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 made with sugar, water, and corn syrup. Some bakers use marshmallows as a base, and if the fondant is going to be used for sculpting, glycerin and gelatin, too. Fondant can be tinted to any color desired, 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?

Knead your fondant until it is soft and pliable. Then, top it with a few drops of the flavor extract or food coloring and knead to combine. If the fondant is too sticky, knead in a little more powdered sugar. Once your fondant is ready, you can roll it out and use it immediately, or store it in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks. 

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How do you use fondant?

Before you begin working with fondant, it is important to make sure it has been prepared properly. Fondant should be kneaded until it is soft and pliable. This will ensure that it will be easy to work with and will not tear or crack while being handled. Then, roll it out on a clean work surface that has been lightly dusted with cornstarch or confectioners sugar to prevent the fondant from sticking to the surface. Roll the fondant to the desired thickness and use a pizza cutter to trim the edges. If you are working with fondant a little at a time, keep the extra fondant in an airtight container or covered with plastic wrap so it does not dry out.

How to decorate with fondant

Now here’s where the real action is. Making dramatic and realistic creations from fondant takes a lot of skill and precision, so start with simple but beautiful decorations. You can use fondant while decorating cakes, to cover them with a sheet of fondant and give them a smooth, flawless finish. You can use fondant cutters, cookie cutters, or a sharp knife to cut out shapes for your cake. If you are making a 3-D design, you can use molds or sculpting tools to shape the fondant. Once you have the shapes cut out, add a few textural details. You can use a paint brush to brush on food coloring, or a cocktail stick to create texture. You can also use edible glitter, sugar pearls, or other decorations to add sparkle to your cake. The most exciting part about working with fondant is that the possibilities are truly endless.

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