Fondant: less frightening than broccoli
I’ve noticed that a lot of people seem to be freaked out by fondant. I was too! It always seems to be the basis for so many beautiful creations by TV pastry chefs; something that is supposed to be difficult to work with because it is used by them. Well, I’m going to give you the recipe I use to make things like these, this and this. I know they’re not amazing, but I couldn’t have made the Spongebob cake without it, and sugar cookies was so much easier to frost that way! Either way, there is nothing to be afraid of! I swear!
I’ve also found that the majority of people don’t like the taste of it. This is something I can’t explain because I’ve never had any other fondant but my own, and mine tastes yummy, if I do say so myself!
Since I have nothing to compare it to, I have force fed it to many people, including all the guests at my daughter’s birthday party in April. Not only did they love it, but I’m pretty sure every one of them went out of their way to tell me they liked it! (I have a very fragile ego, so this made me so happy it almost brought me to tears. I’m a big puss, I know.)
Now, this is not my only basis for believing I make good fondant, because who knows? Maybe none of those people have had other people’s fondant either! But my mother-in-law has. She is the closest to a baked goods connoisseur that I have ever come to. Every holiday she comes over with the most decadent treats known to man. (They’re so rich, even I have a hard time eating them, the same person that eats spoonfuls of buttercream when I have extra left). Anyway, even she said it was good! She said she usually peels the fondant off because it’s gross, but she didn’t do it with mine! In fact, she went back for more little pieces from the Spongebob cake. My husband’s best friend (his name is Juice) came over later in the night and broke pieces off of the Spongebob’s house until I had a naked pineapple on top of the remaining cake. It made it look really depressing.
Either way, I’m not trying to toot my own horn here. I want you to be able to make crazy fondant stuff to impress your friends and family. The first thing to remember is, treat it like really sticky play-doh. That’s it. OK. Here’s the recipe!
Fondant recipe! (not the marshmallow kind)
- 1 tablespoon to 1 tbsp plus 2 tsp. of unflavored gelatin*
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 1/2 cup glucose**
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or whatever flavor. If you want the fondant to be as white as possible, make sure to use clear extracts only.)
- gel food coloring (if the whole batch is going to be one color, you can add it as you make it. If not, you can mix it in later when it’s finished.)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening (the white kind, not butter flavored)
- 1 tablespoon glycerin (can be found at Michaels for around $3)
- 6-8 cups (1 1/2-2lbs) powdered sugar
*if you use 1 tablespoon, the fondant ends up softer which makes it easier to cover cakes with. If you use 1 tbsp plus 2 tsp. it makes it denser which is good for decorations that need to be very still like the leaves on the pineapple above. If you don’t know which you’d prefer, keep it softer so you have more time to work with it.
**you can also use light corn syrup. It’s much cheaper, but if you want to use glucose you can find it at Michaels.
I usually measure out everything before hand, so I can dump everything in right when it needs to be put in instead of taking the time to measure while it’s all cooking.
Combine the gelatin and cold water and let it stand until it thickens up. Place the gelatin mixture on top of a double boiler and stir until dissolved. (I use a small pot floating in a bigger pot with about an inch or 2 of water in the bigger one. Because I’m not cool enough to own a double boiler.)
Add the glucose and mix well. Stir in the shortening; just before it’s completely melted take it off the heat. (Or take the little pot out of the big pot. ha.)
Add the glycerin, flavoring and color (only add the color now if you plan on making it all one shade. If you’re going to need different colors, you can work that in later when the fondant is done). Allow the mixture to cool until lukewarm. (I let it stand for about 5 minutes. It doesn’t have time to get super hot when you’re mixing everything in.)
In a large bowl, place 4 cups of powdered sugar, making a well. (Again, I usually have this done already but if you haven’t done that yet, it’s cool. This is a safe place. There’s no judging here.) Pour the lukewarm gelatin mixture into the well and stir with a wooden spoon, pulling a bit of sugar from the sides in as you stir. Eventually, it’ll get too thick to mix, and you’ll have to start squishing around with your hands. Some recipes say to grease your hands with shortening before you start doing that, and you can if you want, but it doesn’t work for very long. You’d have to stop every 5 minutes to put more on, and then the fondant might end up being too wet. Make sure you take all your rings off. That stuff stuck in the little crevice between your finger and ring is gross feeling.
When you get started, it’s going to seem like you stuck your hands in a ball of tar and you won’t be able to get them out. Keep squishing it around, adding more and more powdered sugar until there’s none left, or as close to none left as you can get. Once you’ve gotten most of it worked in, pull your hands out (if you haven’t already because you’re panicking from all the sticky), scraping as much as you can off your hands. Now grease your hands a little bit. If most of the sugar has been worked in, it shouldn’t be sticking to you that badly anymore. Not by any means. If it is, you haven’t worked in enough powdered sugar. Now, most of the recipes I’ve found say that you should work powdered sugar in until it’s not sticky anymore. I’ve never gotten to that point. It’s always going to be sticky. It’s sugar after all! Just get it to the point where playing with it doesn’t turn your hands into a fondant covered mess. And there you have it! You’ve made fondant! Wooo!
To store it (it will keep for weeks and weeks) rub a little shortening on the lump of fondant you have, and cover it in plastic wrap, and then put it in an air tight container. Do not put it in the fridge! If you put it in the fridge, it’ll obviously get cold which is no big deal, but when you pull it out into the warm air, water is going to condense on it. Too much water + fondant = a sticky mess that will render it useless. Just keep it in a cool dry place for when you need it. When you want to work with it, squish it around for a while to warm it up. It will be more pliable then. If it get’s too dry (eventually, it will no matter how well you wrap it up) add shortening, mixing it in until it comes back to life. It won’t be exactly the same as when you made it, but that’s ok.
To color it, just rip off a chunk roughly the size of whatever you plan to make (actually, make it a little bigger. Just in case.) and wipe a little bit of gel food coloring on it with a tooth pick or something. Then, squish it around like when you were working in the sugar. Keep doing that until it’s uniformly colored.
To get it to stay on a cake or cupcake, frost the cupcake first (the buttercream I linked above worked wonderfully) and then lay the fondant on top, smoothing out the bumps. Before I bought a fondant smoother, I would just turn the cupcake upside down and roll it on the table. Oh! I almost forgot! When you’re working with it, lay a good dusting of cornstarch down! That is the secret to it not sticking to everything! If you need to attach 2 pieces together, some people use gum paste glue (I have never worked with or even seen it), some use vodka, and some use a tiny dab or water. I go the water route. A very little goes a long way on this one! You can also make the fondant decorations weeks ahead of time and let them dry. Just keep them somewhere they won’t get wet or eaten by bugs (or small children and husbands). Then just hold the pieces together for a little while and viola! Prettiness!
If you have any question, feel free to ask!