Baking cakes at home and decorating them gives you a fantastic sense of achievement, but when you add a bit of luster dust into the equation, it takes your creations to the next level. Instead of dressing your cake in a plain white icing coat, try dusting over a thin layer of this magical powder to transform the cake into a thing of iridescent beauty. Furthermore, if your decorating skills leave something to be desired, then luster dust may come to your rescue and turn you into a cake demon!

As a keen home baker, I have tried numerous techniques for decorating cakes over the years. I have made edible flowers and tried so many piping techniques that it makes my head hurt, but the addition of this versatile decorating trick helped my decorating dreams come true. I’m not a master of the art, and you don’t need to be when you have this secret weapon at your disposal.

What Is Luster Dust?

It may prove tricky to decorate a cake and make it look good, especially when you lack confidence or experience. Most of us slap a bit of icing over the cake and hope for the best, while the more adventurous amongst us may make beautiful flowers or employ clever piping techniques. However, luster dust may prove the game-changer we all need in our store cupboards.

In its basic form, edible luster dust derives from an exceptionally fine, food-safe powder used to dust over icing to create a fabulous iridescent shimmer. Think of the product as an eye shadow for food! Plus, it comes in various fantastic colors, including gold, silver, and stunning glittery rainbow colors.

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Uses for luster dust include sprinkling on cookies and cupcakes to give a lovely sparkly finish and dusting over frosting and icing to give the surface of the cake a fabulous pearlescent coat.

What is luster dust made from?

Many types of luster dust exist in the marketplace, and not all of them prove edible. The ingredients for the miraculous powder vary from one brand to another, but commonly found ingredients include titanium dioxide, iron oxide, carmine, and mica. And some powders contain iron blue or chromium oxide.

Is Luster Dust Safe?

Different shades of luster dust contain other ingredients to achieve specific colors. Unfortunately, not all pots of luster dust list the ingredients, and if in doubt, you must contact the supplier to find out about the contents. However, if you intend the cake decorations for consumption, you must ensure you use edible luster dust as not all of them prove safe to eat.

Some varieties commonly derive from gold and silver powders, and some brands intend them for decoration only. That means you cannot eat the finished product.

One of my pet hates comes from inedible cake decorations. I refuse to use anything on my cakes or cupcakes that you cannot eat. The last thing you want is your kids or guests picking out inedible flowers or bits of icing. For me, I always choose a brand of luster dust that proves edible so that there remains no doubt to the safety of the finished product.

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Food grade

Not all luster dust proves edible. While the packaging may state it’s non-toxic, that doesn’t mean you can eat it. Just because something says it’s non-toxic doesn’t mean it’s edible. It just won’t poison you!

Luster dust that specifically comes labeled with “FDA Approved” or “food grade” generally means they prove safe for consumption. Some pots may feature a label that states, “for decorative use only,” which means you cannot eat the contents. However, products that state “not for consumption” or “for decorative use only” are ideal for use with non-edible decorations such as gum paste flowers.

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Where Can I Find Luster Dust?

When you purchase your luster dust, make sure you use a reputable source because you need to feel confident that the product remains safe to eat. Unfortunately, some online retailers may be less than honest, so take care when buying. I have made this mistake and bought cake decorating products that proved unfit for consumption.

Trusted sites, such as Amazon, sell a huge variety of luster dust in various colors. Plus, Amazon allows you to contact the supplier if you require more information about the product. So, you can buy luster dust with peace of mind.

On the other hand, in-store advisors may give you accurate information for your purchase so that you know it’s safe. Alternatively, you may contact your local bakery suppliers by phone or email to see if they stock or may order in luster dust.

Craft stores that carry the Wilton brand of cake decorating supplies carry Wilton luster, sparkle, and pearl dust. You can find the dust in small pots, and you may feel it an expensive purchase for such a small quantity. However, the dust goes an exceptionally long way and may last for many applications.

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Different Varieties

You may find this cake decorating wonder in a variety of forms to use with your home baking. When you look for luster dust, you may see it termed as highlighter dust, pearl duct, or petal dust, though essentially, they remain the same product but in different forms.

Luster dust

Luster dust comes in various colors and adds sparkle and shine to a cake and frosting. It tends to derive from an extremely fine powder that resembles eye shadow, and it looks like fine mica powder.

Highlighter dust

You use highlighter dust to add a high-sheen, metallic finish to cake decorations. Usually, the dust comes in gold and silver finishes, and you see it used on inedible cake decorations such as pre-made cake toppers. Consequently, you cannot eat most varieties of highlighter dust.

Top tip

If you want to highlight details or add painted detail, but want it edible, use edible luster dust mixed with a bit of vodka to form a paste. You may use a fine paintbrush to apply your homemade highlighter dust or use a larger brush to apply it over a bigger area.

Petal dust

Petal dust derives from strong colors that produce deep, rich colors in a matt finish. Decorators usually use petal dust in gum paste flowers to give the finished decoration a natural look. Gum-paste flowers don’t taste nice, and while they look amazing, you shouldn’t eat them. So, most petal dust proves inedible.

