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What is Luster Dust?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Luster dust is an edible food decorating powder that sparkles once it dries. It is commonly applied to the frosting of cakes and cookies, especially for formal events or during the holiday season, when many people enjoy rich gold and silver accents on their baked goods. Bakery suppliers usually stock this powder, and bakers can also order it through mail-order companies that specialize in baking products.

Although gold and silver are both common, luster dust comes in a range of colors, from bold primaries to jewel tones. It can be used to create highlighted accents on a finished piece, or it can be applied in larger volume to give a baked good a glossy finish. The product may also be called sparkle dust, pearl dust, or sparkle powder, and it is perfectly safe to eat, just like the gold and silver leaf that is applied to fancy cakes.

A container of luster dust is typically rather small, because a little bit goes a long way. To use it, the cook will need to dissolve the dust in an extract that contains alcohol, such as vanilla or orange extract, or an alcohol like vodka; by using an alcohol solution, the cook ensures that the moisture will evaporate after the dust has been applied. Mixing it with water or other liquids is not recommended, as it can turn sticky and dull.

Once the luster dust is mixed, it can be applied with a small brush. Cake decorators typically frost a cake with a matte white frosting and then apply the powder over it; the frosting will glow through, making the cake sparkle in good lighting. There are lots of ways to apply luster dust, from a gentle brushing of a whole cake to give it a rich glow to a streak on a holiday cookie for some pizazz.

Many companies sell packages with a rainbow of colors. Colors can be blended for subtle shading, or mixed individually and painted on to create shimmering images. The dissolved dust can also be used in an airbrush decorating tool, or fondant flowers can be dipped into it to turn them into sparkling decorations. Luster dust can also be used to highlight leaves, flower petals, and other sculpted decorations on a cake, although this requires a fine brush and a steady hand.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon346361 — On Aug 28, 2013

You told us how to use it and what it is for but you didn't tell us what it is made from or how they make it?

By anon220176 — On Oct 06, 2011

Does anyone have instructions on how to make luster dust?

By anon165400 — On Apr 04, 2011

Help. I am covering 3 cakes 16", 14" & 12" with pink fondant then I want to cover it with white peal luster dust. Any idea how much it'll take and what's the best way to go about covering large areas.

By anon162269 — On Mar 22, 2011

Edible glitter or luster dust, is made from gum Arabic, egg white, and water. It's completely edible and safe. It has many uses, such as making glues, paints, and sodas. Gum Arabic can be purchased online easily, but usually if you want to find it locally, you will have to find a specialty shop or bakery.

There are many sites that show the exact amounts you need of each ingredient to make the luster dust, or glitter, try looking them up online!

By anon153654 — On Feb 17, 2011

I was wondering the same thing. Similar additives are used in many other products, like automotive paint, cosmetics, molded plastic bottles, etc. They are usually referred to as pearl concentrates or mica powder, and are almost always finely ground polyester. Decades ago, I think they used ground mica (rock which separates into thin glassy sheets). I'm guessing it is either one of these materials, but I'm still looking. There's a reason no one says what it is!

By anon137885 — On Dec 29, 2010

To #2: no this did not answer the question. What is it made of? Dirt and/or dust? or any ground material ground to dust size? How is it treated to become 'lustery?'

By anon125468 — On Nov 09, 2010

i want to make a white cake with black vines (all buttercream). is there any way to make the white sparkle or at least the black vines? I've read it can be mixed into buttercream but I've done this several times and never seen even the slightest shimmer.

By kimscakes — On Apr 09, 2010

Most luster dusts are safe if they are digested and because they are normally in a container no bigger than 4g you need not worry.

However, there are the glitter dusts which are nontoxic but non-edible also. If they are swallowed, it just means that they are not digested and simply pass through the digestive system without causing any harm.

I hope this answers your questions.

By desertdunes — On Feb 28, 2010

But what is it MADE of? I understand that it's edible but many things are edible that you still wouldn't want to eat.

And how much is edible before you get sick? Like if a child decides that the pretty glitter stuff mom used on the cake is extra good when straight from the container?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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