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What is Luster Dust?

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Luster Dust photo

Luster dust adds color and shine

(c) 2011 Elizabeth LaBau, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Luster dust is a type of decorating powder used in cake and candy decorating to add color and sparkle to desserts. Luster dust comes in a wide variety of colors, but the most commonly used shades are gold and silver.

What Are the Ingredients in Luster Dust?

There are many different brands of luster dust, and unfortunately, most of them are not individually labeled with ingredients. In addition, different shades of luster dust within the same brand might contain different ingredients necessary to produce those shades. So if your luster dust container is not labeled, the only way to be certain of the ingredients is to contact the company and inquire about your specific shade. That being said, commonly cited ingredients in many luster dusts are Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxide, Carmine, and Mica. Additionally, some contain Iron Blue or Chromium Oxide.

Is Luster Dust Safe to Eat?

Again, this depends very much on the specific brand and specific color. Most luster dusts are labeled "non-toxic," meaning that if you consume them they won't harm you. Keep in mind, though, that just because something is not toxic does not mean it is intended to be edible. For the most part, the amount of luster dust consumed is so small as to be inconsequential, but if you are concerned with ingesting trace amounts of metals or minerals, you should look for luster dust brands that are specifically labeled "FDA Approved" or "Food Grade."

In some cases, certain shades are not mean to be consumed at all, and these are clearly labeled "Not for Consumption" or "For Decorative Use Only." In these instances, you should only use those luster dusts on decorative elements that will not be eaten, like gumpaste flowers on a cake.

Is Luster Dust the Same As Petal Dust, Pearl Dust, Sparkle Dust, Disco Dust, or Highlighter Dust?

"Luster Dust" is sometimes used as a catch-all term for a family of "decorative dusts," including petal dust, pearl dust, sparkle dust, disco dust, and highlighter dust, but these dusts are not all the same. Although they are all used for cake decorating, they have different properties and produce different effects.
Luster dust comes in many different colors, and adds sparkle, shine, and a fair amount of color.
Highlighter dust usually comes in gold and silver colors, and gives a high-sheen, metallic finish. Most highlighter dust is not edible and is for decorative purposes only.
Petal dust has a matte finish and produces deep, strong colors. Petal dust is often used to decorate gumpaste flowers because the matte appearance gives them a natural look.
Pearl dust imparts a sparkly, pearlescent finish with just a touch of color. Pearl dust is translucent and can be mixed with petal dust to give decorations shimmer and sparkle without adding much color.
Sparkle dust produces effects similar to luster dust, imparting color and shine, but the sparkle dust grains are larger than the fine powder of the luster dust.
Disco dust has the largest grains of all, and can be compared in size to pieces of glitter. Disco dust is not subtle, so it works best on pieces that should "pop" and sparkle with a glittery finish.

How Do I Use Luster Dust?

Luster dust can simply be brushed onto molded candies, fondant, and gumpaste with a dry brush. If you want a more even application and more intense color, mix luster dust with alcohol (vodka is recommended) or an alcohol-based extract like lemon extract. It only takes a small amount of liquid, so start with a few drops and mix until you get a consistency you like. Do not try mixing luster dust with water, as it is not water soluble and you will get a sticky mess. For stronger effects, you can paint on multiple coats of luster dust, just be sure to let each layer dry in between applications. Luster dust can also be mixed with alcohol and used with a food-grade airbrushing machine.

Where Can I Buy Luster Dust?

Luster dust is readily available at many online stores, and is often carried in cake decorating stores and candy supply stores. Additionally, craft stores that carry the Wilton line of cake decorating products often have Wilton-brand pearl dust and sparkle dust.

What Are Some Recipes That Use Luster Dust?

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