For me, one of the easiest ways to make cakes personal and unique is to use fondant when decorating them. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and am never quite satisfied with my ability to pipe icing or use other methods of decorating, but I find that using fondant frees me to get creative and try new things. I’ve sculpted bears, built towers, crafted palm trees…you get the idea…and I, personally, find fondant easier to work with than buttercream….but I don’t always like the taste of it.
When many people think of using fondant, they consider two options: buying it or making marshmallow fondant. Both of these options can work well, but I’ve found that the first can be expensive (or gross, depending on the brand you buy…some of them just taste terrible) and the second makes my cakes taste too much like marshmallows. I mean, I like marshmallows in s’mores and hot chocolate, but on a cake I’ve worked hours to make? Not so much. So…I learned to make my own. And here’s how:
First, the recipe. It’s very simple and uses just a handful of ingredients. This is the recipe I use. It works beautifully…usually. Which brings me to a few things I’ve learned about making fondant yourself….
Sift the sugar. Let me say it again: sift the sugar.
The humidity in this lovely state of ours means that you CANNOT just measure your powdered sugar and be done. At times, the recipe calls for too much and, at times, too little. And a very humid day can be disastrous when you’re trying to make fondant. It’s kind of like divinity. What I have noticed is that I can make fondant while it’s raining but not right before it does.
If you make just one batch (or two at the most) at a time, a Kitchenaid mixer can handle almost all of the kneading. Three batches at once and that lifetime warranty might just mean something to you.
I don’t use clear vanilla in my fondant because, to me, it looks white enough without it. But, I feel the same about buttercream so there.
When coloring fondant, put a little shortening on your hands. It will help keep you from looking like you dyed them, but too much will cause your fondant to get weird and develop a swiss cheese type appearance. This usually happens when I make black fondant. I always use too much because I have to keep adding more color, which reminds me….
Americolor Super Red and Super Black. They color fondant quickly and will get a bit darker as the fondant dries so you don’t have to use quite as much. Love it!
The fondant will only be as smooth as the icing that’s under it so smooth that cake pretty well before you cover it in fondant. Then relax and don’t worry too much over the imperfections. (or at least try not to.)
When covering the cake, smooth the top, then go around the cake pushing upward and smoothing at the same time. As you smooth, you can gently pull the bottom outward, then push the fondant above it upward to avoid creases at the bottom. I have recently found that lifting the cake in one hand and allowing the fondant to drape off the cake boardhelps you cut a clean line at the bottom of the cake board using the board itself to cut the fondant. (Thank you, Food Network Challenge!) And, I realize that these directions are probably pretty difficult to follow so watch this video to see how it’s done. And then practice. It really does just take practice.
If you’re like me, you might use too much powdered sugar as you roll out the fondant and form shapes, etc. I keep a set of paintbrushes in my cake decorating drawer reserved specifically for working with fondant. If a decoration I’ve added has some powdered sugar on it, I use a very slightly damp brush and clean it off. At other times, I use a brush to add a luster dust. A dry brush is wonderful for sweeping away crumbs or helping tuck bits of fondant in or under other decorations.
And, the biggest tip I can give you about working with fondant? Don’t be scared of it. Once you get the hang of covering the cake, chances are you’ll find that the ways you decorate with it are only limited by your imagination…. and your time!
Oh, and if you don’t want a cake totally covered in fondant, just use it to add decorations to a cake that’s iced.
Later this week, I’ll share with you my latest cake creation….Enjoy!