Click below for rolled fondant tips:
Rolled fondant is the smooth, elegant, white as snow or food color tinted sugar confection used to cover many professional cakes. A fondant covering helps the cake underneath to stay moist, along with creating a perfectly smooth blank canvas that other decorations can be applied to, or left elegantly plain.
You don’t have to be a professional baker to use fondant. Rolled fondant is easy to make, inexpensive, uses easily available ingredients, and is melt-in-your mouth delicious. Yes, some people will still remove the fondant covering before eating a cake, but when a delicious tasting fondant is covering your work of art most people will be deliciously surprised at the flavor and won’t be able to resist eating every bite.
Pre-made fondant can be purchased in most craft and cake stores; however it doesn’t taste very good and is fairly expensive, up to $10.00 per pound. Homemade fondant is only as expensive as the few ingredients you will use and average maybe two or three dollars.
Making homemade fondant is easy, and the great taste of homemade fondant makes the effort worthwhile. The tradeoff for making homemade fondant vs. purchasing pre-made fondant is some time and effort. Kneading fondant is like kneading bread dough; however fondant is much stiffer and heavier than dough. You will definitely feel like you are getting a workout when kneading fondant.
Fondant is fun and easy to work with, but it may take a little practice to feel comfortable if you have not made a fondant covered cake before. If you are hesitant to use fondant, I would recommend purchasing a small container of pre-made fondant to practice before moving on to making your own; this way you will learn what the correct consistency of fondant feels like and how to roll it and work with it. Practice on an upside-down cake pan so that you can practice covering a “cake” and then gather up the fondant when done, re-knead, and re-roll as many times as you want without getting crumbs in the fondant. You may also want to make or purchase a pound cake to practice with before moving onto larger projects.
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Rolled Fondant Tips
- The ultimate goal when decorating a cake with rolled fondant should be to relax and have fun with it.
- Remember that it is nearly impossible to make a perfect cake so don’t have perfection as your goal.
- Most mistakes can be covered up or corrected.
- A less than perfect looking cake or fondant will not alter the delicious taste of what you have just created.
- Remove any rings or jewelry that may leave an indentation in the fondant. Wear a clean apron to prevent any stray fibers from your clothing from marring the surface of the fondant. Make sure your work surface is clean and lint free.
- Ingredients and equipment for preparing fondant should be at room temperature.
- Determine how much fondant you will need. It is always better to have too much fondant than too little.Excess fondant and be stored and reused later or used to make extra decorations for the cake. 3 pounds offondant should easily cover a 2 or 3 layer 9 inch cake with trimmings left over to use for decorative pieces.
- A cake covered in fondant will remain fresh tasting longer because the fondant helps to seal the moisture in.But how far in advance you cover the cake with fondant before serving is largely determined on the type of cake and filling your are using. A butter cake should remain fresh up to 2 or 3 days once it is covered with fondant. A cake with a perishable filling or icing should be covered and decorated just 1 or 2 days before serving.
Prepare the Fondant:
- When making Classic Rolled Fondant, You can substitute light corn syrup for the glucose syrup. If you use corn syrup reduce the water from ¼ cup to 3 tablespoons. Glucose and corn syrup are both an invert sugar and are used to prevent sugar crystallization. Glucose syrup is sold in most craft and cake stores.
- Glycerin is used in Classic Rolled Fondant to improve the softness of the finished fondant, keeping it soft and chewy. It is not absolutely necessary to use but highly recommended. Glycerin is sold in most craft and cake stores.
- Kneading fondant before rolling is essential; the fondant becomes smooth and pliable when you knead it. It usually takes between 5 to 8 minutes to knead the fondant to the correct consistency; it should be warm, smooth, pliable like clay, somewhat elastic, and not sticky.
- Kneading fondant is like kneading bread dough, however the kneading process can be difficult since fondant is normally heavier and stiffer than bread dough.
- Grease your hands and the work surface with vegetable shortening to prevent sticking while kneading. Have extra shortening nearby to regrease your hands and the work surface as necessary.
