Last winter, I shared a tutorial for edible snow globe domes made of gelatin. The effect was neat, and the process simple. However, this year, I wanted to take the *pizazz* up a notch! Today, I’ll share with you how to use isomalt sugar to create a striking, delicate sugar glass dome to top your edible snow globe or other elegant, wintery creations.
Post Updated 12/2022 to add Video Tutorial
How To Make A Sugar Glass Dome From Isomalt
In this tutorial, we’ll use isomalt sugar to create an ultra-clear glass-like dome. Isomalt is a sugar substitute, used often in sugar-free hard candies. Its stable properties make it the perfect medium for crafting fully edible gems, jewels, and ice, among other things! I also love that isomalt is easily re-used—simply place broken shards (like a shattered dome attempt) back into your silicone cup and remelt to use again!
Before you begin, make sure to read through the directions and tips sections once in full. This way, you won’t miss any steps, and your sugar glass domes will have the best chance to turn out perfectly!
I will warn you now, the process can be a bit finicky since the sugar glass is so, so thin. Just try your best, get a feel for the motions, and don’t fret if your first dome doesn’t turn out. I broke probably 8 or 9 out of 10 domes trying to get the perfect shape when I first started learning this process.
And, here’s a warning you can’t miss: use extreme caution when working with hot isomalt!
Pay extremely careful attention while heating and working with isomalt, as it can get very, very hot. Here are a few important isomalt reminders and tips:
- Always use heat protection, including heat-proof gloves, a thick, long-sleeved shirt, and even eye goggles (if you don’t have any, glasses/sunglasses can work in a pinch!)
- Work in a quiet, neat environment, away from any children or pets.
- Carefully watch for any stray drips, and only pour isomalt from one “spout” of the container in which you melt it (otherwise, you can mistakenly pick the container up and place your finger on a hot drip of sugar!)
- Keep a bowl of ice water nearby in case you happen to burn yourself.
Now that that’s out of the way, peruse the materials list to make sure you have everything you need, then scroll down for the full tutorial video and instructions!
I’ve included links (affiliate) to the items I use for your easy shopping reference!
- Clear isomalt sugar nibs
- Narrow silicone spatula
- Microwave-safe silicone cup
- Silicone baking mat
- Plastic wrap (I use the Kirkland Stretch-Tite, but any brand will do)
- Glass bowl
- Cake ring or cookie cutters in roughly the same diameter as you wish your final dome to have
- Heat-proof gloves
- Shortening (could probably also use cooking spray or butter)
- Small offset spatula
Isomalt Sugar Glass Dome — Tutorial
First things first, prep your workstation. Place the glass bowl on top of the silicone baking mat. Then, cover the glass bowl with two layers of plastic, wrapping the edges down around the bowl with additional pieces of plastic after each layer. Make sure to get a tight seal; you’ll apply some pressure to the plastic later on, so secure it well.
PRO TIP: Be careful not to cut or knick your plastic as you’re covering the bowl — for this method to work, you need an airtight seal.
Next, melt your isomalt. Place about a half-cup of isomalt nibs in the silicone cup, and heat in thirty-second intervals until it’s bubbling and hot, stirring in between. Then, let it cool until it thickens to a syrupy consistency. If you pour the isomalt on the plastic while it’s too hot, it’ll melt right through (ask me how I know this lol). While letting the isomalt cool, grease the inside of your cake ring/cookie cutter.
Once the isomalt is cooled, yet still viscous (aim for a thickness of honey), it will barely be pourable. Spoon or pour a small amount onto the center of the plastic. The amount you need will depend on the size of your final dome, but, as a reference, my final tarts were 4 inches in diameter, I used a 4-inch cookie cutter ring, and a dollop of isomalt about the size of a large, silver dollar coin.
PRO TIP: The final “dome” will be very thin and delicate, so you don’t need as much isomalt as you might think.
Immediately place the ring centered around the isomalt, with the dull side down so as not to tear the plastic. Very slowly and carefully apply pressure down around the ring.
The heat of the isomalt causes the air in the bowl to expand (hi, science!), and it will be forced upward, causing the isomalt to swell into a dome shape.
PRO TIP: The sugar can and likely will touch your cookie cutter in some spots, but try not to let it fully connect. Keep the dome slightly smaller than the ring.
Once you’re happy with the size of your dome, hold the ring carefully in place. Let the sugar cool for a minute or two until it just hardens. You’ll know it’s solid when it holds its shape as you slowly release the pressure on the ring. However, don’t hold the dome here too long; you need the edges of the ring to still feel warm, otherwise, it will be very difficult to remove the ring from the sugar without cracking.
Then, carefully push and pull the plastic down and away from the isomalt. It should come off relatively easily. Just be patient and use an extremely gentle hand as you lift the dome off of the plastic. Then, with your offset spatula, very gently pry any sugar from the edges of the ring. If your sugar is still pliable enough, it will just bend ever so gently and easily release.
Your isomalt sugar glass dome can sit at room temperature for a few days if you need to make them ahead of time. However, in very humid climates the isomalt may lose its shine and become a bit tacky if left out too long. Also, don’t store them in the refrigerator.
Isomalt Sugar Glass Dome — Tips
- You should be able to remove the sugar glass dome without ripping the plastic—if so, you can use the same plastic to create another dome. The plastic will be indented/stretched out, which actually helps form a better sphere the second or third time around—it’s almost as if you create a mold out of the plastic, guiding the sugar more evenly around.
- Your first few attempts probably won’t turn out perfectly—and that’s okay. The process is kind of intuitive, one of those things you just need to “get the feel” for.
- Don’t throw away domes that aren’t up to your standards—place the cooled isomalt pieces back into the silicone cup and remelt the sugar to use it again! (This also goes for hardened isomalt in your cup or on your spatula.) However, when melting warm isomalt, or smaller quantities, use less time than at first. Judge accordingly, but 10- or 20-second increments seem better. The only time I don’t recommend reusing the isomalt is if/when it melts through the plastic—in that case, let the plastic/isomalt mixture cool in your bowl and discard it later.
- Be careful with shards! Though this material is only sugar, it feels like glass and can cut through your skin!
Garnish & Enjoy!
I added my sugar glass domes to classic vanilla custard tarts. Then, I used whipped cream, fondant, and a little bit of buttercream to create a whimsical wintery scene. What will you create?
These domes would be so cute on top of a cake or cupcakes, too! Get creative with the process and have fun! If you want to make some snowglobe tarts like mine, check out my Lemon Lavender Meringue Tart with Thyme Shortcrust Pastry recipe. Though the measurements make one large tart, the recipe works with 5-6 mini tart pans, too!
And, don’t forget to check out my Chocolate Brandy Gelatin Snowglobe cupcakes here! My favorite part is the Eggnog German buttercream, but if you don’t like eggnog, you can just use heavy cream instead! YUM!
Please feel free to leave me a comment below with any questions or feedback! I’d love to know if you want to try this one, or if you think the snowglobe cupcakes are cuter!
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Until next time,
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