Everything You Need to Know About Working with Fondant

This edible sugar dough is the key to making elaborate decorated cakes.

Everything You Need to Know About Working with Fondant Explainer


Have you seen those cakes that look like realistic objects? These cakes, also known as “realistic cakes” or “illusion cakes,” are designed to look like everyday items or objects — but are actually just cakes designed elaborately with fondant. Fondant is a versatile sugar dough that can be used to make edible artwork, from the simplest of decorations to the most elaborate creations. You've probably heard of fondant, and it can be intimidating to contemplate decorating with it, but we're here to help.

What is fondant?

Fondant is a type of sugar dough that is used by cake decorators to give cakes a smooth, even finish. You can purchase pourable fondant, but thicker rolled fondant is more commonly available. It is a versatile and easy-to-use dough with a thick, malleable, and pliable consistency — think of it as an edible play-dough. It can be used to create almost any decoration imaginable, from delicate flowers to intricate shapes and figures. Because fondant cannot be refrigerated, it should be used to decorate desserts that do not have buttercream, fresh fruit, or a mousse filling.

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What is fondant made of?

Fondant is commonly made by combining sugar, water, and corn syrup. Some bakers also use marshmallows as a base, and if the fondant is going to be used for sculpting, glycerin and gelatin, too. Fondant can tinted any color, and is often flavored with vanilla or other extracts. You can buy fondant, or make it at home.

How do you add color and flavor to fondant?

The fun part about fondant is that it's endlessly customizable to an array of flavor and color combinations. To add flavor and color to fondant, you first knead until it is soft and pliable and then, go in with a few drops of flavor extract of your choice (or food coloring). After that, knead all together to combine. If you feel that the fondant is too sticky, and not soft, add some powdered sugar and knead it a bit more. Once combined, take the dough and then roll it out for immediate use and decoration. If you can't use it immediately, or have leftover you can store the dough into an airtight container and keep at room temperature for about two weeks. 

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How do you use fondant?

Now for the fun part. Before you even begin toying around with fondant, you have to be certain that it has been prepared properly — handled until soft and flexible to ensure it can be worked with ease to not crack while being handled. After your dough is smooth and pliable, roll it all out on a clean work surface that has been slightly dusted with some powdered sugar or cornstarch to keep the fondant from sticking to your work space. Then, roll the fondant to your desired thickness and size and trim the edges as desired before using. If you are working with fondant in small pieces (like when creating designs), keep the portions that aren't being used in a container or in plastic wrap at room temperature so that they don't harden and dry out.

How to decorate with fondant

When it comes to making something great with fondant, the real action begins here. The skill and precision required to create dramatic and realistic creations from fondant can be intimidating, so start with some simple designs to get a hang of it first. Cakes can be decorated with sheets of fondant to lend a flawlessly smooth finish. Or, you can use cookie cutters or a knife to cut out different designs and patterns for your cake. Fondant can also be shaped with molds or sculpting tools to make really cool 3-D designs and be even glued together with icing. Alternatively, you can add color and design to fondant with a paintbrush, or texture with a cocktail stick. When it comes to designing and working with fondant, the possibilities are truly endless.

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