Alright. So yesterday, I shared my big, fat cake flop. Today, I’m going to share how not to have a big, fat cake flop of your own.
In case you didn’t see it or forgot what happened:
It doesn’t look too terrible here. The sides are clearly melting, and you can just make out a crack in front of the gopher, under the fondant. Of course, as these things do, it only got worse as we tried to drive, as gently as possible, over to our friends’ home. By the time we had arrived the crack had widened, tearing the fondant and causing the two sides to lean away from each other. I don’t have any pictures of that because it depressed me too much!
Now, let’s go over how to cover a cake in fondant, what I did wrong, and how you can prevent this from happening to you.
If you’re making a double layer cake, place the first layer on the cake board, top-side up. It will be helpful if your cake is chilled, because it will be firmer, making it easier to work with. This is actually where I made my first mistake. As you can see, this cake layer looks pretty level. Well, it wasn’t really, and I knew that, but in dryer climates, that wouldn’t have mattered. Lesson learned, however. I have to stop being lazy and always, always, always level my cakes. To level your cake, use a knife to gently trim the top until the entire cake is flat and level. Take small amounts off at a time, so that you can continue to trim, if necessary.
Once your cake is leveled, spread some frosting on top. It’s very tempting here to load the frosting on and make it nice and thick, but you have to be careful about that. If you’re in a climate like mine (hot and very humid), then the frosting won’t be firm enough to support another layer or two, or tiers, as well as the weight of more frosting and fondant. In cooler, dryer climates, you have more leeway, as long as your frosting is on the firm side.
For the second layer, place it top-side down on top of the bottom layer. Here you can really see why not leveling the cakes was a mistake. There is a very large gap between the two layers around the edge, and the center looks very slightly rounded. In the past, I have had the luxury of being able to support the sides and compensate for evenness with extra frosting, but that was a bad idea here, since the frosting stayed too soft. So just remember, always level your cakes. Always.
Place the frosted cake in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes to an hour. This is where I made another mistake, and I’m not sure how to solve this problem yet. I need to chill my cake to help the frosting set, but chilling it makes it sweat horribly once it’s exposed to this humidity again. I believe that the solution, next time, will be to keep the cake out and under the air of a fan to help dry the frosting, rather than chilling it.
Now it’s time for the fondant. If necessary, add any coloring that you want, and, on a clean dry surface, sprinkled with plenty of confectioners’ sugar, knead the fondant until it’s smooth and uniform.
Roll the fondant out, being sure to flip it often to allow you to add more sugar to the counter and prevent sticking. I made another mistake here. I decided to roll my fondant thinner than usual, thinking that would make it lighter, therefore preventing it from pulling and wrinkling. My logic made sense, but in reality, making the fondant thinner actually led to it being weaker, and unable to hold itself up. You shouldn’t roll your fondant any thinner than a quarter of an inch, unless your making delicate details, like flower petals, but I would go slightly thicker than that.
After the excess is trimmed away, lift and press the fondant gently into the sides of the cake. Go slow and take your time here, so that you can prevent wrinkling. If a wrinkle starts to form, very gently stretch and press the fondant to the cake to work it out. You want to sort of push the wrinkles down until they are laying flat next to the cake, rather than being on the cake itself…….. I hope that makes sense, but if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to comment or email me with them.
Now you need this indispensable little guy. This is a fondant smoother. In all honesty, I never used one of these on my first four or five fondant cakes – I just used my hands and lots of confectioners’ sugar. They turned out alright, but they were a little bumpy. This helps prevent that bumpiness, by smoothing not just the fondant, but also the frosting underneath. It also works out any air bubbles that might be trapped under the fondant.
As you can see from the slight sheen on the cake, it was sweating. Due to that sweating, I didn’t actually get to use my fondant smoother because wet fondant is very sticky. I could have really loaded up with confectioners’ sugar, but that would just have led to a gooey mess. Trust me, if your fondant is wet, just leave it be. This picture, however, gives you a good idea of how relatively smooth you can get a cake using your hands as smoothers.
Now you can just decorate your cake however you like! This is my cake after the sides started melting, but before the crack. It was a pretty fun little cake, and in the end, I’m happy with it because some things are out of our control…and some things are lessons to learn from.
Really, that’s all there is to covering a cake in fondant. Really. It’s not so tough, huh? Just be aware that it really does take practice, so don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t look how you want it to. And, hey, even with lots of practice, there are still mistakes to be made! If you get perfection the first time, congratulations! That’s awesome and it must feel great, but if you don’t, please don’t give up! Just remember, practice makes perfect!
If anyone doesn’t understand some of my directions, or you have a question about something I didn’t cover, please don’t hesitate to ask! I prefer that you ask in the comments, so everyone can see the answer, but I welcome emails, as well. If you need a homemade fondant recipe, I have a great marshmallow version here. Good luck with all your fondant work, and, remember, have fun!