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Cake Decorating Basics: How to Cover a Cake in Fondant

Updated on September 5, 2018

Step 1

Start out with a crumb coated cake. Make sure your crumb coat is nice and smooth so the fondant finish doesn't pick up any imperfections. If you're going to color your fondant, do it at least an hour before you plan to cover your cake so the fondant can settle.

If you aren't coloring your fondant and you're going for a pure white finish, knead it well before you start rolling it out. This will help it get nice and elastic and prevent tears when you cover the corners.

Step 2

Grease your table, if you don't have a rolling mat. I once used a rolling mat each and every time I worked with fondant, but I found the Wilton rolling mat was a waste of money. If you can afford to get The Mat, get it! I've heard nothing but amazing things about this product and I can honestly say it's on my wishlist!

So if you're like me and you don't have The Mat, use a paintbrush to grease your table with shortening. Make sure you don't skimp on the shortening, because fondant will soak some of it up and it can stick to the table when you're rolling it out. Make sure you grease well!

Step 3 Pat the Fondant Into a Disk

Once you've kneaded your fondant and got out as many air bubbles as possible, flatten the fondant into a disc shape so that you can roll it out round.

Slowly Roll Out the Fondant

The rolling pin you use here depends on what you're comfortable with. I generally use a large rolling pin for bigger cakes (10" and up) and a smaller rolling pin for smaller cakes (8" and under). Place your rolling pin in the center of the fondant disc, roll outward with a little pressure, and turn both the fondant and the pin after each roll. Always roll the pin from the center of the fondant outward to the edge to spread it into a circle.

If you're covering a square cake, you'll still use the same technique. The only difference will be rolling into the shape of a square rather than a circle.

It works the same way for sculpted and odd shaped cakes, as well. Just make sure you're rolling the fondant into the general shape of the cake you're covering.

If it looks like it's going to fit, keep going. You always want it to be larger than you'll need it rather than smaller. It's easier to cut off excess than stretch it to fit. If you try to stretch it to fit, you're going to end up with a mess and holes in your fondant.

You want to roll the fondant out to about an eighth of an inch thickness.

Pop Bubbles in the Fondant

While you're rolling your fondant, especially if you've colored it a custom color, you're going to come across air bubbles. Do not let these dudes live! You must destroy them immediately, or they'll ruin your finished product. I use a straight pin, a corsage pin, or a toothpick to pop bubbles.

Go into the bubble at an angle, poke a hole in it, and rub down the fondant to reseal it. Make sure you get all the air out of it or it will only pop back up again as you roll the fondant thinner.

Moisten The Buttercream

While you've been rolling your fondant out to fit your cake, time has elapsed and your buttercream has probably crusted over. This is especially true if you use a crusting buttercream. The fondant will not stick to a dry icing.

There are several ways to make your buttercream nice and sticky again, you can pick whichever one works best for you.

In this picture, I'm using a mixture of corn syrup and water, and using a sponge brush to brush the mixture around the cake. Make sure you fully cover the entire surface of the cake with your moisture, or you'll have pockets of dryness where the fondant will not stick and will either air pocket, or try to slide off later.

You can also use a spray bottle of water, juice, or the mixture of corn syrup and water to mist the cake quickly. Don't forget to moisten the top of the cake!

An important thing to keep in mind is you must clean off the cake board of any wetness or stickiness before you cover your cake. If there is any moisture left behind on the board, the fondant will stick to it and you will fight the cake. The cake will win. No one will be happy.

Cover the Cake

There are a few different ways to pick up your fondant, too. The technique I use most often is rolling the fondant over my rolling pin, and spinning the rolling pin over the cake while letting the fondant fall into place.

To use this method (pictured), you'll flip the edge of the fondant backward over the rolling pin, roll backward, and make sure you don't press down or you'll distort it. Pick up the pin that's holding the fondant, center it over the cake, and roll the pin forward so the fondant falls into place.

You can also pick up the fondant and lay it across your arms (use gloves, please!) and position it that way.

If you have The Mat, then all you have to do is flip The Mat over while it's centered over the cake and let it fall into place while peeling itself off The Mat.

I really want one of those things...

Smooth The Fondant

Once you have your fondant in place, you'll want to smooth it out. You'll notice it has a kind of skirt on the bottom that bunches up in a lot of places. That's totally normal with any sized cake. This is where you'll want to finesse it into place.

The very first thing you need to do is make sure you press the fondant to the top of the cake. Use a fondant smoother to rub the top of the cake, use enough pressure so that you're removing all the air between the fondant and the icing. If you notice air bubbles at this point, you should still be able to pick up the edge of the fondant and squish the air out of the top. Use your hands to feel that it's completely smooth and free of any air bubbles. You're essentially trying to create a seal on the top.

Next, use your fingers and the palms of your hands to work from the top down to stick the fondant to the icing. Work in areas of about an inch at a time. You can lift the edge of the fondant if you need to at this time, use your palm to smooth the fondant to the side, and continue around the cake until you have the first inch secured.

Continue down the entire cake, slowly, working an inch at a time and making sure you have NO AIR between the fondant and the cake. Air pockets between the fondant and the icing is bad news, if you haven't noticed me harping on that yet.

When you get to the very bottom of the cake, you're going to notice pleats and it's going to look like it will never be smooth. This is normal, do not get frustrated and think you're doing something wrong. And whatever you do, do not allow the pleats to live! You can destroy them. Trust me.

The way to smooth the pleats is EXACTLY the same as you'd smooth down your skirt to sit down (assuming you wear skirts... if you don't then think about how people smooth down skirts to sit down). You'll take an edge of fondant in one hand, and another edge of fondant in the other hand. Pull it apart until it's straight and you remove the pleat. This is going to take some practice, because you don't have three hands. While you have it pulled apart, work quickly to lay down the smooth part on the cake. Work in tiny areas and work your way around the entire cake.

You'll likely have to pull the fondant downward and stretch it a little bit, but don't go overboard with the stretching or you'll tear it. I'll show you how to repair tears in a later article, but for now, you need to learn to cover without getting tears.

So to reiterate - to remove the pleats it goes something like 1) grab two spots 2) pull apart 3) press smooth part to the cake 4) move to the next section. I'm going to link a video to show exactly what I mean by this so it will be less confusing. I also added a ton of pictures to help the visual.

Finishing Touches

Once you get all the fondant adhered to the cake and as smooth as it can get using your hands, cut off the excess with either a pair of scissors or a brand new craft knife.

Try to get a clean edge on the bottom when you're cutting the excess fondant off, as this will be more attractive. Especially if you are doing a stacked cake.

Now that you are rid of all the excess fondant, you'll want to smooth the entire cake some more. You can use your hands, but the best possible thing to use is a fondant smoother. There are tons of these available to buy, and they're pretty cheap. I have four, because I have a tendency to lose things. You'll also see a lot of decorators using two fondant smoothers at one time, but you don't have to do that if you don't want to.

Use the smoother by pressing it against the fondant with light pressure at first, and move in small circles around the entire cake. Once you see you don't have any air bubbles, tears, elephant skin, or any mistakes, you can use harder pressure. You can move the smoother straight up and down on the sides of the cake. Smooth the fondant to the point that you remove any imperfections. It will take time, but it will happen if you're patient and keep with it.

Here is a Wilton Video on This Subject

Different Brands of Fondant

8 out of 10
Satin Ice
10 out of 10
6 out of 10

This is my personal opinion on the most widely used fondants and their performance.


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