August 19, 2017

What is Gum Tragacanth?

When demonstrating I am often asked to explain the difference between the gums we cake decorators use. When making modeling paste I prefer to use gum tragacanth rather than its synthetic substitute CMC basically because gum tragacanth gives me a firmer paste and I find it easier to work with.

The proportions I use in the UK are 1tsp to 250g sugarpaste. Knead the gum into your sugarpaste and leave overnight to take effect (you’ll be able to start feeling the difference after a couple of hours)

The following information is from Wikipedia and confirms what I have always believed:

“Tragacanth is a natural gum obtained from the dried sap of several species of Middle Eastern legumes of the genus Astragalus¬† including….. Astragalus tragacanthus. Some of these species are known collectively under the common names “goat’s thorn” and “locoweed”. The gum is sometimes called “shiraz gum, “gum elect” or “gum dragon”. The name derives from tragos and akantha, which means in Greek “goat” and “thorn”, respectively.

Iran is the biggest producer of the best quality of this gum.

Gum tragacanth is a viscous, odorless, tasteless, water-soluble mixture of polysaccharides obtained from sap which is drained from the root of the plant and dried. The gum also seeps from the plant in twisted ribbons or flakes which can also be powdered.

Gum tragacanth is less common in products than other gums, such as gum arabic or guar gum, largely because most tragacanth is grown in Middle Eastern countries which have shaky trade relations with countries where the gum is to be used. Commercial cultivation of tragacanth plants has generally not proved economically worthwhile in the west, since other gums can be used for similar purposes.”

CMC or Carboxymethyl cellulose, E466, Tylose – all the same thing

“Is synthesized by the alkali catalyzed reaction of cellulose with chloroacetic acid”

The beauty of using CMC in cake decorating is that it is more or less instant, so great for last minute requirements and class situations, however as stated above I do prefer to work with the real thing!!

Whilst at the Australian cake decorators seminar in Sydney a couple of weeks ago I learnt of a third product that is used in Australia. It is called ‘clear gel’ or ‘clear set gel’. It is basically Agar Agar a seaweed derivative and is used in much the same way as the above. I have been given a small packet to try, so I’ll let you know how I get on!!


  1. Lucinda Cusack says:

    When making gum paste from sugar paste at what stage do you add colour? At the same time as kneading in the gum tragacanth or CMC or the next day after leaving for a over night? Many thanks.

  2. Hi Lucinda
    I find it easier to colour the paste before adding the gum, however if your sugarpaste is sticky you may find it easier to colour after you have added the gum – experiment and see how you get on.
    Hope this helps

  3. Hi Lindy,
    been using recipes from your books and i love them, however im having a bit of trouble with modeling paste, i make the sugerpaste recipe and thats all good til i add the gum trag. after a while i find it gets extremly stiff and i just cant work it to get it pliable enough no matter how much i knead it, any ideas where im going wrong?


  4. Hi Denise
    Modelling paste does stiffen up after it has been left for a while. You have a few options to bring it back to life, try adding white vegetable fat and a touch of water – the fat fat stops the paste becoming sticky and the water will really soften the paste and bring back the stretch. Another option, may be combined with the first, is to pop the paste into a microwave for about 10 sections and knead, this should work even if the paste has gone rock solid!
    If you think that you have over done the gum then simply knead in some more sugarpaste to re-address the balance.
    Hope this is useful

  5. angelina koh says:

    Hello Linda,
    I’m from Singapore. I thoroughly enjoyed trying out ideas from your book, “Storybook Cakes”. I found this useful information on the storage of fondant covered cakes and modelling-paste models in your book. The modelling-paste models, you said, could be kept forever. However, you had recommended the use of gum tragacanth with sugarpaste.
    I have 2 questions:
    1. Can the modelling-paste made with Tylose keep for just as long?
    2. I notice an expiry date on the ready-made sugarpaste I bought. Will this mean that the modelling-paste made from this sugarpaste cannot be kept after the expiry date?
    Please advise. Thank you,

  6. Hello Angelina,
    You can make modeling paste with Tylose and it will keep just a long. If you go over the expiry date the modeling paste will still keep but you should not eat it. Alternatively you can freeze your sugarpaste/modelling paste.

