The Connecticut Cake Competition in Hartford hosted two days of classes from top decorators. In his class, B. Keith Ryder introduced students to the delicate art of pulled sugar, and offered these tips:

  • Remember that hot sugar likes to stick to three things: metal, other sugar and skin.
  • Be sure you're wearing suitable gloves; Ryder prefers using nitrile rather than latex.  
  • Warm sugar in the microwave in 10 second increments.
  • When warming multiple colors, put them in individual silicone cupcake cups. They're microwave safe, and the colors won't run into each other.
  • Don't place the sugar directly on the table - the heat will distribute unevenly.

 You'll need the following equipment for the proper sugar pulling technique:

  • Stovetop pan - for cooking the sugar.
  • Candy thermometer - used during the sugar cooking process.
  • Warming box - to warm and hold sugar at the proper temperature/consistency for pulling.
  • Spirit burner - to warm/melt pieces for attachment (use denatured alcohol as fuel).
  • Gloves - not only protect your hands, but also keep fingerprints off the sugar.
  • Cotton glove liners - for additional protection.
  • Dowels - for forming loops and tendrils.
  • Leaf veiners - for creating leaves.

In his class, Ryder used makeshift warming boxes from PVC pipe, but he has recently worked with Cake Safe to design a state-of-the-art warming box. You can visit to see the custom-designed warming box. Or, if you want to put one together at home, Ryder says, be sure to use a 250-watt bulb and keep the base from touching the table.

Watch for more pulled sugar tips in upcoming Design of the Times e-newsletters!