How to Decorate a Cake With Fondant: Tips and Techniques

Learning how to decorate a cake with fondant may seem intimidating at first, but with practice, it can be easier than using buttercream frosting. Cake design has come a long way in the past few years, and home bakers, food bloggers and aspiring pastry chefs are learning the craft with the help of video tutorials, cooking shows and culinary classes. This interest in fondant has motivated cake decorating supplies companies to invent new tools, products and ingredients to make decorating cakes with fondant easier and more enjoyable. The following are some tools, gadgets, tips and recipes for decorating fondant cakes.

Tools of the Trade

  • Stand Mixer: A stand mixer is a necessity if you make your own fondant. It takes a considerable amount of muscle to knead fondant by hand, so unless you're looking for a workout, use a mixer fitted with a greased dough hook.
  • Fondant Rolling Pins: Fondant rolling pins are unlike the rolling pins used for pie crust. Normally a long, one-piece pin made from heavy plastic, they're available in various lengths.
  • Fondant Smoother: Fondant smoothers are helpful for smoothing the tops and sides of fondant-covered cakes. One made with rounded corners and a straight bottom edge can get into corners on round or square cakes.
  • Fondant and Gum Paste Tool Set: A set of fondant and gum paste modeling tools in different shapes and sizes are useful for sculpting and decorative designs.

Homemade Fondant Recipe

The biggest complaint about decorating cakes with store-bought fondant is that it tastes terrible; people actually tend to rip it off and just eat the buttercream-frosted cake underneath. Making homemade fondant from scratch uses gelatin, milk, corn syrup, butter, glycerin, vanilla, powdered sugar, salt, vegetable shortening for kneading and cornstarch for dusting your work surface.

If you want to skip a few steps, this marshmallow fondant recipe from Wilton is quick and easy, and it actually tastes good. It requires just a few ingredients: marshmallows, powdered sugar, a few tablespoons of water and solid vegetable shortening for greasing your hands, work surface and dough hook, if you're using a stand mixer.

How to Decorate a Cake With Fondant

  1. You'll need approximately 32 ounces of fondant to cover a 4-inch-high, 10-inch-round cake. Crumb-coat the cake with a layer of buttercream frosting or chocolate ganache, and chill for a short time to firm up the icing.
  2. Grease the workbench with solid vegetable shortening, or sprinkle with cornstarch or powdered sugar.
  3. Knead the fondant until it's soft and pliable, adding coloring if desired. Shape into a flat disc and begin rolling. Turn and move the fondant every so often to keep a round shape, continually smoothing with your hands to remove any bubbles, until you have a round piece at least 22 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch thick. This should cover a 10-inch cake, with two 4-inch sides and at least a 2-inch overhang around the edges.
  4. Roll the fondant onto the rolling pin. Center the fondant over the cake, making sure the overhang is equal on all sides. Gently unroll it off the pin and onto the cake, adjusting the sides to get a good fit.
  5. Smooth the top of the cake with your hands, working out any bubbles while using the palms of your hands to create a sharp edge around the cake top. Continue smoothing down the sides of the cake, adjusting as necessary so there are no creases or wrinkling. Carefully pull out and stretch the fondant gently to fit, smoothing and lightly pressing it to the cake. Continue around the cake until you're satisfied. Smooth a little shortening over the fondant if you notice any cracking.
  6. Using the fondant smoother, keeping the flat edge perpendicular to the cake board, smooth around the outside edges and the top of the cake. Trim the overhang with a sharp knife or pizza cutter until the edges are nice and neat.
  7. Continue decorating with fondant ruffles, draping, ribbons, scallops or these roses by Craftsy.

If you're interested in learning how to decorate a cake with fondant or learning more about baking and pastry arts, consider enrolling in a good culinary arts program or taking a weekend course.

Photo credit: Donna Diegel