This reply was written by Marina Sousa, Just Cake, in March 2009, in a Q & A thread about the Miley Cyrus competition...
Q: How did you make the beads?
A: the beads were made from isolmalt (a sugar substitute that is less temperamental than sugar) The sugar was melted down and tinted with liquid airbrush food coloring.
Isolmalt- once cooked can be re-heated in the microwave to keep it in a liquid state, which is what is required to pour it into the molds. The best part of microwaving it (as opposed to re-heating it over the stove top) is that it does not caramelize- so there is no color change. If you have ever worked with sugar before you know what a plus that is!
Q: Where did you get the molds?
A: the molds were such an issue! Ultimately we ended up making our own molds but that was after several attempts by a mold making company that just didnt work quite right. We used Silicone Plastique from: http://www.culinart.net/silicone.html
There are really good step-by-step instructions on the website.
I bought plastic beads from a craft store and used those to form the mold. We ended up using pretty basic ribbed round beads however, we tried several different shapes and sizes. We really liked some of the more typical chandelier shapes but consistency & weight was an issue.
Once the molds set we took a very sharp exacto blade and made a very shallow slice down the center to create a space for the string to sink into. Once secured the isolmalt was poured into the molds and removed once they were set.
It was definitely a trial and error process that Dawn spent a lot of time perfecting. Patience is key ☺
Q: What kind of string did you use for the beads?
A: we used beading string which I got in a craft store in the beading section. Any type of plastic or fishing line will melt when the sugar is poured into the mold. Any type of metal, wire thread etc. will kink up and wont hang straight.
Q: How were the strings attached?
A: the strings are individually attached to foamcore rings. Little slits were cut into the foamcore and the string was secured into the slits. Varying sized rings created the depth.
Q: Was this the same way you did the beads that we saw on Keegans wedding cake?
A: No. For Keegan & Lisas cake I made all of those beads by hand from fondant and pushed a pin through to create a hole in each bead. The beads were then individually strung on clear-stretchy beading string by knotting the string to secure each beads place.
This was a much more time consuming process that is why I really wanted to come up with an alternative way to do it for the competition. I think I spent 20+ hours making the beads and stringing them for the wedding cake- so clearly not the best competition technique!