Fondant Basics

I am not usually a baker for hire. Especially cakes. They take so long and frustrate me. I can never get them as perfect as I want and I end up feeling (in a very overly dramatic fashion) that they are a complete disaster. A friend of Mr. Fits asked me to make a Monkey Cake for the baby shower she was throwing for her sister and her sisters wife to welcome their baby boy. Maybe it was the mushy soft spot that I now have for babies since Tater was born (this did not really exist prior to birth of my adorable little lady) or maybe it’s how easy it is to guilt me into baking by merely asking, but I said yes. *sigh*

Fondant 101

If you’re not sure what the stuff is that covers those cakes, it’s fondant. It’s a sugar dough that is rolled out like cookie dough to cover a cake and can even be sculpted, like clay, for decorations. If you have an interest in giving it a try, you should. It takes a little practice but general gives a very impressive look to your cakes.

I have been working with fondant for about 5 years and I have learned a thing or two about this sugar dough that I’ll share with you all.

First, it’s not very tasty. Really, even the good kinds don’t really add to the taste of a great cake. I have never, ever heard anyone say, “This cake tastes really good, but you know what it needs? A nice layer of fondant.” It’ll never happen. It’s use is purely aesthetic. If you can perfect the technique of buttercream your cake can look just as good and taste somewhere around a million times better, but that’s for a different post.

Fondat can be difficult to work with, but if you really want to make a cake that  has a professional look to it, this is a great option.

There are three brands of fondant that I have worked with, and as far as my experience goes, these are the three main brands:

Wilton

Satin Ice

 Fondx

The basic rule, when it comes to yummy vs easy, is that the better it tastes the more difficult it is to work with.

Wilton is at the bottom of the yumminess food chain. It tasted like sugary play-dough. I would however, suggest you start here if you have never given fondant a try. Wilton fondant is a tank compared to the other two. It’s forgiving and tough. Use it your first time to get a feel for how to use fondant then move on when you think you’re ready.  Just let your guests know that, although it is edible, you would recommend peeling it off before eating the cake.

Satin Ice is far superior to Wilton in the taste department, but, it’s a bitch to work with. I’ve renamed it Satan Ice and probably won’t use it for cake covering ever again. It has a great flavor and tends to blend well with the frosting but it is extremely fragile, cracking and tearing easily. It is a great option for molding decorations or adorable little monkey mommas and babies.

Fondx, and Elite by Fondx are my favorite. Not as yummy as Satin Ice (although some would disagree), but much easier to work with. It isn’t as hearty as Wiltons, but it is much tastier.

Fondant comes in nearly every color you can imagine and is much easier if you buy it pre-colored. The draw back to this is cost. If you look at the monkey cake picture, you can see there are 9 different colors. If I was to buy 9 different colors of fondant it would cost me about $150. Since I’m pretty sure no one wants to pay that much for a cake that only serves a few dozen, coloring fondant is the way to go. I buy white and then use gel food coloring to achieve the color I want. The use of gel is important in order to keep a solid consistency to your fondant, instead of turning your fondant to a sticky mess with too much liquid. Just add a bit of the gel to your white fondant and knead until the color is consistent. If it starts to turn mushy, add some powdered sugar.

You need to ice your cake at least two separate times. Some call the first icing a crumb coat, because the cake crumbs will invade this first layer, and others (including myself) call it dirty ice, because it sounds more fun. Allow first layer of icing to set completely, about an hour.

The next coat is your final coat and it helps to smooth everything out and cover any bumps or holes in your cake. Think of fondant as that super shiny, thin bridesmaid dress that makes you look awful and shows every flaw, and you would never be caught dead it in it, let alone PHOTOGRAPHED in it over and over, if you didn’t really love your friend–and the final ice is the Spanx that allowed you to keep your sanity and hit on the cute bartender. The final ice is the compression garment of the cake world, makes everything look smooth and pretty.

Fondant will show every imperfection so make sure your final ice is as smooth as you can make it. If you need to go for round 3 on icing, then do that.

Roll out your dough, on a flat surface covered with powdered sugar, the way you would roll out pie dough. Make sure that you roll out a circle large enough to cover your cake with at least a two inch overhang on all sides.  To transfer your dough to your cake, you can either use an extra set of hands, or you can try and slide a large cardboard sheet (like a cake board) underneath.

Once its over your cake use your hands to smooth it down the cake. Start at the top and work your way down.

Using a sharp paring knife or a pizza cutter, remove the excess fondant.

The bottom will probably look a bit rough. Making a perfectly even cut around the bottom is very difficult so don’t beat yourself up about it, just cover it up. To do this, I have used the following:

Long strip of fondant

Small balls made of fondant

Candy gumballs

Marshmallows

Mini cupcakes

If you look at novelty cakes, most of them have some type of bottom boarder.

To get that powdered sugar off the cake, I use a clean make-up blush brush that I bought specifically for the job.

To make the cake shine, spray the fondant with vodka. The alcohol will evaporate so you don’t have to worry about getting the pregnant lady drunk at her own baby shower. I use a small travel sized spray bottle that was probably intended for transporting hairspray across TSA lines.

If you have ever used clay, fondant reacts in similar ways when sculpted. There is an adorable British girl who has several You Tube posts about making fondant animals.

Good luck in your caking adventures. Remember that every cake is a learning process and your first cake won’t be perfect, it’ll be a starting point.

4 Responses to Fondant Basics

  1. gaobe July 1, 2011 at 7:06 pm #

    wa !~ I love

  2. barbara July 7, 2011 at 1:59 am #

    In fact, it is really very great!!

  3. TiffH August 11, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

    Have you ever tried marshmallow fondant? It’s really easy, can be made way in advance and tastes so much better. It’s still not as good as buttercream, but much tastier that the other stuff I’ve tried. Here’s the link to the recipe I use, you should give it a try, all that kneeding is just an arm workout ;). You can even used colored marshmallows for already tinted and sometimes flavored fondant. http://whatscookingamerica.net/PegW/Fondant.htm

    • Jaxie August 12, 2011 at 9:44 am #

      I’ve had it, but I’ve never made it. It does taste great, and it is SO much cheaper. Fondant can be so dang expensive. Lately, I’ve been trying to move more towards buttercream and just use fondant for sculpting and decorations. Next month I’m making a Two Peas In A Pod cake for a twin baby shower, we’ll see how that goes!

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