  7. Hi Lindy,
    Can you please let us know how you got on with the Agar Agar? Agar agar powder is easy to find here in my country whereas Gum Trag or CMC are not sold. I’d like to know how you use it to make modelling paste.
    Thanks for your advice!

  8. angelina koh says:

    Hi Lindy,
    Thank you so much for your prompt response to my earlier queries. However, I’m not very sure about what you meant by “the modelling paste will still keep but you should not eat it”.
    Would appreciate it very much if you could clarify this.
    Thank you,

  9. Hi just wondering how long Gum Trag lasts my pot has no use by date on it, i’m just getting bk into decorating cakes again and my gum trag is a couple of years old.
    Thanxs for any feed bk Anne x

  10. Hi Anne
    I’m sure it should be fine, the ones we are currently stocking have a 3 year shelf life!

  11. Hello Angelina,
    Sugarpaste has an expiry date so if you are keeping the modelling paste decorations you would not want to eat them if you have kept them past the expiry date.
    Hope this makes sense!

  12. The Agar Agar powder is added to sugarpaste to make the modelling paste. Lindy found that it did not make very strong modelling paste. You don’t mention which country you are from but you may be able to import the CMC/Gum Trag.

  13. SUSAN MURPHY says:

    HI LINDy,
    I HOPE YOU CAN HELP ME, BY SISTER-IN LAW HAS STARTED HER OWN BUSINESS WITH CUP CAKES SO I TOLD HER THAT I WOULD DO ALL THE flowers, stars, hearts etc, every time i make them the next day the start to break up, im at my wits ends at this stage help……..regards susan

  14. Hi Susan
    I would recommend making hearts and stars for cupcakes out of pastillage. Pastillage once dry sets hard and stand up quite well to moisture. You could make lots in advance and store them.
    Good luck

  15. SUSAN MURPHY says:


  16. hi there, i just did my gumpaste using gum tragacanth..but the thing is, my gumpaste happens to be fragile..what i mean here is, when i knead it, and made a small rose, the petal/the edge of the petals seems to crack, it doesnt show a smooth edge..did i just add too much sugar?what is wrong with it..n can i amend the dough??please!

  17. Hello Nur,

    It sounds like you need to add some white fat and water to your paste.
    See our blog for some top tips on sugarpaste and modelling paste.

  18. Hi Lindy,
    My Gum tragacanth that I have purchased is in powder form, I was wondering if this is the same for yours and therefore the same 1tsp principal applies?
    Thank you

  19. Hi. Can you put gum tragacanth in with buttercream mixture to stiffen it a bit as i want to pipe buttercream onto fairycakes and don’t want the buttercream to slide about!

  20. Hi Amy
    The best way to stiffen buttercream is to chill it. I have never heard of anyone adding gum trag to buttercream, has anyone else?

  21. Hi Yvette
    Yes, gum trag is a powder which is kneaded into paste to make it stiffer.

  22. Hi, I am a bit confused as what to use to make small bears to go on a christening cake. I have sugar paste, but should I be using flower paste or mexican paste, the 2 latter are more expensive or should I just add gum trag to the sugar paste? Thanks

  23. Hi Debbie
    I know it is a little confusing. To make little bears I would use modelling paste, I make my own by adding gum trag to sugarpaste. You can buy modelling paste, often called mexican paste, but as you say it is very much more expensive. Modelling paste can also be made by mixing half flower paste with sugarpaste. Hope this helps

  24. Hi, can you calrify something for me please? I have to make some figurines for a birthday cake. In my cupboard I already have lots of Tesco fondant ready ice that I use to cover the cake and a some Dr Oetker Regal Ice that is pre-coloured. Can I add Gum Tragacanth to these products to make a suitable modelling paste as I find they are too soft on their own. I would make my own icing but I’m a bit nervous about raw egg whites when children’s cakes are involved! Many thanks!