- You can use a heavy duty stand mixer with a dough hook to initially blend the ingredients and begin the kneading; grease both the bowl and the dough hook with vegetable shortening or vegetable spray. However, the mixer doesn’t normally knead the fondant well enough, and you will most likely need to finish kneading by hand.
- While kneading the fondant, if it seems too soft, knead in extra powdered sugar. If the Fondant is too dry youcan usually soften it by kneading in a bit of shortening. Fondant firms up as it sets.
- Choose an extract or oil flavoring for the fondant that will complement the cake flavor. Almond and Vanilla are classic flavors that are great with white and yellow cakes, but will taste wonderful on almost any cake flavor. Chocolate or mint flavors are a nice complement to chocolate cake; lemon flavor is great with lemon cake, orange flavor on orange cake, coconut flavor with coconut cake, etc.
- Oil flavorings are preferred for flavoring over extracts as oils have an intense flavor and only require a few drops to add the desired flavor, however it’s ok to use extracts.
- Using regular vanilla extract will cause the fondant to be a little off-white in color; however, if you’re going to tint the fondant with food coloring this will probably not matter. If you want a pure white fondant use a clear flavoring such as clear vanilla, almond or lemon.
- Use gel or paste food colors; these are sold in craft and cake stores and are also available through the Kitchen and Baking Store. Liquid food colors can make the fondant sticky.
- Color is added after you have kneaded the fondant and it is smooth and pliable. Add a little bit of color at a time until you achieve the desired shade. With paste colors, just dab some color on a toothpick then rub the toothpick on the fondant to transfer the color. Knead the fondant until the color spreads uniformly throughout without any streaks. You may get some color on your hands, but it will wash off, or you can protect your hands by using clean plastic gloves.
- When tinting fondant, leave a small portion untinted, this way if you feel the color is too strong you can tone it down with some of the extra untinted portion.
- Fondant can be rolled as soon as it is made, but it seems to be more elastic and pliable if first allowed to rest and cure before rolling. Allow rolled fondant to cure for 24 hours, or at least 8 hours or overnight, before rolling.
- Shape the fondant into a thick disk and rub a thin coating of shortening over the entire surface to keep the fondant from drying out. Wrap the fondant disc tightly in at least two layers of plastic wrap and then place in a resealable plastic bag or airtight container and store at room temperature to cure.
- Fondant can be prepared well in advance of rolling, and will keep fresh for 1 to 2 months at room temperature when well wrapped.
Bake and Prepare the Cake:
- Properly preparing the cake is such an important step when a cake is to be covered with rolled fondant. Take the time to prepare the cake so that the fondant has a perfect surface to sit on.
- Use cake strips wrapped around the outside of the cake pan when baking the cake to produce a more evenly baked and level cake, reducing the amount of leveling you will need to do after the cake is baked and cooled. You can make your own cake strips by cutting long pieces of double thickness heavy duty foil, cut to the same height as the cake pan. Wrap the foil piece around the cake pan and fasten with tape.
- Make sure the baked cake is completely cooled before applying the crumb coat and fondant. Most cakes will benefit by refrigerating overnight to tighten the crumb and make the cake more solid. Or make the cake ahead and freeze tightly wrapped, then thaw before using.
- A cake to be covered with fondant should have a firm texture such as butter cake, pound cake, flourless tortes, nut tortes, fruitcake, etc. Soft cakes such as Angel Food cake and sponge cake are not normally firm enough to hold up under the weight of rolled fondant; however if the fondant is rolled thin it will probably work just fine.
- Fruitcake, because it is so moist and typically well soaked in brandy, should be covered with marzipan before covering with rolled fondant. The marzipan seals the cake and prevents moisture from the cake from seeping into the fondant.
- Trim each cake layer with a sharp serrated knife or cake leveler so each layer is a level as possible; slice off any raised edges or the raised cake center. For the top layer, trim the edge so it is rounded, otherwise the fondant may crack if placed over a sharp edge. If you remove a bit too much when leveling the cake, you can patch with some of the trimmed pieces.
