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Think of the most beautiful decorated cakes you’ve seen at parties, on television, or in bakeries. Chances are that the bakers who made them worked with fondant icing to achieve a more polished look. Working with fondant is not just for professionals; plenty of home cooks are getting into cake decorating because it is fun and rewarding.

Whether you’re an avid home baker, or looking to master your craft in baking school, here are the 10 things you need to know about working with fondant.

1. Ingredients In Fondant

Fondant icing is different from buttercream frosting because it is firmer and can be used for covering an entire cake as well as shaped or cut for decorative accents. It is typically made of confectioner’s sugar and water (sometimes combined with glycerin, gelatin, or corn syrup) and has a paste- or clay-like consistency. You can buy it pre-made, but you can also learn how to make fondant icing at home, which may be more affordable.

2. Mix In Color

Before you are ready to begin working with fondant, you should color it a day or two before you plan to use it. Food coloring paste or gel may be more effective than a liquid color for even distribution in your fondant. You can also buy colored fondant, which may be easier than mixing the colors yourself.

3. Tools For Working With Fondant

You don’t have to invest in a lot of expensive equipment, but a few basic utensils can make it easier for you. Here are the essentials you may want to get:

  • A cake board or drum for moving your finished cake
  • A fondant cutter or sharp blade for cutting shapes and trimming edges
  • A turntable to see your work from all sides
  • Rollers of different sizes
  • A smoother to get a finished look and work out air bubbles

You may also want a mat if you don’t have a smooth surface to work on. You should also have cornstarch or powdered sugar on hand to prevent sticking and shortening in case your fondant dries out. You can get other tools as you gain experience or want to attempt intricate designs, but you can do just as well with the above items.

4. Check The Temperature

Fondant is easiest to work with when it is room temperature. If it’s too cold, your icing may be too firm to roll, but if it’s too hot, it could be sticky and soft. Once your fondant is ready to use, you can begin by kneading it for a minute or two to make it pliable and easier to roll smoothly. You can also clean your work surface by using a small ball of fondant to pick up any loose crumbs. Think of it as a lint roller for your countertop.

5. Prepare The Cake

This tip may surprise you, but you need to start with a smooth surface on your cake before you use the fondant. A crumb coat is ideal for this step: use just enough buttercream to cover the top and sides of your cake to hide any imperfections and prevent crumbs from causing lumps and bumps under the fondant. You do not want to skip this step!

6. Roll It Over The Cake

Roll out your fondant icing on a large area that has been dusted with cornstarch or powdered sugar. You want a sheet of fondant just large enough to cover the cake entirely, but not too big because it can make transferring your sheet more difficult. Drape the fondant over a rolling pin to move it to the cake so it does not tear or stick to itself. You can also use the panel method if the draped approach is intimidating. Just cut panels to fit the sides and top of the cake, and then use your finger (with or without a bit of shortening) to smooth away the seams.

7. Make It Smooth

Time is of the essence at this stage. With the palms of your hands or your fondant smoother, work the fondant over the top of the cake and along the sides. Your goal is to eliminate any trapped air and get a perfect surface. Use your sharp knife or cutter to trim the fondant at the bottom edge of the cake.

8. Get Fancy

Your decorative work can be as fancy or simple as you like. Practice cutting out different shapes, working with several colors, or even molding figures to place on top of or around the cake. Look at pictures of other decorated cakes for inspiration, or just let your imagination run wild.

9. Practice Practice Practice

Working with fondant can be tricky, and getting used to the consistency and technique takes some time. But when it’s done right, it really makes the difference between a good-looking cake and a professional-looking one. The more you practice everything, from making it from scratch, to laying it over the cake, to molding and cutting shapes– the better cake baker you’ll become.

10. Master the Skills

Because cake decorating is so popular, many cities have fondant cake decorating classes to learn more about different techniques. If you have an interest in becoming a more well-rounded baker, or even pursuing cake baking as a career professionally, a baking culinary program could be right for you. The Oregon Culinary Institute has baking programs that cover everything from cake baking to pastry making. Contact us to talk about enrolling in program today.