For the Love of Fondant… or Not!


I am not a big fan of fondant. Just thought I should get that out in the open right off the bat. It’s a pain to work with, leaves much to be desired on the taste front and it’s just not my preferred medium when it comes to cakes.

On the other hand, fondant:

  • Acts as a short-term preserver of moisture and freshness, allowing a busy decorator to start early even if she  doesn’t have space for an 18″ layer in her refrigerator.
  • Provides a smooth surface ready to accept a variety of further decorations.
  • Is a favorite of brides all over.


Such was the case with the cake this weekend. The bride (now my sister-in-law) loved the smooth surface-look of fondant so I but the sugary bullet and rolled out 15 lbs of it Wednesday night. The cake received raves on both looks and taste at the reception, Saturday (though most folks did NOT eat the fondant covering) and the bride was especially pleased. Which was the entire point so, you know, it’s all good.

Kara's Wedding Cake

Kara's Wedding Cake

The last wedding cake I did (about 5 years ago) was also a fondant-strosity. I recently came across pictures of it (beautiful, by the way) but I can honestly say I must have blocked the experience because I barely remember it’s delivery and assembly (I never transport cakes assembled) and nothing of it’s creation. I suppose it’s akin to childbirth–you forget the pain when you see the result (or so I’ve heard–my hands have yet to forgive me!).

At any rate, in the unfortunate instance that you (or I, for that matter) find yourself elbow deep in a pile of fondant, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Ice the cake smooth and let it crust a little bit before putting on the fondant–not only do folks want something underneath when they peel off the fondant, it helps hide any surface imperfections on the cake
  • Skip the powdered sugar/cornstarch mixture and just oil everything up with vegetable shortening–keeps the fondant pliable and helps the rolling pin glide along the surface
  • You can re-roll anything that hasn’t already contacted icing–this isn’t like pie crust or biscuit, think of it more like sugary play clay, too much sand and stuff and it’s no good
  • Patching is tough to do, or at least to do well–it’s best to avoid them by steering clear of thin spots in your sheet or tears, and stretching what’s already there; adding pieces of fondant to cover larger problem areas can be done, though
  • Icing, applied with an angled spatula, to fondant that’s been allowed to set actually makes a very good spackle and can cover up minor cracks and dents that are bound to happen during transport

There was this one guy at the wedding was so excited to try fondant. He’d watched those cake shows on television and, as he tells it, none of the cake shops in his area carried it. When he found out his cousin’s cake was covered in it he was over the moon. We cautioned him not to get his hopes up, those of us who did not care for the taste, but he loved it. He said it was like candy.

I suppose the lesson is not to knock it ’til you try it, but I’ve tried it and I will be quite happy if I’m never called to try it again.

Little Lessons from Big Cakes


The first wedding cake I ever made was a bit of an architectural nightmare. Not because the bride wanted a conglomeration of little cakes but because I was living in student housing and we had a mini-stove with a half-sized oven that wouldn’t hold anything more than 12″ wide.

The bride and groom chose a private city hall ceremony and there was a surprise reception being thrown by her office-mates, one of which was a friend of Mom’s. So Cindy said, ‘Just do what you think would be good, I’m sure it’ll be fine.’ Not words the decorator hears often (if ever!).

This was during my basket-weave phase so paired that with pale green vines and leaves and some pink roses. It took a few nights, total, to build all the pieces and then it was the day to deliver the cake. Downtown. At lunchtime.

You know, I’d never before noticed how steep the road was at that first light leaving my street.

Stopping as slowly as humanly possible did not thwart gravity and, yes, one of the base cakes slid off the back seat and partially under the drivers’. I pulled into the nearby gas station, panicking as I threw open the doors, and surveyed the damage. You know what? There’s approximately 4 inches between the floor of the car and the bottom of the seat, just slightly shorter than my base cake. The damage was minimal and fixable.

I drove the rest of the way going no more than 20 mph. Downtown. At lunch. With the seat pushed as far back as possible, one hand on the steering wheel, the other stretched behind me to avoid any further gravitational issues that might arise.

Just because this was my first wedding cake doesn’t mean I was totally unprepared–I had icing in parchment bags all ready to go, the necessary decorating tips; I could and would fix the mistakes. The basket-weave proved easy enough to repair, a few vines needed re-piping and a rose was taken from the back of the center tier to replace the one that the seat smooshed.

Everyone loved it and I had a bit more confidence when the next cake request came in.

My First Wedding Cake, circa 1998

* * *

This story was on my mind because this weekend my baby brother is getting married to his high school sweetheart and I am coming out of my cake-retirement to do the wedding and groom’s cakes. It’s a destination wedding at a just-far-enough-away beach to necessitate renting a place down there for the weekend and doing half the baking and all of the decorating on site.

I’ve learned something from every one of my cakes, I’m sure this one will be no exception. Here are some past lessons:

  • Always bring extra icing–a little of the sweet stuff can smooth over any obstacle.
  • A spatula, pair of scissors, tape and confectioners sugar should always been in your toolbox.
  • Place tiers in sturdy, over-sized boxes and seat-belt them in before starting the car.
  • There is no such thing as too slow when you’ve got $300 of cake in the back seat.
  • Bring a helper.
  • Take a picture of the cake after it’s set up–for your book and to prove that when you left it was still standing (didn’t happen to me but it has happened to others).
  • Leave plenty of time to assemble the cake and do any finishing work before the wedding is due to start (especially if you’re also a bridesmaid!).
  • Ask to see the topper ahead of time. If the florist is bringing it, make sure they know just how big the cake is (or isn’t–I delivered a cake for 50 only to have the florist plop a foil-wrapped [classy!] package of flowers on top that was 2/3 the height of the cake).
  • If you’re stuck on a design element after 16 hours of decorating, take a break, take a shower, it’ll come to you.