- Cakes covered with fondant are heavy, therefore you need to place the cake on a sturdy base that wont bend; otherwise the fondant may crack or get damaged when you pick the cake up to move it or transfer it to a cake plate. I recommend using a cake board, available in most craft and cake stores; cut the board to the size and shape of the cake. Secure the bottom layer of the cake to the cake board or cake plate; place about a tablespoon of frosting in the middle of the board or plate, center the cake and press the cake lightly into the frosting to adhere.
- Placing the cake on a cake board will allow you to easily move the cake when ready. You can place the cake on a cake turntable for crumb coating and placing the fondant, then easily transfer to a cake plate. For a clean appearance, cut the cake board to fit the size of the cake.
- Add desired filling between the layers if making a layer cake. If using a Buttercream crumb coat, you can use the same Buttercream for the filling. Spread about ¼ inch of frosting or Buttercream between the layers; use an offset spatula to spread the filling as smooth and level as possible. Place the top layer with the rounded edge on top; the rounded edge will allow the fondant to drape nicely over the sides without tearing. After placing the top layers, look at the cake from all sides at eye level to make sure the layers are perfectly centered and lined with the bottom layers.
- Measure the top and sides of the cake so you know how large to roll the fondant. I recommend rolling the fondant at least 2 inches larger than the size of the cake, the extra will be trimmed off. You would rather have too large a piece that needs to be trimmed than a piece too little that doesn’t completely cover the cake. Measure across the top of the cake for the width, and then measure the height. Add the width plus two-times the height for the size of the cake.
- Place the cake along with the cake board or cake plate on a cake turntable or any lazy Susan type plate with a small pedestal underneath that can turn easily without wobbling. This will make it easy to turn the cake when smoothing the fondant on the cake.
Crumb Coat the Cake:
- The crumb coat is a coating of icing, Ganache, or glaze that seals the moisture into the cake along with giving the fondant a sticky surface to adhere to. Buttercream frosting is commonly used as the crumb coat, and the same Buttercream frosting can be used as the filling for a layer cake. White or dark chocolate Ganache is a good choice for the crumb coat depending on the cake flavor and the fondant color. The crumb coat can also be a jam glaze such as apricot jam or other jam flavors.
- The crumb coat is normally a white or off-white icing, such as with untinted Buttercream frosting, and along with securing loose crumbs is effective in covering up a dark cake so that the cake color doesn’t show through the fondant. But, if the fondant will be tinted a dark color with food coloring, you may also want to tint the crumb coat to match the fondant color so the crumb coat doesn’t show through.
- The crumb coat is also an effective way to hide any uneven spots and imperfections in the cake, as these imperfections would show through the rolled fondant. The crumb coat can be used to fill in any holes or cracks in the cake and provide a smooth surface for the rolled fondant.
- One crumb coat layer is fine; however two thin crumb coat layers are best. The first crumb coat secures any “cake crumbs” and gives you a firm surface to work with and partially covers a dark cake. The first crumb coat also allows you to fill in any imperfections in the cake, along with filling in the gaps between layers and between the bottom cake layer and cake board. The second crumb coat will finish covering a dark cake and provide the sticky surface required for the fondant to stick to. If using a glaze or jam, also use two coats.
- Both crumb coat layers should be thin. A crumb coat that is too thick may get pushed down when smoothing the fondant, creating lumps underneath the fondant.
- It is important to not let the second crumb coat dry, it must be sticky, or tacky, for the fondant to stick to it.
- For the first crumb coat, using an offset spatula, cover the sides and top of the cake with a thin layer of frosting. Don’t let the spatula touch the cake as this will cause the cake crumbs to lift off the cake and into the frosting. Let the cake sit until the crumb coat is dried to the touch.
- The second crumb coat should be applied just prior to covering the cake with rolled fondant. Rewhip frosting to bring it back to a fluffy texture, adding a small amount of milk if necessary. Apply a second crumb coat by covering the sides and top of the cake with a thin layer of frosting over the first crumb coat. The second crumb coat goes on very easily because the crumbs have already been sealed by first crumb coat.
- Cover and save any leftover frosting to use for patching or decorating. Also place a dab of the leftover frosting on the cake plate to secure the cake in place.
