Cake Decorating 101: Fondant Designs

Now that we have covered baking the perfect cake, frosting and piping basics, as well as the basic recipes for frosting cakes, it's time to add a little pizzazz to our cakes. Fondant is one of the best decorating items to use to add a clean finish to the outside of any cake.

In the third installment of the Cake Decorating 101 series, we will look at using fondant to make shapes and colorful designs that can spruce up any cake frosted with a plain buttercream or cream cheese frosting. Next week, we will tackle frosting cakes with fondant entirely.

If you especially don't care for the taste of a cake completely covered in fondant, though, this alternative is for you. Frost your cakes normally and add your own designs with shapes giving you a much cleaner and more professional cake.

Fondant is like Play-Doh. It comes in a multitude of colors, it's fun to roll into shapes and it is so easy to work with. You just have to practice at it to perfect your craft.

For the first time you use fondant, use pre-made fondant that you can purchase at almost any craft or cake store, such as Michaels or Hobby Lobby. You will also need a sharp knife to cut out shapes, a fondant rolling pin, cornstarch or powdered sugar, and plastic wrap. These are the basic ingredients and tools, so depending on which shape or design you wish to create, you will need a few more ingredients.

I like to use Satin Ice white/vanilla fondant, but there are other types like marshmallow and, of course, the kind you make at home that you can use as well. Cover your hands in cornstarch or powdered sugar, then knead the fondant together to make it easier to work with, or more pliable. Note that you are not using flour to knead the fondant, as you normally would for just about any other dough you knead. Sprinkle cornstarch or powdered sugar onto your working surface and begin to roll the fondant with the rolling pin. Be careful not to roll it too thin, otherwise it will rip or tear when you are working with it.

I prefer to use powdered sugar because it amplifies the sugar taste of the fondant and is smoother than cornstarch, so you won't even have to worry about having grainy pieces of cornstarch in your fondant.

Lay down a sheet of plastic wrap on a flat surface, sprinkle powdered sugar on top, dust your hands with powdered sugar and begin to knead the fondant. Once it's pliable enough to work with easily, use the rolling pin to flatten the fondant. You want it to be about a quarter inch thick.

Use cookie cutters to create shapes in the fondant. You can stack different colors on top of each other to create an overlay design by brushing one side with a little bit of water to stick the two pieces together. You can also create an inlay design by cutting a smaller piece out of a larger piece of fondant, then replacing that hole with a different color of the same shape.

If you want to add color or to marble the fondant, then use food gels and icing colors to create a different color in your fondant after you knead it.

Dip a toothpick into the gel, then dot the fondant with the toothpick to add bits of color. Knead the fondant some more until the color begins to blend into it, creating a marbleized appearance or solid color. You can stop blending the fondant once you reach the color or marbleized look you would like.

You can also purchase precolored fondant if that's easier; you won't stain your hands blending the fondant and icing colors together, too. Or blend a white fondant and a color one together until the piece is blended like a slab of marble.

Don't be intimidated by fondant. Once you start working with it, you'll be taken back to your childhood days where you made shapes and designs with Play-Doh. The only difference is that you can actually eat this stuff.

Next week, we will step up our skills and cover an entire layered cake in fondant. In the meantime, though, practice working with fondant by making all sorts of shapes and designs.

Check out the previous installments of the Cake Decorating 101 series: Piping & Frosting Baking the Perfect Cake

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Molly Dunn
Contact: Molly Dunn