Have you ever wished you could make a really professional-looking cake? This two-part series will teach you everything you need to know about how to make fondant for a fancy birthday cake. Here’s part two: how to make/roll the fondant and finish your cake. Give it a try!
Note: This post includes affiliate links. See my disclosure to learn more.
Alright, everyone. I’m back with the next installment of my “Fondant 101” series. In part one, I described everything you need to know about preparing your cake prior to actually making and using the fondant. If you haven’t read that post, you’ll find it here:
Today, I’m going to get into the real fondant work. The SCARY part. But, once you’ve tried it, you’ll realize as I did that it’s really not that scary after all.
As my mom told me, “Fondant is like play dough for grown ups.”
She was right.
Here we go!
Fondant 101 – Part Two:
Mixing, Rolling, & Decorating with Fondant
At this point, your cake should be baked, shaped, and crumb-frosted. With your cake safely back in the freezer, let’s make some fondant!There are several types of fondant you can use, but I used the recipe my mom sent me for a basic rolled fondant.
Note: You can buy pre-made fondant at the store, but it’s expensive and from everything I’ve read, it really doesn’t taste very good. The homemade fondant was actually really yummy. From a strictly taste perspective, I still prefer a more traditional frosting, but if you want the look of fondant, this is a really tasty option.
This recipe yielded about 2 1/2 pounds of fondant, which was plenty to cover my rocket cake, and then I made a second half-batch to use for decorating. You can find the recipe I used here (recommended by my mom):
How to make fondant:
Following the directions in the recipe, mix your fondant in a stand mixer. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use a hand mixer, but you’ll probably have to still do a fair amount of kneading by hand at the end because this stuff gets THICK!
Here are some tips to keep in mind when making your fondant (AKA: things I learned the hard way!):
- Make sure you heat the water/gelatin over LOW. If you have the water too hot when you pour in the gelatin, it will congeal in clumps. Not good.
- Once your fondant has formed into a paste, remove it from the bowl of the stand mixer and place it on a cutting board/counter dusted with powdered sugar and continue to knead it until it comes together into a ball. Grease your hands to keep it from sticking. If it seems too sticky, add some additional powdered sugar.
- When it feels cohesive (it may still be a little sticky), wrap it tightly in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, preferably longer. Of the two batches I made, the one that I refrigerated for several hours was much easier to work with than the one that I only stuck in the fridge for 20 minutes.
How to color the fondant:
My mom recommended that I buy some latex gloves to wear when coloring the fondant. I forgot to buy them, so I used her back-up method of putting the fondant in a zipped plastic bag along with the gel coloring and mixing it in the bag. It worked pretty well, but it was kind of a pain because I had to keep pulling the plastic out of the way in order to knead the color into the fondant. If you have access to gloves, I would definitely recommend following my mother’s advice (she’s smart that way). If you can’t find any (or forget), the plastic bag method will still work, and it yielded great colored fondant in the end.
- Use gel colors. You can buy them at any craft store in a variety of colors, or here. The colors are intense, so a little goes a long way. The colors WILL stain, so be careful with them.
- Be wise in your color choices. You can definitely make red fondant, but it takes a LOT of coloring, even with using the gels. I originally thought about making a red rocket, but I didn’t want to use that much food coloring, so I decided on light blue with red, navy, and yellow accents. Just something to consider.
- To add color to fondant, simply put the desired amount of fondant on your work surface (or in a bag). Dip a toothpick in your coloring jar, then rub the toothpick on the fondant. Knead the coloring into the fondant until you have a uniform color. Repeat as necessary to achieve the desired shade.
- One cool thing about fondant is that it actually gets MORE elastic as you knead it, so you don’t have to worry about overworking it. Knead as much as you need!
(Keep in mind that it dries out quickly, so wrap it up when you’re not actively using it.)
How to roll out the fondant:
- Start with a clean, large work surface. If you have a silicone baking mat, those work great, or I just rolled it out directly onto my granite countertop.
- Dust your work surface with powdered sugar or cornstarch (I used powdered sugar). Place your room-temperature fondant on top, and begin to roll it out with your rolling pin. If it’s too hard to roll, knead it for a few minutes to soften it up a bit.
