14 Must know Tips for working with Fondant – Cake Decorating Basics
Fondant has become the medium for custom decorated cakes in recent times and you find more and more people are creating cakes covered in flawless fondant finishes. Fondant can be tricky for a beginner but with these tips for working with fondant, you will be a pro in no time. Wheather you are a novice planning to work on just one cake or become a professional cake decorator these fondant tips and tricks is all you need to up your fame in the world of fondant decorated cakes.
Fondant has come a long way in the world of cake decorating. Customers are more aware of fondant and its unlimited possibilities. So the moment you decide you want to become a cake decorator, one of the first things you will need to master is – how to handle fondant. For those of us that actually worked with fondant before, this can be a challenge. And if you’ve had a bad experience with fondant like I did zillion years ago? Ah well, I was petrified. But then I was just sixteen.
Here’s a little advice for you if you just starting out. Don’t read negative experiences about people and fondant, because it doesn’t help. If you tell yourself ‘I got this’ guess what, you got this.
Many people claim store bought fondant is more easy to work while some say homemade fondant is easy to work with. The truth? It’s just a myth. Working with fondant gets better with practice and of course, knowing a few tips that help when working with fondant.
So that’s what we are going to do today in this Tip Thursday. We are going to share some Tips for working with fondant (Save/Pin)
1. Prepare your work surface
- Clean your work surface making sure you have not cake crumbs, water puddles, wet spots anywhere. A great way to get lint or tiny particles of dust off your surface is to use a small ball of fondant (about a golf size) and rub it over the surface. All the tiny particles stick to it and voila your surface is now ready for fondant.
- Clear the space so you can roll your fondant large as well as keep your cake within reach without knicking into it while rolling.
- Have the immediate things you need handy so you don’t go looking for it last minute such as dusting pouch, knife or cutting wheel, acupuncture needles to pop air bubbles, cake smoothers, acetate smoothers. Nothing is worse than to go hunting these down while your fondant dries.
2. Prepare fondant first
- Bring your fondant to room temperature before you use it. If necessary microwave for no more than 10 sec. or it will become sticky and too soft.
- If possible color your fondant a day or two ahead of time – so the colors will deepen.
Additionally letting the fondant sit after you added all that color will help restore some of its composition and you will find it’s not as goofy the next day.
- Knead your fondant well before you start to roll it or it will not roll evenly which is the reason for tearing and cracking. Kneading also helps with a smooth finish.
3. Rolling Fondant
- Roll the fondant on a lightly dusted smooth surface.
- In humid places, a mix of powder sugar and cornstarch works best &
- In dry places, vegetable shortening works best to roll fondant.
- In places, with high humidity, only cornstarch works best (I use only cornstarch). Powder sugar can cause the fondant to sticky with condensation.
- Make sure your cake is smooth with buttercream or ganache before you cover it with fondant because fondant will show all the uneven bumps and gaps under the fondant.
- Do not roll your fondant way larger than you need it. The excess will only make it heavy to lift and difficult to move. If you are covering an 8” cake roll a disc of about 20 inches not 40. Plus you won’t waste too much fondant but exposing it to air and cornstarch.
- To transfer fondant over the cake – do not use fingers as it can tear, instead
- Use a rolling pin to lift the whole piece of fondant thus distributing the weight evenly and avoiding any tears.
- You can also use both of your arms.
4. Smoothing fondant
- The palms of your hands are the best tool for smoothing fondant. The friction caused by your hands rubbing on the sugar paste makes for a smooth fondant.
- For those with sweaty palms, fondant smoothers are available in the market at very affordable prices. These are one of the best cake decorating tools to keep handy and they do more than just smooth cakes.
5. Cutting Fondant
- A pizza wheel works better than a knife to cut around the cake. A scalpel or an exact-o knife is much better than a pizza wheel. Having said that a scalpel is really sharp and can cause serious damage if not used carefully (don’t ask me how I know that)
- If you have small kids watch for those exact-o knives or scalpels as kids seem to be very attracted to them. I almost avoid using them because my kids always seem to find a way to be around them.
6. Cake Drums
- Fondant is heavy thus making the cake heavy – ensure you always have a sturdy cake board. A cake board that flexes or bends results in fondant tearing when the cake is moved especially during transportation.
