Making Fondant

Despite its versatility in cake making, fondant has gotten a bad wrap (no pun intended). But that's mainly because people have only tasted commercially-made fondant, which can have a chemical aftertaste. Homemade fondant can be good, even if it is sweet. Knowing how to make and use fondant is a skill to have all year round, but it can be especially helpful in the summer months when birthdays and parties are frequent. Here's an easy, common marshmallow fondant recipe along with troubleshooting tips.

Marshmallow Fondant (makes 2-1/4 pounds of fondant)

  • 1 (16-ounce) package good quality mini marshmallows
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • 2 pounds confectioner's sugar, divided
  • 4 tablespoons butter or shortening
1. Place marshmallows in large, microwave-safe bowl and heat on high until marshmallows melt (30 second to 1 minute). Add water and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add food coloring if desired. Slowly beat in sugar, one cup at a time, until mixture is too stiff to mix. (You will have about 1 cup of remaining sugar.)

2. Grease hands and kneading surface thoroughly and knead in remaining sugar. Add sugar to dough and surface as needed to prevent sticking. Knead until no longer sticky to the touch.

3. Form into ball and grease with shortening or butter. Cover in plastic wrap and place in airtight container or zip bag, refrigerating dough overnight. To use, bring dough to room temperature and roll on surface covered with powdered sugar.

Handling and Troubleshooting Fondant:

  • Kneading: Grease your hands and kneading surface with shortening or butter beforehand; this will help to avoid making the dough (and your hands) sticky from moisture. Add powdered sugar as needed to make the fondant feel doughy. If it feels sticky, add more sugar.
  • Avoiding sticky fondant: Use plenty of powdered sugar when rolling out the fondant—it acts like flour does with bread dough, preventing the fondant from sticking to the surface. Don't worry if you can still see spots of powdered sugar after it's rolled out. Such spots will disappear as you smooth the fondant over the cake. You can also spritz it with water (one it's on the cake) for a shiny finish.
  • Adding color: The traditional method is to knead color into the fondant. Do this by getting your gel on a knife and sticking it well into the fondant (so it doesn't get all over your hands quite as easily). Remember to use powdered sugar as you knead. Knead until color is even. However - unless you want a marbled look, multiple colors, or really strong hands - you can also stir in coloring to the marshmallow mixture before adding sugar.
  • Rolling: Roll fondant on wax paper or rolling surface (fondant rolling boards are especially helpful) to 1/4" thick. Use the following guide for sizing fondant: roll it into the shape you need (circle or rectangle), accounting for the size of the top plus 1 inch just in case, and 3 inches for each of the sides. Ex: 8" round: 8" (top) + 1" + 3" (first side when looking at cake from eye level) + 3" (second side) = 15" round.
  • When it sticks: Don't panic. Use a knife or flat spatula to carefully pry it up. Depending on how big the hole is, you can repair it with a few gentle rolls with the rolling pin. But you may simply need to wad it up, add a little water, and start over again.
  • Putting it on the cake: Frost your cake with at least 1/4" traditional frosting first, making sure it is smooth (any bumps will come through the fondant). Lay the fondant over the top, letting it drape on the sides. Start by smoothing the top of the cake, then carefully move down the sides, smoothing bumps and creases as you go. Cut the excess, leaving enough to create a seal between the fondant and the cake plate. For cakes with multiple layer sizes, do each layer separately and carefully assemble after fondant covering is complete.
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