Monday, July 16, 2012

Sugarplate Hellebore Subtletie

For our recent Midwinter Coronation, I was asked to make a subtletie with a hellbore (Christmas rose)  theme.

Hellebores image from

I decided to make the flowers and leaves out of sugarplate and the base and supplementary leaves out of marzipan.

I used a bowl to make a base of silver foil which I covered with tinted marzipan to create a 'knoll'.

The plate I used as a mould

The foil base for the knoll

I tinted some marzipan green and rolled it to lay over the foil base. I added extra marzipan leaves to cover the sides.

The marzipan knoll drying
I made the flowers and main leaves out of sugarplate. There are many period recipes available in books on the internet; I avoid ones which contain egg white because the sugarplate is not cooked. I use a mix of superfine sugar, lemon juice, gum dragon or gum tragacanth and rosewater. It tastes a lot like Easter egg candy.

I originally moulded my leaves and flowers by hand, but they were very irregular so I changed to a cutter.

Some leaves and flowers drying flat on a plate

I let some of the leaves and flowers dry in an egg carton to give them a more natural shape

I used green lustre dust to tint the inside of the flowers. In period, parsley juice was used as a green colouring agent, but it does not taste very nice, so I used a commercial colour.

Flowers drying on a bed of sugar

Next, I 'glued' yellow non-pareils one by one to the centre of the flowers. I used white icing as 'glue' and applied them individually with a toothpick.

I was really delighted with how they turned out. 

I left them to dry. A couple of days later, I noticed that the icing 'glue' had 'melted' the lustre dust and the yellow on the non-pareils. I was VERY disappointed.

The 'melted' flowers

Non-pareils drying - minus the lustre dust.

I had to do some cosmetic repairs with new non-pareils and lustre dust to make the flowers look better. Then I began the tricky process of putting the subtletie together.

The dry base ready for flowers

The first flowers are placed

The flowers and leaves are arranged and glued

The subtletie drying

The subtletie had to be covered and transported to the event site. I was worried about damage in transit because the site was up in hills and the subtletie had to survive very winding roads. It made it to the event safely, although a few non-pareils did fall off in transit and one flower cracked.

The completed subtletie ready to be presented to High Table.


  1. I think that turned out brilliantly! I've never tried subtleties... my skills lay much further from the kitchen. Well done!

  2. Thankyou! This one tested my patience with many things going wrong, from the icing glue ruining flowers, to the sugarplate not drying and flowers cracking, but it turned out well in the end (and was yummy!)