- Remove the cured fondant from the plastic and knead for several minutes to warm the fondant until it is pliable and smooth. You probably won’t need any vegetable shortening on the rolling surface for this kneading, however if it starts to stick use a little shortening on the rolling surface and your hands.
- If the fondant is stiff and difficult to knead, microwave for about 15 seconds to warm it up. If the fondant seems too dry you can knead a small amount of vegetable shortening in, or if it seems too sticky knead a small amount of powdered sugar or cornstarch in. Tint with food coloring if desired. After kneading, the fondant temperature should be between 75 to 80 degrees when checked with an instant read thermometer.
- Super-Fast Thermapen Thermometer:
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Gone are the various instant read, candy, and meat thermometers I’ve previously used; instead, I use my Thermapen Thermometer for checking room temperature baking ingredients, Fondant, sugar syrups, melting and tempering chocolate, baking bread, making pastry creams, caramel, and candy, along with cooking and barbequing meats and fish, and checking oil temperatures for deep frying. Thermapen Thermometer available here.
- Super-Fast Thermapen Thermometer:
- Once the fondant is thoroughly kneaded, wrap in plastic to keep it from drying out while you put the second crumb coat on the cake and before rolling the fondant. Fondant dries quickly, so always keep the fondant you are working with and any excess unused fondant well-wrapped in plastic to keep it from drying out.
- Roll the fondant on a clean and smooth countertop, marble board, pastry board, or pastry mat. I use a large sized nonstick pastry mat that measures 23 inches by 31 inches; these mats are made specifically for rolling and kneading doughs and are perfect for rolling fondant along with pie pastry, sugar cookies, chocolate and sugar work. Fondant can also be rolled between two sheets of parchment paper or wax paper. If you are rolling a very large piece of fondant you can shop in a fabric store for a large piece of heavy duty vinyl or plastic.
- Lightly dust the work surface with powdered sugar or cornstarch or combination of both. I prefer to use equal parts powdered sugar and cornstarch as a good all-around mixture. Or, if you are in a very damp climate, you can use just cornstarch as cornstarch acts like a drying agent, and if you are in a very dry climate you can use just powdered sugar or vegetable shortening on the rolling surface. If necessary to prevent sticking, you can dust the rolling pin very lightly, but try to keep the top of the fondant as clean and free of other ingredients as possible.
- I usually mix together about ¼ cup of cornstarch with ¼ cup powdered sugar for dusting the work surface. Place leftovers in a plastic bag and label, and use again for your next fondant project.
- Many people recommend a silicone rolling pin for rolling fondant to prevent the fondant from sticking to the pin, but I use a wooden rolling pin and it works just fine, I usually don’t even need to dust the rolling pin. Use a rolling pin that is free of nicks.
- When rolling the fondant, be sure to lift and turn the fondant frequently to make sure the fondant is not sticking to the rolling surface. Or just jostle the fondant a bit to make sure it is not stuck to the surface and will slide back and forth. As you lift and move the fondant you will want to frequently redust the work surface with more powdered sugar or cornstarch to ensure the fondant doesn’t stick.
- Once you start rolling the fondant, don’t flip the fondant over; once you start rolling, the bottom will never be as smooth and perfect as the top due to any imperfections in you rolling surface and the dusting mixture. Instead, just frequently lift the fondant and give it about a quarter turn to make sure it is not sticking.
- Roll the fondant into a circle large enough to cover the cake and sides along with excess that will be trimmed off at the end. Roll the fondant ¼ inch thick for covering cakes as it will be easiest to handle. If the fondant is rolled thinner than ¼ inch, the chance of tearing is greater and imperfections in the cake may show through. Because fondant is heavy, if it is rolled too thick (more than ¼ inch) the weight of any excess fondant before trimming can pull the fondant from the top of the cake causing tears or cracks.
- Fondant dries out quickly. Once the fondant is rolled, don’t let it sit, immediately place and smooth on the cake before it has a chance to dry out and harden.
Placing Fondant on Cake:
- The rolled fondant should be placed on the cake as soon as it is rolled and while the second crumb coat is still fresh and sticky.