  25. Sugarpaste = Tesco fondant = Dr Oetker Regal Ice so yes just add some gum to transform it into modelling paste. I use sugarpaste to cover my cakes and for everything else I use modelling paste plus sometimes flower paste or pastillage.
    Hope this helps

  26. Hello Lindy…
    I first have to say….OMG..I LOVE YOUR WORK!!! I saved your websites in my bookmarks and watch it all the time..I also have a few of your books!!! Next is the DVD’s

    Until I get paid I can not get the DVD so I do have a question for you..the Wonka Cakes….do you carve a little gully so the next tier can sit flat or do you just place the tiers on with royal icing?

  27. Hello Debbie,
    No we don’t carve a gully, we dowel the tiers and fix with a little royal icing.
    Roll on pay day!

  28. hi linda,
    i live in bangkok[thailand], want to know about the difference between cmc powder ,tylose ,and stabiliser…… thanks and good luck
    awaiting ur reply neharika

  29. Loving it on here, I don’t have to ask anything as it’s already been answered. Keep up the great work:)

  30. Hi Neharika,
    Thank you for your enquiry about the differences between CMC, Tylose and Stabiliser.
    CMC and Tylose are the same thing but Tylose is a brand names.
    We are not sure what you mean by Stabiliser! Has anyone else?


  31. Lindsay-Anne says:

    Hi Lindy,

    I love your work. It’s so inspiring. I wondered if you could tell me where I have gone wrong.- I wanted to make hard icing for structural pieces to decorate a car cake. I kneaded gum trag with sugarpaste and moulded the shapes, but the next day the icing just crumbled. Even the bits that are a few days old haven’t hardened up properly. Could the trag have gone off? I’ve had it 9 months.
    Thank you.

  32. I live in Spain and do at times have trouble with figures arms etc., falling off.I have made some mexican paste-could i make the figures out of this as they would stand up better than just sugarpaste mixed with tylose?

  33. HI i want to ask. Is guar gum usable to make gum paste? I can’t find any tylose or any of what you mentioned.

  34. Hey i am making a some roses out of fondant which i bought from Tesco but i heard it will look better if i add gum powder the problem is i dont know where to find it.I live in england and i hope you could help me find it?

    thanks Hannah x

  35. Hi Hannah,

    The gum powder that is added to the fondant is called cmc or gum traganth:

    Gum Traganth: A Natural gum that Lindy uses to make the modelling paste for all her cakes. Knead in 1 teaspoon of gum into 225g (8oz) of sugarpaste, the gum needs time to work before the paste is used. You will begin to feel a difference in the paste after an hour or so, but it is best left overnight.

    CMC /Carboxymethylcellulose/ E466/ Cellulose Gum: a synthetic substitute for gum tragacanth but has the advantage that it acts instantly. CMC is known by various names including Tylo Powder and Tylose

    We sell both of these on Lindy’s shop –

    Good luck with your roses.


  36. Hi Lindsay-Anne/Lala,
    I would check the sell by date of the gum trag, but it usually lasts a long time.
    You may be able to bring them icing back by adding a small amount of white fat and water and kneading it again.
    Take care,


  37. Hannah, Guar gum is not the same as gum tragacanth or CMC. Please let us know where in the world you are located and we may be able to point you in the direction of a supplier.

  38. Elaine, I would always use sugarpaste mixed with gum tragacanth rather than CMC becuase it makes a firmer paste. Regards Mexican paste, there are a number of ways of making this so I can’t say if your version would be better!!!

  39. Hi Lindy, Can you tell me if gum arabic is the same thing as gum tragacanth. I’ve found a recipe to make glitter and it says use gum arabic but I have never come across it. Can I use gum trag instead. Thanks. Anne

  40. Hi Lindy,
    I have been asked to make cupcakes for a wedding in September, topped with sugar-paste butterflies. When I made the samples, they looked beautiful. My question is, how long in advance could I make the butterflies? Will fondant icing start cracking after a certain amount of time? I would greatly appreciate your advice.
    Many thanks (Love the website by the way!)

  41. Hi Anne,

    With the recipe for the glitter we would use the Gum Arabic and not the Gum Tragacanth.

    May the cake be with you!


  42. Hi Linda,

    The sugar-paste butterflies should last as long as the sugar paste is in date.
    Great to hear you like the website.

