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The Beginner’s Guide to Fondant

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Rolled fondant makes a beautiful, satin-smooth cake covering, and it’s especially well-loved on wedding cakes. Aside from its porcelain finish, it can be endlessly manipulated to create fancy decorative confectionery embellishments. Even though this icing sounds like a cake lover’s dream come true, not everyone is a fan – and for good reason. Many cake decorators buy rolled fondant ready-made, and most brands taste bland and artificial. The icing has gained a reputation for being all looks and no flavor, and it can be really expensive to boot.

Lucky for us, rolled fondant can be made at home. Admittedly, it’s a messy endeavor, but it’s easy. And the improved flavor is well worth the effort. Homemade fondant costs less than store-bought boxes too, and you’re no longer limited to the manufactured colors and flavors. Though rolled fondant is easy to make, it can be tricky to work with, so if you’re a novice at using homemade rolled fondant (or any fondant), starting small is key. This project using petit fours is relatively easy and will help build your confidence for bigger projects.

Before you start, I suggest buying a small plastic fondant rolling pin, which is inexpensive and has a perfectly smooth surface. This will be instrumental in achieving a blemish-free end result. You’ll also need a special ingredient for the fondant – vegetable glycerin. This is usually labeled “glycerin” or “glycerine,” and can be found at craft stores, cake specialty shops and online.

Make the Fondant

Yield: 2 ½ pounds
2 ½ pounds confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon unflavored powdered gelatin
3 tablespoons cold water
½ cup light corn syrup
1 ½ tablespoons glycerin
1 tablespoon clear vanilla extract (or other clear extract)

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Sift 1 ½ pounds confectioners’ sugar into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

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In a small microwave-safe bowl, stir together the water and powdered gelatin. Let stand for 5 minutes. While you wait, stir together the corn syrup, glycerin and clear extract in a measuring cup with a spout.

After five minutes, the gelatin should be completely absorbed. It will have formed a soft, solid disk that can be lifted out of the bowl with your fingers. Heat the gelatin in the microwave for 10-15 seconds, or until liquefied. Turn the mixer to a low speed.

Quickly stir the gelatin into the corn syrup mixture. Slowly pour it into the powdered sugar. Increase to medium speed and beat until a sticky batter is formed.

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Scrape the fondant out onto a silicone mat or a work surface generously covered in powdered sugar. Using your hands, knead in the remaining ½ pound powdered sugar a little at a time.

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Soon, you’ll have pliable dough ball with a smooth surface. Place the dough in a large zip-top bag with the air removed. Let rest for at least 12 hours. Do not refrigerate dough, or it will become a soft, weepy mass.

The fondant can be stored in a cool dry place for up to two weeks.

Make the Frosted Petit Fours

Fondant-covered cakes require underpinnings. This is usually a layer of confectioner’s buttercream or jam-brushed marzipan. I prefer using buttercream, especially with white fondant. It catches all the loose crumbs and prevents the cake’s brown edges from showing through. The recipe below is a very basic buttercream that can be flavored to your liking. You may have a little left over afterward, but it refrigerates well for later use.

A bakery-made pound cake is used to make the petit fours, but if you have a homemade version at hand, by all means, use it!

Yield: 10 petit fours
Two (10 oz.) bakery-made pound cakes cut into ¾-inch slices
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

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Cut the pound cakes into twenty 2 ½-inch rounds using a small round cookie cutter or bottle cap. Refrigerate the cakes while you make the buttercream.

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Place the butter and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on low speed until just combined, and then beat on high speed for 2 minutes until fluffy. Add vanilla extract and beat again.

If mixture is too stiff to spread, add milk or cream 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture is of spreading consistency.

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Fill 10 cake rounds with 1 tablespoon of buttercream and top with a second cake round.

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Frost the outside of the cake with a thin layer of buttercream. Let cakes stand 10 minutes before covering with fondant. Cover the petit fours with fondant.

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Knead about one-quarter pound of fondant on a work surface dusted with powdered sugar. This will make the fondant soft and pliable, and it will be easier to roll out. Be sure to cover the remaining fondant with plastic wrap or replace in the zip-top bag.

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Cut off a small piece of fondant (about 2 oz.). Place it on a powdered sugar-covered work surface and sprinkle with additional powdered sugar.

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Roll out in a circle to about ¼-inch thickness, picking it up and turning it often as you roll it flat. If you can see the work surface through the fondant, you’ve rolled it too thin and you’ll have to re-knead and re-roll the fondant.

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Drape the fondant onto the rolling pin and gently unroll it over a frosted cake. Gently flatten the top of the cake with your fingers. Smooth down the top edges of the cake using your pinky fingers.

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Continue to smooth the fondant down onto the edges of the cake, using your fingers to smooth out any creases or bumps. Be careful to not pull down on the edges of the fondant or it will tear at the top edge of the cake. Glide the fondant rolling pin over the surfaces of the cake to further smooth the
icing.

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Use a plain-edge knife to trim off the extra fondant from the bottom edge of the cake. Set cake aside and repeat process with remaining cakes.

Tint and Embellish

Just like store-bought fondant, this homemade version can be tinted with gel food color. Avoid using liquid food color, as it will make the fondant lax and sticky. Food service gloves will help protect your hands from staining, so use them in you have them. The flower fondant cutter used in this project can be found at cake supply shops.

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Place fondant on a confectioners’ sugar covered work surface that is stain-resistant (or on a surface you don’t mind getting stained). Knead in approximately ¼ teaspoon gel food color per 6 oz. of fondant. Knead in additional food color as needed to intensify the color. You may knead in additional powdered sugar if the fondant becomes sticky.

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Sprinkle tinted fondant with powdered sugar and roll to 1/8-inch. Cut with floured cookie cutters or small fondant cutters. If using the flower fondant cutter as depicted, cut 20 fondant flowers from fondant tinted with pink food color.

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Place two flowers (stacked) atop each petit four cake.

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Press a jumbo nonpareil in the center of the flowers. Display petit fours in pretty cupcake papers. Store loosely covered.

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All photographs by Heather Baird.

Heather Baird is an accomplished painter and photographer, but her passion is creating eye-popping, mouthwatering desserts. She writes about her adventures in the world of creative dessert-making on her award-winning blog, SprinkleBakes. She is the author of the new desserts book, Sea Salt Sweet, and her previous baking book, SprinkleBakes: Dessert Recipes to Inspire your Inner Artist was published in 2012. Heather lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, with her husband Mark and two mischievous pugs, Biscuit and Churro.