- Place the polished side of the fondant up on the cake.
- Carefully slide your hands under the fondant, lift the fondant, center and place it over the cake .
- Or you can loosely roll the fondant around the rolling pin, and then gently unroll over the cake. To ensure the fondant doesn’t stick to the pin lightly dust the pin with cornstarch or powdered sugar or spray with a vegetable spray. Make sure the first edge goes all the way down to the cake board or cake plate before releasing the fondant from the rolling pin so that the sides will be completely covered.
- If fondant is rolled between two sheets of parchment paper or wax paper, flip the rolled fondant and paper over and carefully peel of the bottom layer of paper. Pick up the top piece of paper with the fondant, carefully flip it back over and center over the cake, and then carefully peel away the top layer of paper.
- Make sure you have centered the fondant on the cake, as once you have placed it you will not be able to remove it and reposition without causing damage to the cake.
Smoothing and Trimming Fondant:
- After you have placed the rolled fondant on the cake, if you have more than a couple of inches of excess fondant hanging down the side, you should trim some off the bottom edge with a sharp serrated knife or sharp kitchen scissors so that the fondant’s weight doesn’t pull and tear the fondant on top. Trim so you only have about 1 or 2 inches of excess. Initially trimming the excess will also help to eliminate seams and folds caused from too much excess fondant.
- Cover the trimmed fondant pieces in plastic or place in a plastic bag to keep from drying out.
Starting on the top of the cake, use the palm of your hands to smooth the fondant in a small circular motion to remove air bubbles underneath. Start from the center and work out, then slowly start moving your hands down around the sides of the cake, still using a small circular motion. Start at the top and work to the bottom, working all sides of the cake evenly, easing out any fullness. You should be able to ease out any extra fullness by smoothing with your hands. You can also use a fondant smoother to smooth fondant and a smoother is especially helpful to smooth the bottom edge next to the cake board. Generally, however, I prefer to use my hands as you can tell by feel if the fondant is smoothed and molded to the cake.
- If pleats or folds have formed at the bottom of the cake, gently unpleat and smooth out the fondant with the palms of your hands, easing the fondant gently around the perimeter of the cake. You can also cut away the excess fondant so that the two edges lay right next to each other, not overlapping, then rub a bit of shortening in to cover-up the seam as much as you can. You may not be able to eliminate a seam entirely, but the seam can always be covered with other decorations.
- A square cake is covered much the same as with a round cake. Start by smoothing the top, then work down the sides of the cake. Gently pull the fondant out from the corners, then let the fondant fall back while smoothing the corners with your hand. If you have a “wing” at the corners you can gently work the fondant into the corner and distribute the extra to the sides; or cut and piece the corner edges together, rubbing the seam with your fingers to seal the two edges together.
- If the fondant seems too dry you can rub a small amount of vegetable shortening in with your hands in a circular motion as you are smoothing the fondant; never use water as this will just make a sticky mess.
- If the cake is on a cake turntable, it will be easy to turn the cake to work around the sides of the cake.
- If you are embossing or pressing a design in the fondant, make sure and do this soon after the cake is covered and the fondant is still soft and pliable. You can also emboss or stencil the fondant before placing on the cake if you can determine where you want the design to be once placed on the cake.
- Fondant dries out quickly, so always keep the parts you are working with covered if you have to leave for a bit, say to answer the door or the telephone.
- Trim the excess fondant around the cake bottom with a sharp knife or pizza cutter. Hold the knife or pizza cutter at a 45 degree angle and trim the excess fondant next to the bottom edge of the cake. Don’t rush, trim slowly and follow the edge of the cake. Gently push the edge up against the side of the cake for a finished appearance.
- Trim the sides of a square cake first, leaving the corners for last. To finish the corners, run the pizza cutter around the corner at almost a horizontal angle, trimming off the extra.
- If the edge of the fondant seems rough, you can conceal it in different ways. Try piping some royal icing around the bottom edge with a decorative tip, or rolling a piece of excess fondant into a thin rope and wrapping around the bottom edge.
