Introduction to Kanzashi for Cake Decorating

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By Julie Askew

What is Kanzashi?

So what is Kanzashi? Well to put it simply, it’s an inspirational Japanese art form which uses silk ribbons to make petal shapes. These shapes are then combined to create stylised flowers which are used for hair ornaments (imagine here a Geisha in full dress) and all kinds of decorative work.

I’ve judged amazing exhibition work from very creative Japanese and Korean competitors who have taken these fabric skills and turned them into sugar art and created amazing wedding and celebration cakes. At first they look so complex you wonder just how these works of art are made, but when I looked closely (perk of being a judge) they are actually quite simple and require very little equipment, just time and patience!


  • non-stick rolling board
  • small palette knife (CelCakes)
  • dresden, dogbone, ball tools
  • board to dry pieces on
  • firm foam pad (flower pad)
  • floppy plastic mat or thick plastic bag (for placing on top of paste to prevent it drying out).
  • sugar glue & brush
  • craft knife
  • square, round and oval cutters
  • stamens
  • 75:25 modelling paste (flower paste and sugarpaste mixed)
  • paste colours and dust of choice
  • lustre dust with a  high sheen


Basic Petal Shape   

Colour modelling paste a light colour of choice (strong colours tend to make the finished flower look heavy).

Roll paste out very thinly (almost see through) and cut out a square using a cutter. Fold the square from corner to corner to form a triangle shape, being careful not to squash the fold. Fold the sides down to the point. Lift the shape up and pinch underneath, then trim the excess away. This is the traditional way to make Kanzashi petals. A finer version of this petal is made by cutting the square in half to form two triangles and using one at a time to make the shape as described.

Round Petal               

Roll out paste and cut out a circle with a round cutter. Gently ball tool across the centre (where the fold will be) to thin the paste slightly. Fold in half, with the fold away from you. Fold the centre upwards and crease in the sides, at the same time bring the side tips into the base. Turn the petal over and trim away the excess with scissors.

Trailing Petal 


Cut a square in half diagonally. Ball tool the edges to thin them. Fold the side tips parallel with the top tip but not touching. Shape and trim as before.

Eye Petal 

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Cut a white square and a coloured square out of thin paste. Cut each square into triangles. Place a white triangle on a coloured one (don’t glue). Pinch in half. Then coil up the left hand piece inwards to the crease to form the eye, and wrap the remaining paste around the eye. This takes practice to get all the sections at the same level.


These are made with a semi-circle of paste. With the curve away from you, make a fold (mountain for card makers) upwards in the centre and pleat each side. Pinch at the bottom and trim away the excess paste. Fan out the shape.

Heart Petal     

Cut a square into two triangles. Fold as for a basic petal but widen the top more. Turn the piece over and use the veining end of a dresden tool to indent the top (this forms the heart shape). Pinch underneath, recheck shape and trim away excess paste.

Cone Shaped Petal 


Cut out a square, treat this as a diamond shape. Roll two sides into the centre and attach the seam with sugar glue. Pleat the base and trim away the excess paste. Alternatively start with a triangle to make a smaller cone. The tip can be pinched into a point.


Cut Away Petal

Fold the triangle ends up to a point (looks a bit like a shawl). Flatten the sides and trim away the side edges. Lift up the centre opening and trim a ‘V’ from the back at the top.


Cut out disc shapes of paste and allow to dry. These are to put the individual petals on to form a flower. Glue (use gunge, soften paste with water until it’s tacky and gungy). The number of petals per flower vary with the style of petal. Insert stamens into a tiny ball of paste or add a tiny button of paste in the flower centre to finish the flower off. For wired petals make a double disc and insert a ski-stick piece of stiff wire between the discs.

Finishing Touches

When the flowers are dry dust with lustre dusts to give a finer finish, this is when the petals really come to life, you can add light touches of shading before lustring the petals. The lustre sheen makes the petals look finer than they really are.

Kanzashi Paste Embroidery


As an added touch to a cake you can add this easy form of embroidery. Using left over paste from the flowers makes the cake design flow naturally which matches the Kanzashi flowers. Working freehand alternatively lightly scribe a pattern on the board/cake sides. Attach (work on a piece at a time small balls/sausages of paste with sugar glue. Use the wide end of a dresden tool to draw out each piece to create petals/leaves in a similar way to brush embroidery. Colour with lustre dusts and an edible food colour pen.

Examples of Kanzashi Work from Julie Askew

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Examples of Kanzashi from the BSG Telford Exhibition

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(Please contact us if this is your work)


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