Cake Decorating 101: Covering the Cake with Fondant
Use fondant instead of frosting to make a presentable and professional-looking cake.
Photos by Molly Dunn
Last week we learned the basics with fondant and how to create shapes and designs. This week we are taking our fondant skills to the next level by covering a cake with it. Don't just stop decorating your cake after covering it with frosting or icing, give it a smooth finish and professional appearance by covering it in a layer of soft fondant.
This will give your cake that "wow" factor. But a word of advice: Have patience when using fondant. The more you practice with it, the better your cakes will look. Because fondant is like children's modeling clay, it's so easy to practice with ‑- knead it, roll it, cut it, shape it, color it.
You're going to need a few more ingredients on hand than you normally use when decorating a cake, though. Here are the tools you will need:
- Contour cake pan
- Rolling pin
- Fondant smoother
- Fondant cutter (or pizza cutter)
Before you start preparing the fondant, you will need to bake the cake(s). Because I don't work with fondant too often, I decided to use a 9x3 inch contour pan; this pan is easier to cover with fondant because there aren't any sharp edges ‑- the entire cake is round.
You will have to bake this type of cake longer in the oven because it's a lot thicker than with a normal 9-inch cake pan. Just treat it like a bundt cake.
Once the cake has cooled completely, as we discussed in the first installment of the cake decorating 101 series, place it on a flat plate and cover it with a thin layer of buttercream frosting so the fondant has something to stick to.
After kneading the fondant, roll it into a ball, spread it into a thin layer and cover the cake with buttercream frosting.
Now it's time to prepare the fondant. Remember that fondant can dry out easily and once it does, it will be of no use.
So prepare the fondant as we discussed last week by placing plastic wrap on a flat surface, coating it with powdered sugar or corn starch, then kneading the fondant with powdered sugar or corn starch. Once the fondant is pliable and easy to work with, you can start rolling it. At this point, you can also color it with food gels.
Use your fondant rolling pin to spread it out enough to cover the cake. The fondant should not be extremely thick. Keep the thickness anywhere from 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch thick, depending on your likeness. Remember that you have buttercream frosting between the fondant and the cake, so that does add another layer of sweetness.
When rolling the fondant, I found it easier not to roll the pin but rather glide it over the fondant, almost like using the pin to push it. Make even strokes to keep the piece of fondant in a circle, so go back and forth in opposite directions as you would with a pie crust.
Drape the fondant over the cake evenly before smoothing it.
Make sure the diameter of the cake pan is the diameter of the rolled fondant. You might want to roll the fondant out half an inch more on all sides so you make sure you have enough to completely cover the cake and to have some extra to use for more decorations, if needed.
Once the fondant is spread out enough to cover the cake, gently lift it with the rolling pin and drape it evenly over the cake.
Use the fondant smoother to mold it to the shape of the cake.
Use the fondant smoother to stick the fondant to the buttercream frosting and to shape the fondant to the cake. Be very careful when smoothing the fondant; you don't want to nick it with a fingernail.
You will have a little bit of fondant at the bottom of the cake that doesn't get used, so use the fondant cutter, or a pizza slicer, and trim the bottom portion of fondant. Save those scraps to use for extra decorations. I used the extra fondant to make a thin seal on the bottom of the cake.
Check back next week to learn how to make these fondant flowers.
Next week, we will make this cake even better by adding these purple and blue handmade fondant flowers.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Houston dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.