Journey to Global Sugar Arts in Plattsburgh, NY

Last fall I was planning a trip to Boston for my cousin’s wedding. I always search for new cake decorating supply shops whenever I’m going somewhere different; but I seem deficient in Googling skills. I mean, what’s wrong with “cake decorating supplies + NY state” in the scheme of web searching? After literally hours of late-night Googling, I finally discovered that Global Sugar Arts, which likely will show up in any generic search for cake decorating supplies, is located in Plattsburgh, NY, about 3 hours or so from Ottawa, and it would only require a slight detour on the way to Boston, as well as a lovely ferry ride.

I was embarking upon this trip with my other cousin, Tyson, who is taken by a lovely girl, who sadly is not a cake decorator because Tyson is a cake decorator’s dream boyfriend. “A detour on the way to Boston, an hour long stop at a warehouse of cake decorating supplies and a ferry ride? No problem, Christie. It’s about the journey, not the destination.”

I was giddy with glee when we drove into the GSA parking lot. The store front doesn’t hint at the wonderment inside. There are some pretty cakes displaying various techniques behind glass in the front area, then you enter a warehouse of rows upon rows of shelving units containing baking, cake decorating, sugar art and candy-making supplies. The warehouse isn’t so pretty and while it’s quite organized, the sheer number of products is intimidating so you need to go prepared.

Here’s what you need to know: being an obsessive compulsive freak, I had combed through their website prior to my visit and made an Excel worksheet of everything I wanted, “The Crazy Wish List”, then I progressively pared that list down into “Slightly Less Crazy,” “Getting More Realistic,” and the final, “Realistic” lists of items to buy. I included prices and tried to work with a budget. What I didn’t include was GSA’s own product ID numbers on my worksheet and that was a definite oversight. They have a computer set up to help customers find the products they are looking for, but this process is much easier if you have that number. I also made little comments that helped me distinguish similar products, like the lace molds.

After realizing the scope of the warehouse, my cousin and I split my list in half and went off searching. I’ve been wanting to try cake stencils and GSA has so many of them that Tyson spent most of his time going through them to find the ones that I wanted. Hopefully you’ll see one of those cakes in the future.

GSA also has two high shelving units full of pull-out drawers with dusting powders, so luckily I had included a colour inventory of what I had at home, but still I was so unprepared for the many, many colours of petal, shimmer, luster and disco dusts. I also had a list of Americolor gel pastes that I had at home. The Happy Thanksgiving cake featured at the top of this post uses a pumpkin shimmer dust that I bought at Golda’s Kitchen, as well as terra cotta and pumpkin petal dusts that I procured at GSA.

I also spent a fair amount of time rummaging through stacks and stacks of Cake Central and other magazines, wishing that I could buy one of each! GSA also has an impressive selection of books.

Other things to note, GSA’s selection of sugar flower cutters and silicone molds is a sugar artist’s dream. They carry a wide selection of fondant and sugar paste and they offer Satin Ice at wholesale price, with discounts for bulk purchases. However, this will not be worth it for the Canadian customer who is shipping the fondant into Canada. I recently took advantage of their February 2011 sale on Satin Ice and with shipping, taxes and brokerage fees, it cost me slightly more than it would have cost from Flour Confections at FC’s regular price. However, I had other items not available from FC in that shipment, which made it worthwhile for me. If you are importing fondant, it’s worthwhile to note that it is exempt from duty as long as it’s made in the USA or Mexico, but it is still subject to Canadian tax rates.

How I ever managed to limit myself to only one hour and 20 or so minutes in that place, I’ll never know, except that we had a rehearsal dinner to get to in Boston. I left there considerably poorer, but happy with my purchases. I tend to buy supplies like I’ll never find them again; but I tell myself that it’s better to plan ahead and save the money that you would pay in shipping later. It hurts less when I get the Visa bill.

Thanks Tyson, you’re an awesome travelling companion!

Global Sugar Art’s website: They are located at 625 Route 3, Unit 3, Plattsburgh, NY.