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Top tip

Try using edible wafer paper to make flower decorations. Wafer paper proves extremely easy to use, even for beginners, and you may achieve excellent results that you can eat. Dust the wafer paper flowers with dry luster dust in a color of your choice to create beautiful designs. Alternatively, mix the luster dust with a bit of vodka to form a smooth paste and paint details onto your wafer paper flowers.

Pearl dust

I use pearl dust to coat my Christmas cakes. It’s a lovely product that produces a fabulous pearlescent shimmer across the surface of your cake. The translucent nature of the dust means it doesn’t discolor your decorations, and it makes gorgeous pearls when dusted over little balls of icing.

Top tip

Try using fondant icing to make simple flowers and dust them with pearl powder. The results look impressive and make fabulous ideas for wedding cakes. Plus, you can make a pearl necklace for disguising the base of your cake by making lots of tiny icing balls and covering them with pearl powder. I use royal icing to stick them around the bottom of my cakes which helps cover any imperfections.

Sparkle dust

Sparkle dust does a similar job to luster dust, but the particles prove larger. It gives a slightly different texture to the finished cake.

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Top tip

Mask off parts of the cake top and use sparkle dust to create patterns that stand off the cake’s surface. Think of it as glitter and sprinkle it over cupcake toppings for a glamorous effect.

Disco dust

If you want a bold, dramatic look, try using disco dust. The grains prove larger than all other varieties, and it imparts a fantastic sparkle with a chunky look to your cakes. If you use it all over a cake, it achieves an encrusted look that really stands out and gives superb texture.

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Top tip

Try using disco dust in the center of edible flowers. The chunky nature of the dust makes a fabulous feature in the center of flowers, and you may use a little royal icing to glue the thick particles into place.

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How to Use Luster Dust

If you use molds to make candies or chocolates, try dry brushing the luster dust into the mold before filling it. The effect imparts a glorious shimmer across the finished item and looks impressive.

Do you like vodka?

Don’t mix your powders with water because it forms a sticky, unusable mess. The water dissolves the luster dust, and it won’t retain its gorgeous shimmer. However, I always seem to have the odd bottle of vodka hanging around my store cupboards, and vodka proves the ideal medium to use when you want to paint with these gorgeous powders.

Alcohol-based extracts, like lemon extract, preserve the intense colors of luster dust, and you may mix them to achieve the consistency you desire easily. However, use only a few drops of vodka at a time because it doesn’t take much to turn your powders into the paint.

Intense color

The first application of luster dust to your cake may be subtle. However, if you require a more intense effect, you can apply multiple coats to the cake. Mix your powder with vodka or lemon extract and apply it to the surface of your iced cake. Once it dries, you may apply multiple layers to your cake until you achieve the desired effect. However, it remains essential to leave each layer dry before you apply the next.

Spray and shake

If you have a food-grade airbrushing machine, you can mix the dust with alcohol and spray it across your creations. This results in a gorgeous, even finish that looks very professional.

However, you may place your homemade candies in a container with a tightly fitting lid for fast results. Sprinkle in a bit of dust, close the lid and shake it up! This results in a fabulous coating of glittery goodness without any mess.

Storage

Natural light may result in your powder’s color fading. So, store your powders in a cool place in airtight containers.

The jars in which the powder arrives usually prove sufficient for airtight storage. As long as you keep the jars in a cool dark place away from heat, you may store the luster dust indefinitely as it has no shelf-life.

Edible Alternative

If you don’t like the sound of using luster dust and its various derivatives, try using Sanding Sugar.

The grains of Sanding Sugar prove larger than powders and dust. However, the sugar imparts a glorious, natural sparkle to your cakes and frostings. And it comes in white and various colors suitable to give your creation a stunning bejeweled look.

How to apply Sanding Sugar

You may sprinkle Sanding Sugar over the surface of wet icing. Alternatively, use a thin edible gel as a glue to stick the sparkly particles into place.

Luster Dust Explored

If, like me, you like to decorate your cakes and make them look unique, then luster dust proves a game-changer. The fine, mica-like powder adds a glorious sparkle and luster to your creations and proves exceptionally versatile.

You may dust the powder over your cakes using a fine dusting brush or mix the powder with a bit of vodka to form a paint for adding detail. Alternatively, you may cut a stencil and apply the powder through the stencil to achieve remarkable patterns and effects.

Always ensure you buy edible powder unless you don’t intend the decoration for consumption. Check with the manufacturer to ensure the item proves food-safe and store it in a cool, dry, dark area. Above all, have fun! Decorating cakes is a joyful and satisfying experience, and luster dust opens up a whole new world of decorating goodness!

Do you have experience using luster dust? Why not share your experience with us by leaving a comment in the space below?

Sean Kerr lives in Cardiff, Wales, and is a published author with over 10 novels to his name so far and still counting. As well as writing his next bestseller, Sean also runs a successful jewelry-making business and sells his creations online.