Thursday, October 6, 2011

How To Cover a Cake with Fondant

Even though I teach this skill about every 2 months or so in class, I have to tell you that I always get nervous when I have to cover a cake with fondant. It's not that it's so hard, it's mostly that you don't have a lot of room for error, and I am terrible at lining things up. But once I get it done, I do breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy the pretty, smooth covering on my cake.

What You Need
1 cake covered in icing*
Appropriate amount of rolled fondant (click the link for a chart from Wilton.)
Shortening (to grease the rolling surface)
Rolling mat (or parchment or waxed paper taped to the counter top)
Rolling pin
Cardboard circle the same size as your cake to set cake on 
Bowl or pan to raise cake

*Note: The icing does not need to be perfect to cover the cake with fondant, but if you have a dark cake (like chocolate) and you're covering with white or pastel fondant, those big crumbs can show through.

To prepare your cake to cover with fondant, cover it first with a thin layer of icing. Don't use too much icing or when you put the fondant on, that icing is just going to smoosh out all over. It will also make it so that you will have indentations and other marks when you try to smooth the fondant on the cake.

You also need to place the cake on a circle of cardboard or foamboard that is the same size as the cake. (If your cake is 6" round, use a 6" round circle of cardboard.)

Place your cake (on its board) on a bowl, pan or even can that is about an inch or two smaller in diameter than the cake is. This is so that the fondant can drape down the cake, and not bunch at the bottom.

*Note: You will often see the "pros" cover the cake directly on the counter top. That's not the way I learned to cover a cake, so this is the only way I've gotten it to work out. If doing it directly on the counter top without raising it works for you, great! I definitely wouldn't try to raise a gigantic cake to drape it, but this is just what works for me.

Before you start rolling your fondant, you want to knead it. Coat your hands with shortening, and knead, knead, knead. The fondant should be soft and pliable. It should  not break when you fold or pull it. It should stretch- almost like taffy.

You also need to prepare your work surface, spread a liberal amount of shortening all over the rolling mat or a piece or waxed or parchment paper that you have taped to the counter top.

Roll your fondant to be a circle (prepare yourself for math here). The circle needs to be big enough to cover the top and both sides of the cake. SO, you need to add the diameter of your cake, and two times the height of the sides (for a round cake.) For a square cake, you want a square that is the dimension of the cake across the top, plus, again, two times the height of the sides of the cake.
Come again?!

Here's an example:
For an 8" round cake that is 3" tall, you need: 8" + (2* 3")= 14" circle of fondant.
For an 8" square cake that is 3" tall, you need: 8" + (2*3")= 14"x14" square of fondant.

DO cut the fondant to the smallest size you can before covering the cake. So, don't leave a bunch of wild shapes (like the picture above) that are bigger than the circle that you need.

(Sorry for the color change here, but this was a better pic.)
Your fondant should end up between 1/8" and 1/16" inch. That's between the thickness of a nickel and of a dime. If you have a fancy-schmancy rolling pin with its thickness rings, you can use those to keep it all the same thickness. Otherwise, set a coin next to the rolled fondant. If you can run your finger from the fondant to the coin without moving up or down, you're the right thickness.

Whew! Now, you have it all rolled out and cut... time to hold your breath and try to get it on the cake.

If you used a thin rolling mat or parchment or waxed paper, slide your entire arm underneath the mat along the middle of your circle of fondant. Now comes the part I hate... line it up.
You want the edge of the fondant to line up with the bottom edge of the cake... and you want the cake to be centered in the circle (or half-circle as you hold it up) of fondant. Sometimes pulling in a roommate, spouse, sibling, anyone over the age of about 10 to help you line it up can help. They can see it from the side while you see it from the front. (Or maybe you're more capable of lining things up than I am... I hope you are!)

Once you're all lined up, flip the whole kit-n-kaboodle over the cake. Then peel back the rolling mat or the paper.

If you don't want to align it on the mat, you can also wrap the fondant around your rolling pin to get it on the cake. I don't like doing it that way for two reasons: the fondant-covered rolling pin gets really heavy, and you can ding your cake with it. (Which, when you're talking about a few pounds of pin and fondant, really means smash the cake. Yes, I speak from experience.) Also, peeling it off, rolling it around the pin and then re-peeling it increases the chance that you'll stretch or tear the fondant.

If your lining up is less-than stellar, cut some of the extra fondant off from below the cake before you begin to smooth. If you have inches of fondant hanging below your cake, it will be too heavy and pull the fondant to crack at the top edge of the cake. Allow at least 1/4" (or more) to remain underneath the bottom of the cake.

Now, to get it to stick to the cake. Don't try to "eliminate" the wrinkles. The wrinkles will be there. Your goal is to move those wrinkles down below the bottom edge of the cake.
Place one hand horizontally on the side of the cake. (I use my left hand.) GENTLY press the fondant down the side of the cake with that hand, and with the other hand, GENTLY pull the wrinkles down and away from the side of the cake.
I cannot emphasize the word GENTLY enough. Fondant... it will crack. It will tear. So, be GENTLE.

Your cake will kind of look like it's wearing a clingy skirt with a ruffle at the bottom when you've got it all attached and wrinkle-free.

Now, cut off that ruffle. I use clean kitchen scissors or shears. Let the top blade of the scissors brush against the bottom of the board underneath the cake. Using your fingers, again, GENTLY tuck that tiny edge of fondant underneath the board.

See, this is where I should have, I don't know, taken a PICTURE of the finished cake?! No. Why would I do that?! So, you're stuck with this yucky photo of it.
(Although, this is a little preview for you of tomorrow's post... The Great Fondant Comparison. As you can see, I covered numerous cakes with different kinds of fondant for a taste test.)

If you do end up with a lot of wrinkles at the bottom of the cake- and you probably will the first few times you do this, add a big border to the bottom. I made this border by rolling a "snake" like you used to do with Play-Doh, and then you just press it with a round fondant tool... or you could make any kind of design you want. (I'll do a post on more fondant decorating techniques in the future.)

Click the Links Below to See:
Fondant 101: What It Is and How To Use It
Which brand of fondant (or homemade) is best? 
Other Fondant Decorating Ideas and Recipes
Other Basic Cake Decorating Techniques

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1 comment:

  1. I slide the plastic rolling pin under the center of the mat, then I can lift at each end and have a better view of the process.


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