After creating some semi-realistic water lily flowers, buds and leaves I also wanted to have dragonflies that I thought would appear (hopefully) lifelike. I had no problem deciding on how to form the body and head of these dragonflies because they would be made out of gumpaste and painted with luster dust. (To see more pictures of this cake please visit: Gumpaste Water Lilies & Dragonflies. However, the wings were a whole different matter as that I wanted them to be: transparent and shiny, edible and hopefully something that would be equally as long-lasting as gumpaste. So, I turned to my favorite source, the Internet, for guidance and the one thing that I found that I might be able to use for wings was gelatin.
It turns out there are two ways to make wings using a gelatin mixture with water: dipping wire loops into it or painting it onto plastic veining sheets. I opted for the “veining sheet method” as the effect looked more natural to me.
With that decision out of the way I hoped to find a tutorial on the Internet specifically for creating dragonfly wings. Unfortunately, one does not exist, so I settled for looking for ones for butterfly wings. One that I especially liked was on The Cindy’s Confections Blog. She had a lot of helpful hints, especially if you are interested in coloring the gelatin for your wings. I opted not to color my wings because I thought my dragonfly wings would look a little more natural without any added coloring. FYI: your veining sheet will come with additional instructions.
Gumpasting Tips for Dragonfly Wings
As I had hoped, the gelatin wings were the perfect choice for my dragonflies and below are some (okay, many) things I learned when attempting to make them which I thought I would pass along to you.
Since these wings are so small and the veiner is clear I suggest you work in place with real good lighting (like a window with bright morning light). I also found placing the veiner sheet on top of a white piece of paper helps you to distinguish the wings’ outline in the veiner a little more easily. The times I tried to paint my wings without enough lighting I ended up with poorly formed outer edges with a couple of small voids (empty areas) as well.
Practice and perseverance! These wings are tiny, so they are a lot harder to master making than those of the larger butterfly wings (I know because I tried doing them both). So, plan accordingly and be prepared to make quite a few duds in the beginning.
It seems to me (but I could be wrong) that the liquefied gelatin shrinks slightly as it dries, so painting slightly over the outer edges might be a good thing. However, that means you then have to cut off any of the excess. To do this neatly you will need a real good pair of craft scissors and, again, bright light, because you will need to get up close and personal to trim these tiny wings.
I never did get the hang of using a paint brush to apply my gelatin onto the veiner. That is when I decided to try using an old standby for applying the glue: a trusty, pointed, wooden toothpick. That little point, when held at a 45° angle, made it so much easier to apply. Not to mention that cleanup was a breeze not having to get any of the nasty solidified gelatin out of the brush’s bristles. Now all I have to do is throw away the toothpick when I am finished with the veining session.
If you are looking for nice, clear wings that means you will “not” want any bubbles in the gelatin mixture! On my first attempt I had quite a few itty-bitty bubbles (sigh!). I suspect maybe I got carried away in my initial stirring. So, stir the solution slowly and do not dip your paint brush (if you choose to use one) too vigorously into the gelatin.
While painting it may (okay it will) start to thicken up again as it cools. If this happens nuke it ever so briefly (only a nanosecond in the microwave should do the trick). If it should become too hot let it cool slightly. I found I could prolong my painting session by placing my mixture on a heating pad set to “high”, but unfortunately I still had to zap it at times.
The recipes I saw on the Internet (and the instruction sheet) call for way too much gelatin for making dragonfly wings. Since I was only going to make a couple of sets (along with some practice ones) I decide that using half the recipe would be a more appropriate quantity.
My veining sheet allowed me to make 6 sets at a time of the larger wings, so only a very miniscule amount of the gelatin was needed. That meant there was quite a bit left over and instead of making a batch the next day, I decided to see if I could reuse my mixture. I ended up cutting out a circle of parchment paper the size of which would completely cover the top of the gelatin, placing it directly on the mixture in the bowl. For good measure I then covered the bowl with cling wrap and placed it in the refrigerator. The next day when I was ready to make additional wings I popped the now solidified gelatin back into the microwave for only a second or two until it liquefied and then painted (okay tooth-picked) more into the veiner. I found an added bonus to letting the bowl of gelatin solidify overnight and that was my bubbles had disappeared from the day before (Nice!). I am happy to report I was able to continue with this use-again method until I finally had my four (just about) lifelike pairs of wings.
If you are in need of a lot of wings may I suggest purchasing a second veining sheet since in the scope of things they are not that expensive and they will really speed up the time it takes to produce more wings.
Coloring Gelatin Dragonfly Wings
After trying black, brown and blue edible food pens to define the wing’s veins and outer edges I ended up using the holly ivy green colored Rainbow Dust Edible Food Pen adding two decorative spots with a black pen. I really like this veining effect because it is the perfect amount of color since you can see the wing’s delicate lines but the markers do not overpower its transparency. Also, this particular edible marker has two different size tips (fine tip: 0.5mm and thick tip: 2.5mm) which comes in very handy when you are trying to color a smaller set of wings.
After reading all of my gumpasting tips and attempting (hopefully successfully) to make some wings, you will no doubt discover that creating these intricate little wings is a labor of love. For me they were totally worth the time and effort because I felt they added so much character to my dragonflies. I hope you too will want to use some gelatin dragonfly wings for one of your future projects.