    Take care


  43. Hi Guys, Just a ‘quikie’ what is added to marzipan to make it more pliable is it gum trag or cmc? thanks in advance p.s love ur page :)

  44. Hi Emma,

    To be honest I wouldn’t normally add anything to Marzipan! Are you making sure it’s at room temperature before you start? Gum Trag or CMC we usually would add to sugar paste. Here’s a link with some info on Gum Trag and CMC. Hope it helps,

    Happy Baking!!


  45. Hi Lindy,

    I’m very new to this! I’ve added my 1 tsp gum trag to my 250g sugarpaste and kneaded it well, rolled it into a nice ball and then placed it in fridge in clingfilm overnight to use tomorrow.. Is this right? It’s my first go using trag. Just want to know what should I expect it to be like tomorrow if all’s gone right? Also would you use this to make a model of a person? I’m doing a fishing theme cake and want to put him on the edge!

    Thanks, Laura xx

  46. Hi Laura,
    Glad to hear you are experimenting with sugarcraft.
    How did you get on?
    Cake on!

  47. hi i am
    a first timer cake decorator i am wanting to make figurines from fondant howwever i am finding that they tend to sag or collapase … how do i fix this :)?

  48. Hi Samantha,
    Adding Gum Tragacanth will toughen the sugar paste up so that you can create figurines. Another choice is creating figures from Artista Soft, they won’t be edible but they will be hard and keep forever.
    Hope you have fun creating!

  49. Hi Lindy,

    I’m just getting into cake decorating an I’ve found your site invaluable! I have one of your DVDs and have put a bunch of your books on my Christmas list.

    I was wondering if you could help me with one thing… Can you use Xantham Gum instead of gum trag to make modelling paste and flower paste?

    Many thanks,


  50. Hello Sam,
    Xantham Gum is used as a thickener and is a substitute for eggs, dairy and soy. Unfortunately it is not suitable as a substitute for gum trag.

  51. Hi, I get such alot of information from this site, it really is great.

    I’m going to add some gum trag to some black ready made fondant. About half a teaspoon to 250g as I need the decorations to dry a bit harder. I’m confused though. Do I add it and knead it in then leave it in the fridge over night before making decorations or do I add it, knead it, make decorations and then leave them in the fridge to harden?

    Many thanks

  52. Hi Kam

    Thank you for your question.

    Knead the gum trag into the sugarpaste and then leave overnight in an airtight container, not in the fridge. Then make your decorations the following day.

    Hope this helps.


  53. Hi Lindy,

    I live in Mexico City, do you know where can I buy the Gum Tragacanth? I’m a big fan of you.



  54. Dear Maya

    Have you tried searching online for somewhere near you that stocks it?

    You can buy the gum tragacanth from our online shop. We can ship to Mexico if it goes by international signed for delivery.

    Hope this helps!



  55. Hi, I am new to decorating cakes. I have made some figures and animals from fondant, can you tell me how long I can keep them for and how to store them? Do I have to refrigerate them?…many thanks…tricia

  56. Dear Tricia

    Your fondant figures should last a long time. It’s best to keep them in a cardboard box, not in the fridge.

    Hope this helps. Good luck with your cake making!


  57. Hi Lindy,

    I am currently making cake displays for one of the many wedding fairs I will be attending this year but I find that I am making more and more displays as the icing is breaking down and getting a bit grubby etc after a while even though I protect them from dust etc in boxes. Is there a gum or additive that I could add to the icing when covering these cakes to make them last a little longer.
    Love the new book, got it as present for Christmas, am trying to grab a few minutes here and there to finish it.

  58. Dear Hilary

    You could try a clear edible glaze spray which protects and adds a glaze to cakes.

    Here’s a link to it on our online shop

    Hope this helps


  59. Hi Lindy,

    Im experimenting with my first couple of attempts to make roses. Ive mixed 1tsp Gum Trag with my fondant and left overnight, but when i start handling it the next day, it goes sticky and the petals fall. Do you know what i could be doing wrong?


  60. Hi Lauren

    It sounds like your paste could be too soft. In this case an extra pinch or two of gum tragacanth will be necessary.