- Cake drums are best for fondant covered cakes. I have shown you how to make your own cake boards here on the blog by simply using foam core and contact paper you can buy from your local craft store – Check this post – DIY cake boards
Working smart with fondant (save/Pin)
7. Find your strength
are you better at covering round cakes, square cakes, novelty cakes? Practice on a dummy – a great way to learn is to practice on a dummy cake. Use leftover fondant you don’t mind wasting. Cover it once but before it dries remove it, knead it with damp hand and practice again. Until your fondant become useless.
8. Know your fondant
If you have a bad batch of fondant, perhaps using it to cover a round cake with sharp edges is not the way to go. Instead, save it for novelty cakes when you can use it to your advantage. Make a batch or find a brand that you know works better for you when covering round cakes with sharp edges.
9. Color fondant ahead of time
One of the advantages of coloring fondant ahead of time is that that fondant has time to settle back into its original composition. Always use gel food colors when coloring fondant as these are more concentrated don’t affect the consistency of the fondant much. Another added advantage of coloring the fondant ahead of time is the colors have time to deepen over time. Below is a great example. As you can see this is a cake before decorating with brush embroidery and after. Some color deepens more than others. Some brand colors deepen more than others. Some get even better over time while some may need a little more tweaking.
10. Fondant is greatly affected by climate
Cool temperatures work better as it keeps the fondant pliable not too soft. So work in a cool place. If necessary work in an air-conditioned environment. If you do not have air-conditioning work in the cool hours of the day like the evenings or later.
11. Strengthen your fondant
If you find that no matter how many recipes of fondant you make, or how many commercial brands of fondant you try, your fondant is still too soft, or difficult to work with. Perhaps its’ the weather, not you. (what a relief eh?) Well, a way to help strengthen it would be to add a small amount of tylose or CMC to your fondant.
12. Working with seams
If you working on novelty cakes and find that you have many seams to work worth with? avoid using vegetable shortening while kneading the fondant. Use a damp finger over the seem then smooth with your palm and you will see like magic the seams just disappear. Veg shortening tends to prevent the sugar from blending (no clue why – it just does)
13. Novelty Cakes
again great away to prevent your fondant drying quickly when working with novelty cakes is to add some modeling chocolate to the fondant. I like adding while modeling chocolate to my fondant when working on novelty cakes. This works great for me in winter but in summer I prefer to use just fondant as modeling chocolate tends to make the fondant softer.
14 Hot humid weather?
- In hot humid weather, fondant tends to melt with condensation. So chill the cake well before you cover with fondant. That way you will have a nice firm cake to work with. But once you cover the cake with fondant, DO NOT put it back in the fridge. Leave it out. Usually, it will get wet with condensation. Leave it in a cool place until the cake’s internal temperature has settled. Fondant will dry in a few hours and you should have a dry surface to work with again. This requires that you step away from the cake for a few hours between covering the cake with fondant and continuing to decorate, so plan your project accordingly.
- I highly recommend strengthening your fondant with CMC (as I explained above). The humidity will prevent the fondant from hardening so don’t worry about it getting hard.
15. Make/buy the right right fondant for the right job.
(well, we lost count an went past 14 tips but this is important)
I do buy fondant in bulk because fondant making can take a lot of time when you have many orders. So I have to plan and decide what I am going to use homemade and when I am going to use commercial fondant. For example, I try for almost all my kids’ cakes to use homemade fondant but all wedding cakes are covered in commercial fondant. That’s one way for me to reduce my workload and to plan according.
If you make homemade fondant then plan the right recipe for the right job.
- You can easily use my homemade fondant recipe from scratch for all your cake. You can pre-color the fondant right at the time of making it. If you find yourself short on time or don’t have all the ingredients then perhaps try a Marshmallow based fondant recipe.
- A marshmallow fondant uses 2 main ingredients and is just as easy to make an use.
- If you plan to make a cake that needs brown fondant then perhaps make a chocolate fondant, that way you can skip the process of coloring and it’s chocolate. Who doesn’t like chocolate? Of course, I do have who brown fondant recipes for you one made with chocolate marshmallow fondant.
- Similarly, if you need a black I would rather make a black fondant from scratch than go about adding just colors. You do need a lot and the end result is a very soft fondant.
- And then there is a vegetarian fondant which works for those who do not want any dairy or can’t have gelatin.
- If you use homemade fondant often, you may like to check out the
other Homemade Fondant Recipes I have for you