How to Work with a Ball Tool

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Amy: Hi, I’m Amy Noel and I’m the owner of Sugar Flower Cake Shop in New York City. I teach the online cake decorating course, “Modern Elegant Sugar Flowers.” It’s an extended version of a class I taught in Martha Stewart’s test kitchen. In this course I teach you how to create succulent Juliet roses and peonies from sugar. Plus I teach you how to arrange them on a three-tier cake, in a basket cake, and also on a mini cake. If you’re interested in perfecting your sugar flower making skills you should check that out. In this free video I’ll show you how to use one of the most common sugar flower making tools, the ball tool. A lot of beginning sugar flower makers tend to use this tool incorrectly. I’ll show you some tips and tricks for how to use it to make beautiful sugar flowers.

Let’s get started. Sugar artists use a ball tool in order to thin out the edges of their petals. It’s so that they can create realistic looking sugar flowers. When I’m thinning out the edges of my petals I use a technique in order to thin out the edges of my petals first. The technique that I use is as if I’m snapping. I’m going to pinch and roll my thumb and my first finger around the edge of my petal. This is going to thin it out so later when I use my ball tool it will be a lot easier. If I find that my fingertips are sticking to my petal I can always add a little bit of powder sugar to prevent myself from sticking.

Now, when you’re working with a ball tool one of the things we try to do with the ball tool is to create some ruffle patterns. You could just use your ball tool to just thin out your edges of your petals. Or you can use it to make your petal really really ruffled. Let me show you how you get each of those different petals and how to achieve them. A lot of beginner sugar artists sometimes think that you achieve all of this ruffling by stabbing their petal. You don’t want to work in an up and down motion. That won’t achieve all of this ruffling. Sometimes they think that you want to twist your ball tool as your working. That won’t work either. What you really want to focus on is holding your ball tool so that the center of your ball is right in line with the edge of the petal.

From there you can just trace around the outer edge of your petal. Just push down. If you push down all off of a sudden the petal will start to pop up and create some ruffles. That will thin out the edge. If we want a flower that’s really really ruffled, like our sugar peony, we can really really press down and push and I’m making small back and forth little tiny motions in order to get all of that throughout. Let me show you that again. I’m just going to push down, I press harder than I think I need to, and I’m just going back and forth, back and forth, all the way around the edge of my petal.

Now, holding my ball tool like a pencil I’m just pressing down. I’m not stabbing them. I’ve not lifted my ball tool from my foam mat at all. I’m just pushing down, pushing down, and that will create all of the ruffles that we need. Just a back and forth motion. If though we were making a different kind of flower and creating something that didn’t have as much ruffling, we could do that same snapping motion to tuck our edges and then we can use our ball tool just to thin out the edges of our petals, because some flowers just aren’t as ruffled as others. We just want something nice and thin.

When I’m working on a larger piece, a larger set of petals, I usually like to switch to a larger ball tool. Typically the size of the ball tool will determine how much ruffling there will be. When I’m working with a larger ball tool I won’t get as much ruffling as I will with one of my smaller ones, but the same principles apply where I want to line up the center of my ball tool with the edge of my petal. And I’m just working around the edge of the petal. I have larger petals, I might need to move some of the petals out of my way in order to reach them. I’m just pressing down, then I can just go back and forth in the center of the petal just to thin it out, just a little bit more. When I want to just thin the petal edge I just go back and forth and have a long motion. I don’t want to do all those back and forth like with the smaller ball tool when I don’t want it frilled but I can just gently across the petal create and thin it out just a little bit.

Just remember when you’re working with your ball tool to thin out your edges. You’re not going to stab your sugar flower. You’re not going to twist your arm, you just want a general back and forth motion and you can decide whether it’s short little strokes to make something ruffly or long sweeping strokes just to thin out the petal edge. That’s how you properly use a ball tool. For a soup to nuts course on how to make sugar flowers, berries, and leaves plus how to arrange them on different cakes please check out my online course, Modern Elegant Sugar Flowers.