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What is the difference between Gum Tragacanth, CMC and Tylose?

Pretty Witty Blog

What is the difference between Gum Tragacanth, CMC and Tylose?

In my classes, I am often asked the difference between Gum Tragacanth, CMC and Tylose and what they are for.  In this Blog Tutorial, I explain the differences.

Gum Tragacanth – the real thing!  

Gum Tragacanth is a substance which is derived from the sap of a plant in the Middle East.  The sap is drained from the root of the plant and then dried. 

This forms a powder which doesn’t taste of anything, smells horrible but is ideal for thickening up fondant (also known as sugar paste).

The powder is a light cream colour and very fine so you would not want to breathe in too much when smelling it or it can cause you to cough as it enters your lungs.

As Gum Tragacanth is a natural product, I regard it is the “real thing” and I use this in all my modelling work as you will see on the videos.


CMC stands for or Carboxymethyl cellulose.  In short, it is the chemical version of Gum Tragacanth.  It looks exactly the same.

CMC tends to work a little bit faster than gum tragacanth and is also a little bit cheaper as it is a chemical version of the real thing.

Tylose powder

This is a brand name for CMC so is effectively the same thing as CMC.  It works in the same way and is again a chemical version.  It is usually again cheaper than Gum Tragacanth due to its chemical nature.  

What are they for?

In essence, they all do the same job.  They can be added to fondant in order to make it easier to model with. They also make it dry more quickly.

Gum Tragacanth is said to take longer to start working but I find you can usually use it within 30 minutes of adding it to the fondant in quantities less than 250grams.  Some people advise leaving it up to 12 hours but I find it too hard to work with if in small quantities of less than 250grams because it becomes hard and you need to re-kneed it.

How much do you add?

I work with Gum Tragacanth and add 1 teaspoon to every 250grams (a small packet) of fondant.  You can add the same proportions to CMC and Tylose powder. If you want your fondant to be softer and not dry so quickly, you can add less powder (ie 1 teaspoon per 500 grams CMC).

At what point do you add it?

I always add the Gum Tragacanth (or CMC/Tylose) right at the beginning prior to adding any colour paste to the fondant.

Why don’t the manufactures of fondant add the powder and sell it pre added?

When fondant is packaged it does not contain Gum Tragacanth (or CMC/Tylose) as it would dry out too quickly in the packet.  You therefore need to add it yourself,  Do not add Gum Tragacanth or CMC/Tylose to all your fondant as it will make it dry and it won’t last as long as untouched fondant.  Just add it to the piece you need.

How long does fondant last once you have added Gum Tragacanth

Once Gum Tragacanth or CMC/Tylose has been added to the fondant, the fondant will become drier. You therefore need to store it properly in a clear sealed bag (like a sandwich bag). This will seal it and preventing it drying. It should work well for a good 2 to 3 weeks before it dries out too much. However, if you go to use it after 12 or more hours or a week or so, it will feel dry to touch.  You will therefore need to re-kneed it and perhaps add some vegetable fat (Trex, Crisco) to it to soften it a little.

You should be able to keep it for a fairly long time (months).  Never keep it for longer than the original sell by date on the fondant package so make a note of this.

What is your fondant becomes too stiff?

If this happens, it means you have added to much Gum Tragacanth or CMC/Tylose.  To fix this, add some more fondant (without Gum Tragacanth or CMC/Tylose in it) to dilute the quantities.  You will know if it is too stiff as it will feel like you are bending an iron bar when you try and bend it!

The Big “No Nos”!

There are certain things you should never do with fondant which has Gum Tragacanth in it

  • Never store it in the fridge.  It will make it sweat and go sticky and will then need to "de-melt" when taken out which you can do with a fan)..
  • Never wrap it just in cling film as it will dry out quickly.  Either wrap in cling film and then put in a plastic sandwich bag and seal or put in a plastic sandwich bag inside a plastic box.
  • Remember fondant can be kept in a plastic box BEFORE you model it but not after you have made your models.  This is because the plastic box will cause the models to go sticky and sweat thus loosing their shape

Where do you buy Gum Tragacanth, CMC and Tylose

You can buy all in Pretty Witty Cakes' Online Shop here.  Don’t forget to login if you are a member so your discount is applied to your purchase.  

Which one do you prefer?

If you have a preference, let us know on this post here in the forum

Happy Decorating! 

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