Fondant frosting has a sleek, professional look that you can’t quite achieve with buttercream. For that reason, it’s popular among cake decorators and consumers alike, especially for elegant occasions such as weddings and anniversaries. Although fondant has many merits, it can be tricky to make and use. It’s a lot of fun to play with, though, and it’s not too tough to create decorations that look as if they rolled out of a real bakery.
How to Use Fondant for Cake Decorating
Before you can start using fondant, you need to learn the best ways to work with fondant.
Getting the Frosting
If you don’t want to go to all the work it takes to mix up a homemade batch of fondant, you can pick up a tub or two at your local cake decorating store or perhaps even at a large craft store that sells some baking materials. Pre-made fondant doesn’t taste quite as good as homemade, but since taste isn’t one of fondant’s high points, it can be worthwhile to save some time by getting the tubs.
However, if you want to go all out and make your own, you have a couple of choice. Traditional fondant is slightly more difficult to make and requires a greater number of specialty ingredients. Marshmallow fondant is made of things you’re likely to have around the house and tastes a bit better, although it’s initially very stick and tough to handle. To cover a cake, you’ll need about one to two pounds of fondant.
Unless you’re making a traditional wedding cake, you may want to use some fondant colors other than white. You can tint white frosting to any shade you want with the aid of gel coloring. Liquid food coloring doesn’t work quite as well because it tends to flow right off the fondant and isn't easily kneaded into the dough.
Wear plastic gloves or surgical gloves to tint your fondant or you may end up with tinted hands for several days. Roll the fondant into a thick log, use a toothpick to dab on a few drops of gel color, and push and squeeze the log together to knead the color into the sugar paste. If the fondant grows too sticky, you can even out the texture by sprinkling it with powdered sugar. If it seems too dry, try adding a couple of drops of oil. At first, the color will look marbled in the fondant. You’ll need to keep working the dough for five to 10 minutes to get all of the color incorporated; the frosting will continue to darken slightly as it sits.
After you have a lump of frosting in the color you need, you can roll it out to drape over a cake, cover cupcakes, or use as a sheet to cut out shapes with fondant tools or cookie cutters. Scatter sifted powdered sugar or a mixture of powdered sugar and confectioners’ sugar over a flat countertop or table, place your piece of fondant on the table, and use a rolling pin to roll the fondant flat. Depending on how sticky your frosting is, you may also need to coat the rolling pin with confectioners’ sugar.
To cover a cake or cupcakes, your sheet of fondant should be about 1/4" thick. You can cut a circle from the sheet with a sharp knife lightly dusted with confectioners’ sugar or sprayed with cooking spray.
Fondant is a lot like modeling clay, which means it’s easy and fun to sculpt and shape into figurines or decorations. There’s no right or wrong way to sculpt fondant, so even if you have very limited artistic ability, you can create frosting decorations that are abstract or basic. Fondant people, animals, and more intricate creations take more work and greater detail.
You’ll need plenty of different colors for sculpting, so it can be helpful to tint small amounts of several pieces of fondant and keep them on hand to use as you require them. If you want your creations to be dry when you place them on top of cakes or cupcakes to serve, make them several days in advance and allow them to air dry at room temperature.
Fondant can dry out quickly, but it doesn’t contain any ingredients that are very perishable, so it will remain usable for a long time. To protect it while you’re working with it, keep any unused pieces covered with plastic wrap or a damp cloth. Wrap leftover fondant tightly in plastic wrap and store it in a zip-top bag in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it again; it will keep for up to several months.
Properly using fondant requires you to make or buy the frosting, tint it properly and either roll or sculpt it for your cake design. Remember to store leftover fondant properly so it does not go to waste.