Gum paste can be best described as malleable sugar dough that can be used to make bows, flowers, ribbons and anything that requires more detail. It can be rolled very thin to make rose petals for example and it will dry and go hard very quickly if making thin shapes. This is great since you can have your birthday cake designs ready well in advance and store them in airtight containers (away from moisture and heat!). This is how the professionals design stunningly detailed flowers! Remember gum paste can be very brittle, so be careful!
The question now is fondant or gum paste? They can both be used for different purposes. Fondant is great to use as a covering for your cake and to mould those creative characters (like fairies!). Gum paste is more versatile and is useful for creating finer structures like flowers. Even though gum paste is technically edible, it’s not the most pleasant tasting (so I would choose fondant over gum paste in this respect).
It’s a matter of trial and error and you can even have 50/50 mixes of fondant and gum paste to create the perfect mixture for your requirements. You can get ready made gum paste or fondant at cake decorating stores (or visit my store here). There are some tools that are required when dealing with gum paste or fondant. Check them out here to create stunning birthday cake designs!
Below is part 1 of a series of videos showing you how to make gum paste flowers!