I’ve been making these Sugar Bonnets for many years and used to sell them to a local tea room. Now I just make them to keep on hand for guests. They can be used for cake decorations but I just use them as sugar cubes to sweeten tea. Recently I made a batch for a Dessert Tea.
The Dessert Tea was so much fun! The tablescape was actually my entry for a Dessert Tablescape Contest by Rosanna Inc, which I will post about soon. Every year Rosanna has a terrific tablescape contest and the entries are beautiful. I seriously adore Rosanna’s style and look forward to seeing the entries every year. This is the first time I’ve entered and I’ll definitely be doing this again.
Oh my goodness, I had so much fun setting the table and baking all the treats! I’m looking forward to sharing photos with you soon.
I didn’t have a smaller table for my entry so there was a lot of table space to fill. I spread things out a bit and placed all the desserts on the front of the table but the back of the table had tea items, including a dish of Sugar Bonnets for the tea.
This is the recipe I wrote a long time ago for making Sugar Bonnets.
Each bonnet is about 1 teaspoon of sugar. The ingredients are just sugar and water. Perhaps with a little food coloring if you want other colors. They dissolve quickly in a cup of hot tea.
I do confess it takes dexterity and patience to make these but the effort is well worth it. And they keep for several years in an airtight container between layers of wax paper, perfect for on the tea tray.
I created the hat form from a cake decorating lily nail set, matte board and packing tape. There is a piece of packing-tape-wrapped matte board wrapped around the nail to form a small smooth edge, which becomes the hat brim. I’ve replaced the matte board and tape only once and it has held up amazingly well, even with a quick wash and air dry. Some day I’ll cut a piece of PVC pipe to replace the matte board piece.
I use a small baby spoon to spoon damp sugar into the lily nail. This is how I hold the nail while spooning in the sugar and making the initial “press” with the top of the lily nail. Holding the nail this way helps the sugar stick together around the “brim” of the hat.
After spooning the damp sugar in the mold, the top of the lily nail is pressed down on the damp sugar and then the excess sugar is scraped off around the edge.
I’m sorry that I don’t have actual action photos since I didn’t have time to set up a tripod and remote. Holding a heavy camera with one hand to take a photo of your other hand sure isn’t easy! So I’ve reenacted a couple of the important steps. Here I’ve placed a dry sugar bonnet back in the mold. If the sugar were freshly pressed, it would fit tightly in the mold and the lily nail would be a tight fit on top of sugar.
The top of the lily nail is removed. Note: if the sugar sticks too much to either piece of the lily nail, wipe them clean with a damp cloth, dry them and then brush on a little bit of cornstarch with a clean paint brush. The amount is so small that you can’t even see it but it makes a difference.
The hardest part of making these is tapping out the fragile, freshly pressed sugar bonnet on the wax-paper lined cookie sheet. The sugar usually sticks a little in the mold so I hold the lily nail right above the cookie sheet and tap on the handle of the nail with the spatula and the hat drops right out.
The bonnets can not be moved for at least 15 minutes. Then I’ll carefully slide the barely dried ones in neat rows to dry further as I make more. They must be dried overnight to be strong enough to be handled.
If the sugar breaks as it’s tapped out of the mold, I just push the broken pieces aside.
There will be broken pieces. Even with a very light dusting of corn starch, the sugar still sticks a little in the mold.
When the bonnets are dry, they are surprisingly sturdy. Once all the bonnets are drying, I make the sugar decorations.
Royal icing doesn’t melt in tea so the decorations are made like the bonnets, just sugar and water, perhaps colored with a little food coloring, then pressed into flower and leaf molds.
To make the decorating process more efficient, I line up all the decorations as they will be used on each sugar bonnet.
The bonnet decorations are attached using a drop or two of “sugar paste” which is simply sugar and water mixed together. I crush a bit of the sugar grains up with the back of the spoon while stirring in the water. The consistency is thick, but not dry.
Small imperfections and cracks in the side of the hats aren’t a problem since decorations can be glued over the holes.
The only sweetener better than a sugar cube is a Sugar Bonnet.
It quickly dissolved.
If you want less than one teaspoon of sugar in your tea, simply break a Sugar Bonnet into pieces.
Aren’t Sugar Bonnets sweet? Please let me know if you make them!