When I go to the store my cart will occasionally look like this:
When I’m lucky enough to score some pulp trays from the produce section, I do the superior dance out of the store.
The reason why is that they’re great for drying gumpaste with a slight curve, and they’re pretty impossible to buy.
Unless you like storing 100,000 of them, since that was the smallest order I could find of them online.
There are a lot of things that you can use for random decorating that are also cheap or free.
Go to the dollar store for a lot of them and load up.
Emery boards: These can be used to smooth out rough edges on gumpaste flowers that have dried. You probably have a bunch of these in a junk drawer somewhere.
Poultry lacers: These are intended to be used to truss up a turkey before roasting it, but I use them to get food coloring out of little pots, nudge semi-set isomalt into the corner of molds, and to remove dried gumpaste from the crevices of cutters. You could also use them to decorate cookies or poke holes in fondant to prevent cake tumors from developing. I like them because they’re cheap, food-safe, and washable.
Coffee stirs: You can use them to attach gumpaste vines to the side of cakes, or to poke small pieces of gumpaste out of cutters.
Flexible plastic cutting boards: I use these to ice individual cake tiers on so that I can move them in and out of the fridge easily. You can also cut piece out of them to make buttercream smoothers or stencils if you can find them in the right thickness. You can usually find these at the dollar store.
Egg cartons: Styrofoam egg cartons are great for forming gumpaste flowers or storing small flowers or pearls. You can also use paper ones if you put them in a 200-degree oven for half an hour or so to kill any bacteria, but styrofoam can be put in the dishwasher or washed by hand, so you won’t mess it up if it gets sticky and needs to be cleaned.
Pizza cutter: A rolling pizza cutter wheel is great for cutting strips of fondant or gumpaste.
Rotary quilting cutters: Closely related to the pizza cutter are rotary quilt cutters. They come in straight blades but they also come in wavy and “v” shapes on the blades, so you’ll roll the cutter and the cut edge will have a shape.
Wire shelf from the kitchen storage shop: Get one of those little wire racks from the office supply store or kitchen organizing store that you use to put inside on a shelf to expand your storage space. Use it for hanging wired flowers on while they dry, either upside down or right-side up in tinfoil to keep their shape.
Drywall scrapers and putty knives: Get the plastic ones and use them to smooth your buttercream. They’re dishwasher-safe, too!
Plastic combs: Use these to make a wavy pattern with food coloring or buttercream. You can use them to press a texture into strips of fondant to make a grosgrain ribbon pattern, too.
Cable cutter: This tool is meant to cut wires and cables for electricians, but they cut through wooden dowels with ease. They’re much easier than trying to cut dowels with a knife.
Pasta or clay roller: A paste roller machine or clay roller machine is a hand-cranked (or you can get one with a motor) machine that will roll out your gumpaste thinly and evenly without you having to wreck your hands rolling it out. I had a Kitchenaid attachment that fit onto my mixer and was motorized that way, and I also used a hand-cranked pasta machine to roll out my gumpaste.
Polymer clay tools: There are a ton of clay tools that are similar to cake gumpaste tools, but they’re usually better-made. I buy the metal ball tools to use for my gumpaste because I put so much pressure on the plastic cake tools I break them all the time!
Herb scissors: These scissors are meant for cutting herbs into strips or small pieces, but they’re also good for creating thin strips of gumpaste or wafer paper. It makes easy fringe for creating tassels of fringe on a fondant cake.
Mattress foam: Very useful for drying gumpaste flowers and leaves to keep them in a cupped position.
Baby bottle brushes: If you can’t get your piping tips clean, get some bottle nipple brushes from the baby section at the grocery store. You can pick them up pretty easily and you don’t have to worry about going to search for them at the craft store.
Rubber stamps: I’ve seen some clear rubber stamps being sold for cake decorating recently, but they’ve been using these for years for scrapbooking. I did a project with my daughter’s art class when she was in middle school using them on cookies. Dig around in your craft stash for all the ones that you bought and never used (I know you have some), or keep your eye on the scrapbooking aisle sales, and get some cheap.
Toothpicks: Use these to build gumpaste roses so that you can insert them into a cake and not have to worry about wires. Toothpicks are food-safe so they don’t need any special treatment to put into a cake, and it makes it easy to insert them into styrofoam to dry them upright.