- IMPORTANT: Make sure that you lift and rotate your fondant regularly (like, every few passes with the rolling pin) to make sure that it’s not sticking…because it will. I forgot a few times, and I had to re-roll. Grr.
- Also, try not to get sugar on the top side of the fondant. You can brush it away, or even rub it with a bit of shortening to make it disappear, but the cleaner you can keep the top, the better it will look. You can spray your rolling pin with cooking spray if needed.
- Roll until your fondant is big enough to cover your cake, ideally you want it to be between 1/4 and 1/8 inch thick, but thicker is better than thinner. To figure out how big your piece of fondant needs to be, measure the length and width of the top of your cake as well as the height. My cake was about 12 inches long, and 8 wide. It was about 3 inches tall. So I needed a piece of fondant that was at least 18 inches (3+12+3) by 14 inches (3+8+3), but you should aim for an inch or two of flexibility on each side, so more like 20 x 16 would be ideal for my cake. If you have a 9 inch round cake, your ideal fondant size would be a 17 inch circle (9 inches across and two three-inch sides, plus extra). Make sense? It’s better to have too much than too little, because once you put the fondant on the cake, you really can’t take it back off without causing serious damage.
How to Decorate the Cake:
Okay, now you have to be brave. It’s time to cover your cake. I had a really big sheet of fondant, so I was super nervous that I would ruin it while moving it to the cake. But I didn’t! Here’s what to do:
- Roll the fondant loosely onto a rolling pin, starting at the edge farthest from you.
- Move quickly to the cake (have it nearby instead of across the room like I did…oops), and line up the edge of the fondant with the bottom of your cake. Unroll the fondant over the cake, and breathe a sigh of relief! If you have an extra person around to help, great, but I did it by myself just fine.
- Now begin smoothing out the fondant. Take off any jewelry, so you don’t scratch the cake surface. Start in the center of the top, and work your way out and down. I was really skeptical about my fondant smoothing nicely since I had some odd angles that created a lot of extra folds of fondant, BUT as I kept gently smoothing it out and down, all the extra fondant magically disappeared and I was left with a really nice covering on the cake.
- Make sure you press the fondant into the sides of the cake firmly (but gently) to make sure that it adheres well. Pay close attention to the bottom of the cake. Be sure that you have a good seal where the fondant meets the cake base. If you don’t, you may end up with a gap between your fondant and the base once you trim the extra fondant.
- Use a sharp knife (or pizza cutter, but I tried both and felt like I had more control with the knife) to trim the excess fondant away, right at the base of the cake.
- Now comes the best part: DECORATING! I pulled up a couple of inspiration cakes on my computer, and just played around until I liked it.
- Just like I wrote about in the last post about shaping the cake, I recommend that you use a template for creating your decorative pieces. I didn’t do that for everything, but I did create a template for the wings of my rocket, because I wanted them to line up with the side of the rocket, and I wanted them to match each other. You can freehand your template on paper, or print out something you find online. For other parts of the cake, I just used cookie cutters (for the stars), measuring cups (for the circle window), and ruler and knife (for the stripes).
And that’s it! It’s not perfect, but I’m extremely happy with how my first attempt at a fondant cake turned out:
The birthday boy loved it, too! Isn’t he ridiculously adorable? I can’t get enough of this boy.
Here are a few final notes:
- My biggest piece of advice with decorating the cake is that once it’s done DON’T FIDDLE WITH IT. Just leave well enough alone. I went back to try to fix some minor imperfections, and I mostly just made them worse.
- If you have some flaws that are really bothering you, try this trick for repairing mistakes (it’s a lot like filling in a nail hole in a wall). Make a paste by adding a 1/4 teaspoon of water at a time to a small piece of fondant until a smooth paste is formed. Use your angled spatula to spread a little of the paste onto any cracks in the fondant. Then, using your fingers or a soft cloth, blend it into the cake and let it dry.’
So there you have it. Go out and make yourself some fondant!
If you have any questions about how to make fondant, I’ll do my best to answer them. And if YOU have any great tips for working with fondant, please share in the comments!
I regularly link up here.