    Hope this helps!


  61. Mark Edward Mifsud says:

    Hi there :)
    I would like to ask you a question please. So I have sugar paste and i am going to add the Gum Tragacanth in it and i was told to add one tea spoon of powder with every 400 grams of sugar paste and leave it for 24hrs…should i leave it outside or put it in the fridge ??

    Thanks very much


  62. Hi;
    Can i substitute Gum Tragacanth with Gum Arabic?

  63. Hi Mark

    To make modelling paste, add 1tsp of gum tragacanth to 225g (8oz) sugarpaste. Knead it in, wrap in a plastic bag and leave overnight. This does not need to be in the fridge.

    Good luck!


  64. Hi Nour

    Unfortunately you cannot substitute Gum Tragacanth with Gum Arabic. Here is a link which explains what Gum Arabic can be used for :



  65. Hi Lindy,

    I am new to 3D cake modelling and am so thankful to have recently discovered your website. I have found so many useful tips! I am making a flowerpot cake for my Grandad’s 80th (for Sunday) and a tiered spiderman/batman cake (for May 19th) for my son’s 5th birthday. To save leaving everything to the last minute, how early could I start making decorations such as flowers and models? I will be using the sugarpaste/gum tragacanth combination to create them.

    Kind Regards,


  66. Hello Kerry,
    You can make your flowers and models well in advance – weeks – and keep them in a cake box (not sealed Tupperware or similar as they will wilt).

  67. Hello,
    I’ve got to make 100 cupcakes for a wedding with 2 fondant hearts sticking out of a buttercream swirl on top of each cupcake. I made some samples and after a few hours the hearts broke into two where they met the buttercream (had gone soggy). I am just wondering if i make the hearts a week in advance, would this still happen? Or if I made the hearts from a flower paste rather than sugarpaste, would this work? Or would they still go soggy on contact with the buttercream?
    Thanks in advance.

  68. Hello Kirsty,
    For all your decorations the rule of thumb is to use sugarpaste with some type of gum to make it into modelling paste, but for decorations that are coming into contact with cake or buttercream you need to use Pastillage. Sugarpaste/modelling paste will absorb moisture from the cake/buttercream and your decorations will wilt. Pastillage does not absorb the moisture so is ideal for decorations that come into contact with your cake/buttercream.

  69. Hi Lindsy
    I live in South Africa and have a lot of questions
    I’ve tried to obtain Gum Tragacanth from our local cake shop and then pharmacies…. but they think I am crazy…
    In S.A. we buy Platinice how is this different from Sugarpaste or fondat.
    I never know when to use what?
    I made some booties using plastinice mixed with CMC and Tylose uncovered and after 3 days they went all sweety?
    To cover a cake with Plastinice is it not easier to start with a kind of ganach rather than buttercream icing – to give it a firmer surface.
    How long in advance can I bake a cake before I actually decorate it and how do I store it after baking?
    PLEASE I would really appreciate your help

  70. Hello Erts,
    We can ship goods to South Africa, so if you want the Gum Trag we can get that to you.
    The type of recipe determines how long you can keep a cake. For the Madeira we say a week to decorate and a week to eat – so 2 weeks.
    I am not familiar with Platinice, so if anyone can help please post on our site.

  71. Hello there

    could anyone from the team or Lindy herself let me know how it went with the Agar Agar powder please?

    many thanks


  72. Hi Mariam,
    Lindy did try the Agar Agar but found it to be no comparison to Gum Tragacanth.
    Each to their own though, others may like it.
    Have you tried it yet? If so, please let us know how you got on.

  73. Hello Dominique,
    You should use gum tragacanth or CMC (Tylose/Sugarcel) in sugarpaste not Gum Arabic.


  75. Hello June,
    Lindy’s “Celebrate with a Cake” has instructions for the Bride & Groom Cake Toppers. Lindy has used modelling paste in these instructions, this was before she came across the wonderful Artista soft! You can use Artista soft in the same way as modelling paste though.

