PLATTSBURGH — Alan Tetreault started with an idea, and it crystallized as a new product line for his company, Global Sugar Art in Plattsburgh.
His "crystal flowers," created from gelatin, meld three different flower-making techniques.
"Flowers are made by using gelatin and water together," said Tetreault, whose crystal flowers adorned a wedding cake photographed for the cover of the August 2010 edition of Cake Central Magazine.
"You melt the gelatin and brush it on to what we call gelatin sheets, an embossed-plastic sheet. You allow those to dry, and you cut out all the different petals."
For his new cake-decorating innovation, he creates gumpaste petals slightly smaller than the gelatin-crystal petals.
"When you put them together, each petal is outlined by this clear gelatin and embedded with edible sugar gems. They're all fantasy flowers."
Tetreault worked on his mixed-media flowers for about a year.
"Gelatin flowers have been in existence a hundred years. The leaders in cake decoration are the British and Australians. Gelatin flowers probably started in England. Gumpaste flowers have been around just as long. The newest thing in cake decorating are the sugar gems made of Isomalt, a sugar derivative. It's made from real sugar. It's what they use for sugar-free candy. It has all the properties of sugar like a lollipop, but it doesn't have any calories in it. They don't melt as easy and are easier to work with than real sugar."
Take gelatin, gumpaste, sugar gems and voila: crystal flowers.
"I wanted to embed the gems in the gumpaste and have light travel through them. That's why I ended up laying them on a gelatin petal. That's clear, and the light can come through."
Tetreault grew up in Rouses Point, where he started making wedding cakes at 14.
"It was a passion. I loved it. I thought it was the neatest thing in the world, and I'm still doing it."
In his library, he has 300 cake-decorating cookbooks, some of which date back to the 1800s. He attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. For awhile, he worked as a pastry chef. With the exception of a few formal classes, he's a self-taught cake decorator. On Oct. 1, he will be judging cakes at the Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show, the largest competition of its kind in the United States.
"You get to see some amazing, amazing decorating," Tetreault said. "It will boggle your mind. I judge that show every year. I teach and demonstrate."
Back in Plattsburgh, his Global Sugar Art is the largest U.S. distributor of rolled-fondant icing. His customer base is expanding in Asia, Africa and South America. During the depths of the 2007-08 recession, the company grew 500 percent.
Open to the public, Global Sugar Art is stocked with more than 10,000 items for cake, cookie and chocolate-candy making. His products, also available online, include a Crystal Flowers Starter Set and DVD showing how to make lilies, hibiscus, filler flowers, daisies, leaf sprays and bejeweled butterflies.
Tetreault rests not on his crystal laurels. Right now, he's designing calla lilies.
"They are fantasy lilies," he said. "It doesn't look like a regular lily."
E-mail Robin Caudell at: firstname.lastname@example.org