Decorating cakes and desserts can be daunting, but the trick is (like so much else in cooking) to start small and work your way up. In this tutorial we’ll look at a nice and straightforward method – the ideal introduction to sugarwork, but which can still produce some visually stunning results.

You will need:
Caster sugar (as much as you need)

Pour the into a pan, off the heat
Use a decent amount of sugar – at least 100 grams
Start the pan on a gentle heat
Melt the sugar
Once it’s completely liquid, with an even, rich golden brown colour, take it off the heat for about a minute, just so it hardens a little as it cools
Any utensils you use to shape the sugar should be lightly oiled so the sugar doesn’t stick
Use vegetable oil, as it is pretty flavourless
One of the easiest but most visually effective tricks is to make a hemispherical sugar cage using a ladle
Simply drizzle in a zig zag across the ladle one way and then crosshatch to reinforce the structure, creating a lattice
If the sugar starts breaking it is getting too cold – just remelt it on a low heat. You can do this as many times as needed, just let it cool slightly each time before working with it
Another simple trick is making a corksrew or spiral shape using a round spoon handle
Leave the decorations to cool slightly, cutting or snapping off any overhanging bits or threads before the caramel cools too much
Remove the decorations off the utensils within 20 minutes
Keep them on an oiled tray, or a tray lined with greaseproof paper until you need them
The last little trick is dipping a hazelnut into the caramel to create a sugar spike
Pierce the nut with a skewer or toothpick, then roll it in the caramel, and hold it steady above the pan until the the strand stops swaying and becomes tough.
Trim to the desired length, then leave it hanging off the edge of a table or other surface until the spike has cooled and set completely