the 96 tip dispenser and a large caviar syringe. “Batter” is drawn up into the dispenser or syringe and allowed to drip into a prepared “bath” that sets the droplets on contact. The longer the droplets are allowed to be in the bath, the firmer the balls. Different size balls can be made by experimenting with the base “batter” recipe and by the size of the tip used to drip. Syringes are best for thicker formulations and larger balls. The 96-tip dispenser is much faster for production, but the balls will not be as large as that of the jumbo syringe.

The balls are made the day of final assembly of the centerpiece.
Centerpiece assembly is very quick. Caviar is poured into the glass base and cool blue-tinted water is added till the painted fish are completely covered. Finally, the lily pad and flower are floated and joined by the mascot frog.