I was first introduced to the world of fondant when I attended a friend’s baby shower years ago and stood frozen by the dessert table, mesmerised by the magical work of a cake artist. A perfectly sculpted sleeping baby clutching a teddy bear, snugly wrapped in a blanket in a pram—all constructed from sugar paste. The detail was exquisite, and I was intrigued.
On an annual holiday to Singapore I stumbled upon a cake supplies retailer and spent an afternoon acquiring about half the shop. On my return I studied everything I could from cake decorating literature, YouTube videos and talked to a handful of cake decorating suppliers and the bakers I knew. It took me months before I managed to cover a whole 10” cake fully in fondant. It was satiny smooth and perfectly flat, without so much as a crack or flaw. I must’ve nearly shed a tear. As for the figurines and toppers, they were a joy to play and experiment with, and fun to learn and master like my childhood art and craft lessons toying with modelling clay or plasticine.
Fondant these days comes in many forms—rolled, sculpted and poured. To decorate the cakes I lovingly bake , it remains my favourite method of icing as the possibilities are only limited by my imagination. I go to my inner happy place when I’m sculpting fondant and fooling around with it like my kids have a ball with their play dough.
By the winter of the year I first picked up fondant sculpting, I started an online shop on Etsy selling my sugar paste creations to a global customer base. Alas, with two of my kids at a needy age at the time, I wasn’t able to cope with the orders or manage my time juggling too many hats–sculpting, drying, packing and shipping out orders including local orders alone from personal referrals.
In the end I had to give it up, but I’ve never felt it was ever a waste of my time. I had given myself a valuable self-taught artistic skill that now enables me to bless my family and friends with. If you’re game to try it, you’ll never regret you did. It’s one of the most sought after pastry chef skills today! And every resource is readily available for you to pick up fondant cake decorating. I couldn’t egg you on more.
These days we’re blessed that fondant is easily obtainable in a ready to use form anywhere from supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths to craft stores like Lincraft, Riot or Spotlight to specialty cake supplies stores. When you spot the description ‘Ready to Roll’ or ‘RTR’ fondant, this would be the kind I’m talking about here. RTR Fondant now come available flavoured and ready tinted in a rainbow of enticing colours that make a cake decorator’s job a breeze.
There are a variety of different brands but I would recommend you use what is most commonly supplied and affordable in your city to ensure you have a constant supply of it and it would usually be the best value for money. In Brisbane for example, Wilton is imported into Australia but at a much higher price than Satin Ice (my favourite), though both brands are made in the USA.
You could also choose to make you own fondant if you wish. A good recipe is provided by Wilton on http://www.wilton.com/recipe/Rolled-Fondant-1
The following are a list of my top 10 tips and secrets that I’d like to share with you.
My Top 10 Secrets Of Fondant Cake Decorating
#1 Fondant Storage
Ensure you store your fondant securely in an airtight container, but not before it is first wrapped in cling film then stored in a clear zippered plastic storage bag as well—for added airtight storage. Fondant dries out quickly and once dried, it is literally tough to work with.
#2 Temperature To Best Store Fondant
Never ever refrigerate your completed fondant cake. The condensation will ruin your entire creation in less than 5 minutes. Enough said? In the same way, do not attempt to cover a cold cake right out of the fridge with fondant. If you had stored your cake in the fridge, leave it out to fully warm up to room temperature before icing it and blot up any condensation on the surface before you begin. Which is why I would strongly discourage storing your baked cake in the fridge, whether or not it is iced yet.
#3 Handling Fondant
Keep your hands dry, cool and floured with a bit of cornflour mixed with sifted icing sugar. Never work on fondant with moist or wet hands, or warm hands unless you wish to soften it! Use a large non-stick silicon rolling pin rather than a wooden one if possible, to prevent the fondant sticking. Keep sprinkling a mix of cornflour and powdered sugar on the bottom of your fondant mat to prevent sticking (or bench if you are not using a mat) but not on the surface of the fondant. Some bakers use only powdered icing sugar instead of cornflour which will taste a lot better in the end.
#4 Crumb Coating
Crumb coating your cake is a practice bakers use to smoothen the cake before covering it with fondant. There are different ways to do this—if you use buttercream icing, it tends to be less forgiving than a dry icing sugar plus water mix which dries out and is dry to the touch rather than buttercream which is only a means to adhere the cake to the fondant. I much prefer using the icing sugar crumb coating method as it allows me to manoeuvre a large ‘pizza of fondant’ over my cake more flexibly. Using buttercream dirties the bottom of the fondant and you can’t undo mistakes.
#5 Softening fondant
To soften fondant, rub in a bit of vegetable shortening to make it easier to handle rather than a ‘dry or cracking putty’ of fondant.
#6 Pasta Machine
I use a pasta machine to roll my fondant or gum paste as thinly as I need it to be, or for a quick tinting process using gel colours.
I use vegetable shortening rather than water to repair cracks as I find water tends to be tricky and wet fondant just ruins the smooth look you’re aiming for in a medium like this.
#8 Cake boards
Always use a sturdy cake board to begin decorating as the fondant increases your cake’s weight considerably and you’ll need a tough base to balance and transport your cake, even for a few metres from the kitchen bench to the dining table. Preferably, use a ‘lazy susan’ below the board to revolve your cake so that you can easily reach the areas at the back which you may miss.
#9 Use a Fondant Smoother
Invest in a Fondant Smoother which is a handy contraption that resembles a builder’s cement or plaster smoother that has a handle on its back and a smooth, thin, flat rectangular piece on its front. There are those made with a right-angled edge to smooth the edges of square-edged cakes, and rounded ones for round cakes. They are also handy for smoothing out ‘elephant skin’ during your covering process.
#10 Trimming excess fondant
Always trim away the excess fondant starting from the bottom edge of the cake. Try to be liberal as you trim away, and do so in a steady, inward motion so that if you make a mistake, there’ll be enough fondant to stretch over the uncovered edge. Lightly stretch the trimmed bits away as you trim gently around the perimeter of the edge. Then smoothen with the fondant smoother tool to give it a neat finish. A nice edging trim in the form of a fabric or paper ribbon or my frequent choice—a fondant trimming around the bottom edge, will give a professional attractive finish to the cake.
To view a few of my fondant cakes