The Basics of Cake Decorating – How to Use Fondant {featuring The Sugar Turntable}

The Basics of Cake Decorating – How to Use Fondant {featuring The Sugar Turntable}

Welcome back to part three of the month long series,
The Basics of Cake Decorating
with the talented
Kathryn Poduska from The Sugar Turntable

{If you missed the prior posts in this series, they can be viewed below}
Part One: Baking and Leveling a Cake
Part Two: How to Fill and Crumb Coat a Cake

The Mona Lisa wasn’t the only great thing to come out of the Renaissance period. A lesser known gift is fondant. Yes, it actually dates that far back (possibly even longer, depending on how loosely you define fondant). If you have ever been to a wedding and noticed that the cake looked impossibly smooth, the reason is fondant and not the previously more popular buttercream.

Fondant is like a sweet playdough. Its elasticity allows it to transfer from a 2 dimensional object to a 3 dimensional object. Trying to explain how to lay fondant is difficult. The best way to understand it is to play with it for yourself. But here are some pointers to help you on your culinary journey.


1. Knead fondant
Knead your fondant for a good few minutes. This will work out air bubbles and warm it up a little bit. You wouldn’t run a marathon without working out, would you? Well, fondant needs to do a little stretching too.
2. Smooth surface
Make sure your surface is completely smooth, level, and clean. If there are crumbs, it will get incorporated into the fondant while its being rolled out, and impurities like that can be very visible. Marble is ideal.
3. Use Cornstarch
Some people use powdered sugar, which will work, but cornstarch is preferable. Its finer than powdered sugar. Generously dust your surface and keep that cornstarch on hand! If your fondant starts sticking to your hands or the surface, add more cornstarch. I usually pour a small pile of it to the side of my work area so I can easily swipe my hand through it if needed.
4. Roll out fondant
Roughly shape your fondant into a circular shape and put it on your dusted surface. With a smooth rolling pin, begin rolling the fondant out, changing direction so the fondant rolls out as close to a circle as possible (for circular cake). Frequently pick up fondant, add cornstarch, and turn it to keep the fondant from sticking to the surface.
5. Thickness
You want the thickness of your fondant to be even all the way across and between 1/8 and 1/4 inch. Too thin and it will tear. Too thick and the cake will look rounded (and be heavy to boot).
6. Air bubbles
If you find an air bubble has formed, take a straight pin and poke the bubble. Gently push the air out. Run your rolling pin back over it to smooth it out.
7. Measure circle
For a typical cake tier, you will want to measure your fondant to make sure it will completely cover your cake with a few extra inches. Use this equation: diameter of cake + height of cake x 2 (accounting for both sides of the cake) + a few extra inches for good measure. So if you are covering an 8 inch cake that is 4 inches tall, you would want the diameter of your fondant to be 18 inches… 8 + (4+4) + 2 = 18
8. Raise your cake
Prop the chilled and frosted cake up on something that is sturdy but smaller than the base of your cake (for example, I use tuna cans, or even a roll of duct tape works… but make sure the cake is sturdy).
9. Lay fondant on cake
Easier said than done, right? You’ll get the hang of it. Gently place the fondant centered on top of the chilled and frosted cake. Smooth the top out with your fondant smoother. Then start by sealing the upper edge of the cake. Using your hands (and cornstarch) smooth the fondant over the corners of the cake applying enough pressure to adhere the fondant to the buttercream.
10. Avoid folds
The fondant is going to want to create folds along the side, which you want to avoid. Gently pull the fondant down and out away from the cake as you smooth down that side. This is where the elasticity of fondant becomes your friend. Initially, you will probably have folds at the base of your cake, but they will disappear as you get better.
11. Cut excess fondant
Once you have the fondant completely on the cake, run your fondant smoother over all the sides to make it smooth. You should have extra fondant hanging off your cake. Take a straight edge knife, push it through the fondant at the base of your cake. Keeping the knife flush with the bottom of the cake board, cut away fondant all the way around. (Push knife inward as you cut.)
12. Chill tier
Different fondants respond differently to refrigeration, but after years of working with fondant, this is the BEST way to get a clean and bulge-free shape. You can find more information on chilling your tier {here}

Remember this: a tier always looks better after it is decorated! Don’t judge your cake too harshly. There have been times when I didn’t like the shape of a tier, but once it was decorated it looked fantastic.

Here’s a brief recap of today’s Cake Basic’s
{Part three of a four part series}

1. Knead fondant
2. Smooth surface
3. Cornstarch
4. Roll out
5. 1/8 – 1/4 inch thickness
6. Pop air bubbles7. Measure fondant
8. Raise cake9. Lay fondant10. Avoid folds11. Cut excess fondant12. Chill tier

(If you are more of a visual learner, you can view the video tutorial here.)

♦ For more inspiring creations and tutorials ♦
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  1. I have never worked with fondant, but it looks like a fun challenge. Neat little article here!


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