These fantastically delicate sculptures, designed by Liz and Kyle von Hasseln, bring a whole new meaning to the notion of sugar work.

The pair hit upon the idea when attempting to bake a birthday cake for a friend without the use of that most essential of bakery tools: the oven. The pair decided to 3D print a cake instead, finding success with sugar. Reasoning that others would like their sweet creations, the pair started "micro-design firm" The Sugar Lab.

According to iGnant, the pair uses a mixture of water and alcohol to wet and harden a sugar substrate into the precise forms, a process similar, the pair says, to the way frosting hardens if left in the bowl.

"The process is fundamentally similar to other 3D printing applications," iGnant writes, adding that "they've just optimized the process for resolution and strength with sugar, rather than with a standard 3D printing material."

We're far from clear about the process and machinery used (if any), but will endeavor to find out more. Watch this space, or better yet, the image gallery, as some of the geometric forms they've created are quite beautiful.

July 22 update: In an email to Gizmag, Liz von Hasseln clarified that, yes, a 3D printing machine is used. "We've just optimized the process for resolution and strength with sugar, rather than with a standard 3D printing material," she writes. "We're being intentionally vague about the specific hardware and recipes we're using for the time being, while we navigate the patents and trademarks associated with the 3D printing industry. However, we hope this opacity will be short-term."

Sugar Lab hopes to put a sugar-printing 3D printer on the market within the next 12 months.

Sources: The Sugar Lab, iGnant