By Leslie Kelly

Whether you bake your cake from scratch or use a box mix, finishing with fondant can make you look like a pastry pro, and with these tips, even a beginner can pull it off.

Photo by Allrecipes Magazine

A Brief, Sweet History

With a royal pedigree that dates back to the 16th century, fondant (pronounced FAWN-dunt) was created as a showy way to finish desserts. It has evolved into a pastry chef's dream, especially when it comes to dramatic wedding cakes. Creating fondant involves cooking sugar and water, letting it cool, then whipping it with stablizers such as glucose syrup and gelatin, and glycerin, which adds moisture and prevents cracking. Fondant has enjoyed renewed attention in recent years, thanks to the popularity of cooking shows such as Cake Boss.

Photo via apinchoflove.net

The Basics

Photo by Allrecipes Magazine

An Easy Variation: Marshmallow Fondant

If you've ever made Rice Krispies bars or played with Play-Doh, you can make and decorate with this easy fondant. Seriously! Unlike traditional recipes (which use things like glucose, glycerin, and gelatin), this one relies on marshmallows, powdered sugar, and your microwave.

Step-by-step

Check out these easy, step-by-step directions for rolling and coloring your marshmallow fondant, courtesy of Allrecipes Magazine.

  1. Microwave 16 ounces mini marshmallows in a large bowl until melted. Stir in 1/4 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla until smooth. Stir in 6 to 8 cups powdered sugar, a cup at a time, until mixture is too stiff and sticky to stir. Turn out onto a surface dusted generously with additional powdered sugar, and knead in 2 to 3 cups more powdered sugar with hands coated in butter or powdered sugar until no longer sticky. (You can also do this with a stand mixer using the dough hook.) Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate overnight. Bring fondant to room temperature, knead in food coloring and roll out about 1/8-inch thick on a surface dusted with more powdered sugar. You'll have enough to cover two 2-layer, 8-inch cakes. (The extra can be stored for up to a week in the fridge, or six months in the freezer.)
  2. Follow steps for rolling and molding the fondant above.
Photo by Allrecipes Magazine

Color Smarts

Pastels: To turn white fondant a pretty pastel, sprinkle it with food coloring (pastes are more potent than liquids) and knead wearing gloves until worked in. (It will look marbled at first, but it eventually evens out.) Repeat until it's the shade you want.

Whiter Whites: To brighten white fondant, use vanilla powder or clear imitation extract instead of pure vanilla, or add white food coloring (there is, indeed, such a thing!) such as Wilton White-White.

Intense Colors: It actually takes a fair amount of food coloring to tint white fondant deep black or bright red. For intense colors, use concentrated pastes or buy already-colored fondant. Look for them online or at stores that sell cake-decorating supplies.

Fondant Fixes

If it looks dusty or dry: Brush with a damp pastry brush or mist lightly with cooking spray; or, if you haven't shaped it yet, knead in a little butter.

If it looks greasy: Roll or dust with powdered sugar or cornstarch.

If it bubbles: Pierce bubble with a toothpick inserted at an angle. Press air out of hole. Smooth hole closed.

For trouble-free handling: Butter your hands when working with the rolled fondant. If it becomes too stiff, nuke it in the microwave for 5 seconds.

Slicing and Serving Suggestions

  • A non-serrated knife is preferred.
  • Place the knife's point facing down toward the center of the cake and make the first incision there, following through with the rest of the knife.
  • Clean the knife with a damp cloth between cutting each slice.
  • If the cake includes cutouts, plan accordingly, and try not to slice through. Make enough so everyone gets a flower, for instance.

Here's a video that demonstrates how to make rolled fondant:

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