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How to use fondant without tearing out your hair…

I used to be scared of using fondant, in fact, shied away from using it when it came to decorating my kids birthday cakes…. Funny how one can be ‘scared’ of what is essentially a piece of sugar…. When I finally took the plunge I actually had to make it from scratch as I couldn’t buy it ready made where I lived and if I could have, it only came in white so then had to figure out how to colour it without ruining it.  It was messy (think of a tub of glue and bags of icing sugar), sticky and 9 times out of 10, a complete and utter failure. These days it is much easier, coming in a variety of colours and no ‘glue’ to be seen.  And while I am not a cake decorator, here are a few things I have learnt along the way as just a mum who wanted to make her kid’s a cool birthday cake!  

Before you start using your fondant

  • Wear gloves, there is a set included in every kit or you will be greeting your guests with vividly coloured hands!
  • Only open the packets when you are going to use it immediately – it dries out on exposure to air.  If this happens, you can soften it up again by putting in the microwave for TWO SECONDS at a time.  (10 seconds at a time will destroy it – trust me on this).
  • Baking paper is your best friend (included in our kits) when it comes to rolling out fondant.  Much better than icing sugar on your bench which, if you’re a messy baker like me, makes a hell of a mess.
  • Most of our Cake Kits use fondant as an ‘accessory’ to the cake.  Meaning ‘bits and pieces’ rather than covering it fully (although some have this option).  When I’ve iced my birthday cakes I let it sit for a while for the icing to harden before I add my fondant accents.

Warming up…

  • Knead, Knead, Knead… until your fondant is soft and pliable. It really is like using play dough.  Winter is a killer on your hands and wrists as it makes the fondant cold and hard and for some reason unknown to me, some colours are harder than others, but if you don’t work it until it is warm, stretchy and pliable it will crack and tear.
  • Try twisting it, rolling it, working your thumbs into it – whichever works best for you!

Get the ball rolling

  • Place fondant on your baking paper.  You can use a small amount of icing sugar to dust your rolling pin if so desired or add a little to your fondant and knead it in if it becomes sticky. Try to avoid having any moisture on your pin, paper or gloves as this will make it wet and sticky.
  • Using your rolling pin, do the first roll.  You don’t need to push down hard, if you have softened it up, it will roll out easily with little pressure.
  • Lift the fondant off the paper, place back down same side up and roll again – this will help stop it from sticking to the baking paper.
  • Repeat this until you’re done.  DON’T roll and flip – if you have dusted your rolling pin or paper with icing sugar, you will cover both sides of the fondant in white sugar dust which is nigh impossible to remove.  You want to use the side that is clear of icing sugar.

Rolling out long shapes

  • The best way I achieve this (say you need a rectangular strip of fondant to cover your birthday cake from one side to the other) is by hand rolling a really thick, long sausage.  Place on baking paper and gently push your rolling pin along the length of it until it is the length you need and then lift the fondant, place back down and roll width ways across until it is the desired width.

Cutting out shapes

  • Once you have your fondant rolled out to the size you require, place the template on top, take a sharp knife and holding it vertically, score around the template.
  • Don’t apply too much pressure to the template while cutting as you will leave finger print marks in your fondant.
  • Once done, I run my finger lightly around the edges to smooth them.  If you find that when you lift the fondant off the paper it has stretched out of shape, it is easy to reshape again as it is still quite pliable.  I place it back down on the baking paper, put the template back on top and use it as a guide to reshape with my fingers.
  • If you are rolling and cutting out large pieces of fondant, once done you can lift up the baking paper with the fondant still on it, flip it over and place into position on your cake, then carefully peel off the baking paper.

Placing your fondant on your cake

  •  If you’ve let your butter icing set, you can re-position the fondant to your liking if you put it on crooked or in the wrong spot.  If you need to re-position, take a toothpick and carefully lift up an edge then using your fingers, peel off.
  • If you place fondant on ‘wet’ icing it sticks like glue and you will peel off the icing underneath when trying to pull it off (resulting in a few choice words being said and having to re-ice).
  • If you need to adhere your fondant to the sides of your cake, dampen a toothpick with water and slide it across the middle of your fondant pieces.  Don’t be tempted to smother it in water as when you stick it to your cake it can bleed the colour of the fondant onto your icing.  Less is best.

Fondant stacking

  • Take care stacking fondant on top of fondant, if you push down too hard it will be very difficult to get it apart if you need to re-position.  In this instance, you can cut out your pieces, leave them sit for a bit and when they have slightly hardened you can place them on top of each other to position correctly as they won’t adhere as much.  Then if necessary, you can adhere it using a damp toothpick as mentioned above.

And finally…

  • If you are not happy with the way it looks after rolling and cutting it out, just squish it back up, knead it and try again, it really is like play dough!
  • Like anything, you get better with practice so don’t give up!  If you are keen to become a fondant queen, why not try our Fondant Fun Pack here to play around with.
  • Remember, while we as parents want to make the perfect birthday cake for our kids, all they care about is that mum or dad made them one.  So if you are a beginner at this and are still developing your skills, just making them a cool cake will make them so proud of you and will raise you to superhero status!!
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