  76. is there another name for pastillage. i live in south africa. need to make toppers for buttercream icing. is it a dough form or powder that u add to plastic icing. im loving this thread. thanx

  77. Hi Kursheeda

    You can buy pastillage in powder form to which you add water or you can make it yourself. It is made from egg white, icing sugar and gum tragacanth.

    Good luck!

  78. peter wilson says:

    My partner is doing some sugar paste modelling. She’s added some gum trag to her paste and it didn’t go hard enough to support her shapes – a bent leg. She left it overnight and it still was soft. She tried again with a little more and the next morning it was still the same. She then mixed some flower paste, sugarpaste and gum trag together. Strangely it started to crack where the leg joined the body but was still soft! Can you give us any advice?

  79. Hi Peter
    Is your partner using the correct amount of gum trag to her paste, 1tsp of gum trag to 225g of sugarpaste? It sound like the mixture of flowerpaste, sugarpaste and gum trag was too dry and that will cause cracking. Is the leg being attached to sugarpaste? If it is the modelling paste will absorb moisture from the sugarpaste, and may soften. If the leg is being attached to sugarpaste, we would receommend using pastillage, which would not absorb any moisture from the sugarpaste. A recipe for pastillage is in most of Lindys cake decorating books, for example The Contemporary Cake Decorating Bible,, and Cakes to Inspire and Desire,
    Let us know how you get on, Fiona

  80. Jade Barnes says:


    Does adding CMC to Sugarpaste change the original expiry date of the sugarpaste?


  81. Not really Jade, as long as the CMC is also in date.

  82. Nishani says:

    Im new to cake decorating. I made some figures from sugarpaste brought from tescos ( ready to roll regalice) . but it was not hard enough and the figures were weighing down. WHat can I add to the shop brought icing to make it harder but not to crack. WHats the proportion to add?
    Please help.

  83. Hello Nishani

    You can add gum tragacanth or CMC Sugarcel to the sugarpaste to make it harden.

    You need 1 tsp to 225g (8oz) of sugarpaste. Knead the gum trag into the sugarpaste, wrap in a plastic bag and leave overnight. CMC Sugarcel works instantly so this is useful if you’re short on time.

    Good luck!


  84. Nishani says:

    Hi Zoe,

    Thanks very much for your quick response. One more question. If im using Gum Tragacanth and keeping it overnight, when using wilton paste colours, when do I have to add colouring. When mixing the gum the day before or just before modelling?

    Thanks again.

  85. Hi Nishani

    I think Lindy adds the paste colour first. If you add a lot of colour to the paste and it is too soft, you may need an extra pinch of gum trag.



  86. Hi,
    I need a CRUSTING BUTTERCREAM recipe which should turn out almost white – not the yellow with usual buttercream. Could you please share a recipe for a white crusting buttercream? What is Trex and would it help?
    Thanks a lot.

  87. Hi Nishani
    Here is Lindy’s buttercream recipe. You can substitute the butter with Trex (white vegetable fat)to make white buttercream:-

    110g unsalted (sweet) butter, 350g icing (confectioners) sugar, 15-30ml milk or water, a few drops of vanilla extract or alternative flavouring.

    1. Place butter in the bowl and beat until light and fluffy.
    2. Sift the icing sugar into the bowl and continue to beat until the mixture changes colour. Add just enough milk or water to give a firm but spreadable consistency.
    3. Flavour by adding the vanilla or alternative flavouring, then store in an airtight container until required.


  88. Hilary Dixon says:


    I am about to attempt a magician’s cake for my son’s 6th birthday. It is basically going to be a black magicians hat with rabbit ears sticking out of the top. I also plan to make some playing cards and stars to decorate the cake. My question to you is, can I use gum tragacanth to create the ears and cards? I have never used it before so really unsure. Also, could i knead it in, roll, cut and then leave it overnight or should i knead it in, leave it overnight and then roll it out the next day?

    Thanks for any help you can offer! :)


  89. Hi Hilary

    You can use gum tragacanth. It will make the sugarpaste dry harder. You will need 1 tsp for 225g sugarpaste. Knead the gum trag into the sugarpaste, wrap in a plastic bag and leave overnight. Alternatively you can use CMC which is a synthetic substitute which works almost straight away.

    Good luck with your cake!