Fondant, aka sugar paste or or ready-to-roll icing, will help you make the most beautiful cake you've ever baked. Yes, we're serious!
You can always buy fondant, but I prefer to make my own. Not only is it cheaper than the packaged kind, but it also tastes better (if I do say so myself). The recipe below produces a firm, elastic paste that's easy to roll out and drape over a cake iced with buttercream or ganache.
Shall we get started?
How to make sugar paste/fondant
Yield: around 2½ pounds
- 7 cups confectioners' (powdered or icing) sugar
- ⅓ cup and 2 tablespoons shortening (vegetable fat or white margarine) such as Crisco, Wooden Spoon, Trex or Copha
- 1 tablespoon gelatin granules or powder
- 2 tablespoons water
- ⅓ cup light corn syrup
- 1 tablespoon glycerine
- ¾ cup white baking chocolate or candy melts, chopped (optional)
- ½ teaspoon fine table salt
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice or a few drops of clear vanilla essence
- Food coloring (optional)
- Extra shortening or non-stick cooking spray
Pro tip: although I've described the baking chocolate and candy melts as optional, I would highly recommend them. They increase the elasticity of the fondant, which helps keep it from drying out and cracking.
1. Prepare the ingredients
Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a large bowl. Set aside 2 cups to use later.
Heat the shortening in a microwave oven at full power for 30 to 40 seconds or until it is thoroughly melted, and set aside.
Pour the gelatin granules over the water in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in a microwave oven at full power for 10 to 20 seconds or until completely melted, making sure the mixture does not boil (boiling will cause the gelatin to lose its strength). Stir the melted shortening into the melted gelatin
Stir the light corn syrup, glycerine, salt and optional chocolate into the melted gelatin.
2. Heat and mix until smooth
Place the mixture back in the microwave and heat at full power for 30 seconds. If necessary, heat for another 20 seconds if you have added the optional chocolate. Stir until the mixture is smooth.
3. Flavor and color as you like
Add the lemon juice or clear vanilla essence, whichever is speaking to you. Then, dip a toothpick into gel food coloring and add a small amount of color at a time. You can also use an eyedropper to drop food coloring into the mixture. Mix until you have your desired color.
4. Mix in the sugar
Make a well in the confectioners’ sugar and pour the gelatin mixture into it.
Blend the gelatin mixture into the confectioners’ sugar with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer fitted with dough hooks. Mix until you have a sticky paste and most of the confectioners’ sugar is incorporated. (Be careful when using your electric mixer, as its motor could burn out if the paste becomes too firm!)
5. Knead by hand
Pour some of the reserved confectioners’ sugar onto your workbench. Then, spread some of the extra shortening on a spatula (or spray the spatula with non-stick cooking spray) and use it to scrape the sticky paste onto your workbench.
Spread shortening or spray non-stick cooking spray onto your hands and knead the fondant. Keep on adding more confectioners’ sugar until your mixture is smooth and easy to handle.
If the fondant is very sticky, spread more shortening on your hands and add more confectioners’ sugar.
5. Wrap and store
The fondant should be firm, but still slightly sticky, as it will become firmer and drier after standing overnight.
Spread shortening over the ball of fondant and cover with plastic wrap. Place it in a Ziploc bag and let stand overnight.
(Note: if you want to use the fondant immediately instead of storing overnight, that's okay. But you may find the paste too sticky before it has rested. To correct this, just mix in a bit more confectioners’ sugar until it feels firm and dry, then continue with your project.)
Working with fondant
Soften it up
If your fondant feels very firm after standing overnight, knead it well or microwave on full power for 10-second intervals until it feels soft enough to roll out.
Adjust color if needed
Is the color too light? There's an easy fix — just knead in some more food coloring. (You can also wait until this step to add food coloring to the sugar paste in the first place — it will work just fine.)
Roll and drape!
After your fondant is well kneaded, roll it out to an even thickness and a size large enough to cover the surface of your cake. Then just drape the paste over a frosted cake and smooth it out with a fondant smoother.
Extra tips and tricks
- Fondant will keep for two months at room temperature, for four months if refrigerated and for six months to a year if frozen. Bring back to room temperature before use.
- If you can, use gel food coloring with fondant, as it does not affect the texture. If you have only liquid food coloring available, it will soften your fondant, so you'll need to add a little extra confectioners’ sugar. You could also add 1 teaspoon CMC powder, Tylose powder or gum tragacanth to the recipe to firm it up.
- If your fondant does not feel elastic enough even after kneading it well, add up to 1 teaspoon CMC powder, Tylose powder or gum tragacanth to the recipe. Just remember this will also make your paste dry out faster.
- If your fondant feels dry and cracks or feels very firm or crumbly, knead in a few teaspoons of melted shortening. Alternatively, work glycerine and or a few drops of cooled boiled water into the mix to soften it and make it more elastic.
- Always keep fondant wrapped in plastic wrap inside a Ziploc bag since it dries out quickly. You should also always rub shortening over the surface before covering it.
Photos via Katrien’s Cakes.