About Benny Daniel

The exquisite flowers for which his awards were given have humble beginnings.

The sugar sculptor begins forming each flower from a small lump of white gum paste made from his own recipe.  Though not a gourmet taste extravaganza, the delicate flowers, exclusive of stems, are edible.

Daniel then adds a small amount of food coloring which, depending on the effect desired, he may not mix completely into the lump.  This technique, which he uses most in making petunias, gives the posy a deeper hue at the edges of its petals, just as real blooms are shaded.

For flowers to be used on wedding cakes, he blends colorings to match fabric swatches of the bride’s colors. “Almost any color can be matched to perfection. Teal and burgundy are probably the hardest colors to work with,” said Daniel.

He usually augments the principal colors on a cake with other hues that are “blended and toned to different shades of the original color to give a total effect to the finished cake.”

Using only his fingers and a small wooden dowel, Daniel transforms the lump of gum paste into a single fragile flower, such as a petunia, or into thin petals that will be joined together to form, for instance, an orchid. Very small flowers, such as forget-me-nots, may be shaped by the use of tiny cutters.

It is his skill, talent and expertise at this stage of the process that qualifies Daniel to be called a true “artist”. “The test of the maker is in the shaping of the petals. The thinner they are the better. It takes years to develop the technique of fluting and ruffling the petal edges; that shaping is what gives each flower its character,” Daniel said.

Each freshly-formed flower is placed in a deep bed of cornstarch to dry for at least 24 hours. No two sugar flowers are exactly alike, just as they occur in nature. If kept from direct contact with moisture, the blooms will last indefinitely.

“I still have the first orchids I made over 30 years ago – they’re in a bowl in my china cabinet,” Daniel said.  “They’re too thick and pretty rough, but they’re in excellent condition.”   Starting in 2000, Daniel invented a unique recipe using white chocolate as a base for making roses.  He now creates phenomenally realistic roses from this medium.

It may not be nice to fool Mother Nature, but Daniel’s artistry results in blooms that may be deceiving.

Expert Background

  • In 1967, while serving as pastry chef for Café Promenade in Denver, Colorado, Daniel was introduced to gum paste flower making by Esther Murphy, a pastry expert who wrote for “Bakers’ Weekly” magazine.
  • Daniel returned to his hometown in 1968 to work as a pastry chef at Wichita Falls Country Club. Then, in 1969, he was hired as pastry chef by Hyatt Hotel in Dallas.
  • Family illness brought Daniel back to Wichita Falls later that same year. In 1970, he bought Johnson’s Bakery at Brook and Ninth Street from Leroy Johnson. He owned and operated Daniel’s Bakery for 34 years.
© 2009 Masterpiece Cakes by Benny Daniel
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