If you loved playing with clay or playdough as a kid, you’ll love decorating with fondant as a grown up! You can roll it, cut it, dye it, and form it into just about any shape. And it’s perfect for creating fancy kids’ birthday cakes. Fondant is fun! It’s not without its pressure points but the key is to enjoy the process and get your kids involved. I’ll show you how to decorate with fondant for beginners. But be warned, fondant is addictive. Once you start decorating with this gorgeous icing, you won’t look back.
What is Fondant?
Fondant is a creamy white sugar, used in different forms for the purpose of confectionary and cake decorating. There are different types of fondants on the market and I suggest you visit a cake/baking supplier to discuss your needs. You can buy a range of colours to dye your fondant, but it’s just as easy to skip that step and buy it already dyed.
For covering cakes rolled fondant is recommended as it leaves a perfectly smooth, satiny surface and is ready to use, hence its name ‘Ready to Roll’. You can buy it from most cake decorating supply stores and even your supermarket may have it. It’s possible to make it yourself, although I recommend buying it for your first few attempts.
Don’t be discouraged if your first attempt has a few wrinkles or air bubbles in it. Your party guests won’t notice imperfections and some clever troubleshooting should be able to fix it. Follow these simple tips for how to cover a cake with fondant.
What you need
There is an almost overwhelming range of fondant tools including cutters, mats, rollers, food colours, writing pens, and smoothers. Don’t feel you need to go out and purchase everything initially. To begin with I suggest you equip yourself with a fondant (silicone) rolling pin, a selection of fondant cutters (hearts, stars, letters) a fondant smother and, of course, some fondant. You don’t need a special fondant mat and you don’t need fancy fondant ruler – just use some sewing measuring tape to measure the sides of the cake.
Before you begin
It’s important to be oraganised when working with fondant for the first time so I suggest baking your cake in advance and freezing it. Use a basic butter cake recipe as it provides a firm surface for most icing. And start small. The higher the cake, the more fondant you need and for your first attempt, you’re better off using smaller amounts. You can work up to a gorgeous 3-tier cake but just start with one layer initially and a round cake is best. Have a little play first by making your decorations. Use your cutters to cut out shapes and once dry, store these in an airtight container until ready to use.
How to cover a cake in fondant in 10 easy steps
- Coat cake with a smooth layer of buttercream, ganache or apricot jam to prepare it for the rolled fondant covering. The cake must be level so be sure to smooth out any lumps or bumps. You will actually plaster the cake with the buttercream icing, much like plastering a wall when preparing it for a coat of paint.
Helpful tip: Remember, you must place the fondant before the buttercream is set and dry. Wet buttercream acts as glue to which the fondant will stick to your cake.
- Before you start rolling and kneading the fondant, lightly dust your rolling pin and work surface in icing sugar or cornflour (I prefer the latter). Your icing will dry out quickly so you’ll need to work quickly to avoid your icing becoming cracked.
Helpful tip: Add a small amount of gylercine to the fondant to soften it slightly.
- Fondant is temperature sensitive. Like pastry, it doesn’t like warmth. If you have hot hands this will tend to make your icing sticky and then you will be tempted to over use corn flour that will dry your icing. Cool your hands under cold water and keep your corn flour to a light sprinkle.
Helpful tip: When you’re not using your icing (even for a minute) put it in a zip-lock plastic bag to avoid it drying out.
- Move the fondant around as you’re rolling to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bench. Lift and turn and sprinkle extra cornflour if needed. Treat your icing a bit like play dough, keeping folding it in until it is smooth. Form the fondant into a ball and roll out to form a circle slightly larger than the surface you want to cover. You don’t want it super-thin, as it’ll tear really easily. The ideal thickness of fondant to cover a cake is 3mm. No one wants a thick blanket of fondant to overpower the delicious cake inside.
Helpful tip: Try and get above your icing when you knead it on the bench. If you are short, get a stool so you can use your body weight to help you knead.
- Carefully lift the fondant off your workbench and drape it over the cake, centering it as best you can. Be careful not to push your finger through the fondant. Alternatively you can roll it onto your rolling pin (like pastry) and then unroll it over the cake.
Helpful tip: Should air bubbles form while kneading fondant, prick the bubbles with a needle and lightly rub the bubble until the air is expelled.
- Allow the fondant to droop down, and then smooth it with a fondant smoother without causing wrinkles. It should stick to the fresh buttercream. At this stage start stretching the fondant, smoothing it down and then repeat: stretch, smooth, turn; stretch, smooth, turn. Once its smooth, cut away excess fondant with a pizza cutter (or knife).
Helpful tip: YouTube has some great fondant video tutorials, which are useful for showing you this step.
- Now for the fun part! Decorate the cake with your pre-prepared fondant shapes. Use a small amount of water, or beaten egg white, on a pastry brush to stick them to the cake. Alphabet letters are a fun and easy way to include your child’s name on the top of the cake. There is no limit to fondant shapes and sizes. Whatever your theme, you will find fondant shape cutters to match!
Helpful tip: You may want to pipe a decorative buttercream icing edge or simply tie a piece of ribbon around the base of the cake to conceal any bumps. I do this every time!
- Your cake is now complete, but whatever you do, don’t put it in the fridge! Fondant will sweat in the fridge. Once your cake is covered it is perfectly fine to store in a cool place and, in fact, fondant icing locks the moisture in and so it will lengthen the shelf life of a cake.
Helpful tip: Store excess fondant icing in a sealed bag or container.
- After serving, try not to think about how many hours of work were just demolished by a group of three-year-olds in less than five minutes.
Helpful tip: Ensure you get your photos before the kids demolish your masterpiece!
- Don’t be intimated by picture perfect Pinterst boards. You don’t need to master fondant in order to create a spectacular cake. There is no such thing as the perfect cake. In all actuality, professional cake decorators just know how to camouflage or correct any mistakes they make.
Parting words: Don’t be put off by a bumpy first attempt. The most important thing is to have fun and be creative. And remember that practice makes perfect. Good luck!
Have you ever used fondant to ice a cake? What are you tips and tricks? If you have any questions at all about this post, please just comment below and I’ll be sure to respond.
*First published on Kidspot.