My Love Affair With Fondant
How I started using fondant for cake decoration
As a disabled person trying to survive on my freelance writing income I have very little money to spend on gifts. I was feeling depressed about that in March of 2008 when my friend and roommate's birthday was coming up. She's such a good friend and lovely person that I wanted to get her something really special.
I only had about ten dollars to my name and I was trying to think of something I could get for her. Then, I saw her watching Ace of Cakes on television and an idea occurred to me - I could make her a fancy cake! After all, the ingredients are not expensive; fondant cakes just take a lot of time and effort.
So I gave it a try and discovered that I can make nice, unusual fondant cakes for the people I love for just a few dollars each. I have some idea what such cakes would cost to buy at a bakery and it would be a lot more than ten bucks!
Making My First Fondant Cake
That first cake may not look too bad but it was possibly the most difficult to make and I thought it was going to be a total disaster. Not only had I never worked with fondant before but the fondant I made that time was as close to evil as a sweet, sugary substance can be.
The fondant tore and tore and tore again when I tried to roll it out. I think it took five tries to get it rolled out so I could put it on the cake. It tore a little bit more when I put it on the cake but I covered the tears in the fondant with sea stars. The sea stars stuck to my fingers, no matter how much I greased my hands and they shed dye everywhere.
However, it looked OK when it was done and my roommate loved it.
On with the Fondant Show!
Once I had fondant to work with that didn't tear or stick (too much) when rolled out, my cake decorating went a lot better. Then I was able to concentrate more on design and on theme. Instead of making three dimensional shapes, I've mostly stuck to cutting out two dimensional shapes from the fondant, starting with a drawing on paper and using it as a template.
Understanding My Limitations
It's hard for me to keep in mind that no one expects a professional result when I make these cakes because I'm a perfectionist in most things. While I was making this cake, my friend Amy reminded me of that. I only make these cakes for family, the family I've chosen, so the effort and the thought is what they'll see.
So I'm not discouraged, even though most of them don't meet my expectations. As long as the people they were for liked them, it's all good. That doesn't mean that I won't keep trying to improve. It just means I won't feel so disappointed in myself when a cake doesn't look perfect.
What Is Fondant and Can I Make My Own?
Sugar, Sugar, and More Sugar...
Fondant is like edible modeling clay. It can be shaped, colored, cut or molded. It can turn a plain cake into a work of art. If you've seen Ace of Cakes you've seen fondant in use. A baker can make real works of art with the use of a little fondant.
Fondant is a type of cake frosting. I say frosting with a bit of poetic license, though, as you can't spread fondant with a knife. Instead, cake fondant is a sugar based sort of modeling clay that one can roll out with a rolling pin until it forms a thin sheet, cut into shapes with a knife or cookie cutter, or molded by hand like Play-Doh.
It's very versatile and creates impressive results, even when used by rank amateurs like myself. I think this is because the decorations can be created off of the cake and then placed on.
Commercial varieties of fondant are usually made of sugar syrup and corn syrup.