- Use a cake lifter to easily transfer the cake from the cake turntable to a cake plate. Gently slide the cake lifter under the fondant covered cake, then lift and move.
Repairing Cracks or Tears:
- If the fondant tears, pinch the tear back together, and smooth over the tear with your hands to blend the edges.
- You can also try rubbing a tiny bit of shortening over the tear to help blend the edges; rub the shortening in using a circular motion. Do not use water because water will soften and dissolve the fondant.
- Or place a little piece of extra fondant over the tear or crack in a circular motion, then use your hand to gently rub it in.
- If a crack or tear can’t be repaired, just cover with a decorative fondant piece, or pipe on some decorative royal icing.
- If you have an air bubble under the fondant that can’t be smoothed out, use a sharp pin or needle and poke a tiny hole at an angle to let the air out, then rub over the hole with your finger, or rub in a little vegetable shortening to reseal the hole. When you poke the air bubble at an angle the hole is easier to cover than if you poke the air bubble straight down.
Decorative Fondant Pieces:
- Extra fondant can be rolled and either modeled by hand or cutout by hand or with cookie cutters into decorative shapes.
- Set the pieces aside to dry before attaching to the cake. If you set the pieces in front of a small fan they will dry quickly. I usually make decorative pieces 1 or 2 days beforehand so they are dried and ready to use as soon as the cake is ready to be decorated.
- To attach decorative fondant pieces to a fondant covered cake, very lightly dampen the back of the fondant piece with clear alcohol and wait a few seconds for it to soften. Then slightly moisten the spot on the cake where it is to be placed. Place the decorative piece on the cake, holding in place for a few seconds to allow the pieces to fuse together.
- Another way to attach decorative pieces is to use leftover frosting from the crumb coat or royal icing. Place a small dab of frosting on the back of the decorative piece, and press onto the cake. The drawback to this method is that you may see the frosting under the decorative piece.
Serving and Storing Fondant Covered Cake:
- After a cake is covered with fondant, and before serving, do not refrigerate as the fondant will gather moisture and become soft and tacky, ruining the appearance.
- To serve a cake covered with fondant, use a serrated knife and cut the cake in a sawing motion.
- After serving, it is ok to refrigerate leftovers if the overall appearance is no longer a concern and you want to keep leftovers fresh longer.
- Fondant covered cake can be frozen for up to 2 months, unless there are perishable fillings or custards in the cake. Wrap the cake tightly for freezing. When ready to thaw remove the cake from the freezer and let cake thaw in a cool place in the wrappings. The fondant may not look at beautiful after freezing, but it will still taste delicious.
- Unused fondant should keep for up to 2 months at room temperature if it is wrapped tightly.
- If stored fondant has dried out, try softening it by first warming for 15 to 20 seconds in the microwave and then knead it until it is again smooth and pliable. You can also try kneading a bit of vegetable shortening in to help soften it.
Using Luster Dust and Edible Glitter:
- Either the fondant covered cake or decorative shapes can be “painted” with non-toxic luster dust to give a brilliant metallic-like finish in many gorgeous colors.
- Luster dust does not mix with water, it is always mixed with a clear alcohol such as gin or vodka, or clear extracts such as clear vanilla, almond or lemon extract. I prefer to use clear Kirschwasser because of its wonderful cherry flavor. The alcohol quickly evaporates leaving the luster dust “paint” behind and firmly adhered to the fondant.
- Luster dust comes is small 2-gram tubs with a tight fitting cap. Carefully open the cap (a bottle opener works well to remove the cap) and place about ¼ teaspoon luster dust is a small cup. Add a few drops of alcohol to mix with the luster dust. Use a small artist brush to mix and to paint onto the fondant. Because the alcohol dries quickly, you may need to add an extra drop or so of alcohol to the cup and re-liquify the luster dust if it dries up.
- Fondant can also be decorated with sugar sprinkles, sanding sugar, or edible glitter. Lightly moisten the fondant area to be decorated with clear alcohol, don’t use water as it will soften the fondant, and then sprinkle on the decoration. The alcohol will quickly dry leaving the sprinkles or glitter firmly attached