Tutorial Tuesday: How to Make Beautiful Fondant Cakes

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.

You’ll need a cake board to fit the size of your cake. It can be larger, if you don’t mind it showing a bit. A cake wheel (preferably raised) is also very helpful, but not a requirement.

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.

Frost the top, the same way that you did the first layer, pushing the frosting towards the edges.

Next, frost the sides of the cake, being sure to fill in any gaps. Remember, you leveled your cakes, so you don’t have the huge space between layers that I have here. *tsk, tsk*

Once the cake is completely frosted, use a small, offset spatula to remove the majority of the frosting. The remaining frosting will serve as a “glue” for the fondant.

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.

Now it’s time to cover the cake. To pick up the fondant, roll it gently around a rolling pin and lift it over the cake (much like moving pie dough to a pie plate).

Making sure that the ends of the fondant hang down lower than the edges of the cake, gently unroll the fondant until the cake is completely covered.

Trim the excess fondant, leaving a couple of extra inches past the bottom of the cake. If you cut too close to the cake you won’t have enough to reach all the way to the bottom.

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.

Once all of the sides are smooth and flat, use a sharp paring knife to trim away the remaining excess fondant.

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!

Recipes:

Marshmallow Fondant
Vanilla Buttercream
Yellow Cake

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Comments

  1. bttrflybabydoll says

    Must.Make.A.Cake.Using.Fondant.Soon! Once I have time, I'm going to just do it. It'll be my "Welcome to the dating scene again" cake! LOL

  2. Lisa says

    I actually asked about the fridge issue when I started decorating. I live in Florida and asked a local bakery. Their first reply was never put a cake in the fridge. It dries the cake and causes sweating. However, They did say that to firm up a crumb coat and cake prior to fondant and further manipulation is to put the cake in the freezer. They said that by the time you take it out and start covering it, it won't be sweating so much as it will become tacky again, helping fondant to stick. They also said that frozen cake will stay far more moist than refrigerated, and in my humble amateur ventures, I would have to agree with them. I am nowhere on your level, but just thought I'd share a tip :)

  3. Juliana Alves says

    I had some problems with wet and sticky fondant. I didn't put the cake on the fridge. Do you have any ideia why cake sweats?

  4. Darla says

    @Juliana – If the fondant is sticky from sweating, my only answer is humidity. I'm not super experienced at working with fondant, but in all the times I've used it, the only time it's sweat is after being refrigerated on a hot day, and in high humidity climates. The best solution I have for this is to work with a fan pointed at the fondant. It helps keep the air moving and usually helps prevent that sweating.

    If the fondant is just sticky, you can add more confectioners' sugar, just like adding flour to bread dough.

    Hope this helps!

  5. says

    I’ve never really had a problem with my fondant cakes sweating… but that’s probably because I’ve been in colder placed and also hot/dry places. The cake is adorable though, the slight crack kinda worked considering there is a gofer popping out of it! :)

  6. becky says

    just made my first fondant cake and didnt leave the frosting to set before putting on fondant, would this effect my finished cake it looks like its starting to melt ? also my fondant was quit soft should i have used more sugar to firm it up first ?

    • says

      Hi Becky, It does sound like it needed more sugar. Extra sugar can make the fondant more manageable and hold it’s shape better. When I work with fondant, it is usually the consistency of soft clay. I hope this is helpful.

  7. Sydney says

    I’m making my first fondant cake today for my own birthday! *gulp* but I was wondering how much fondant is needed for a cake? Mine’s going to be a 9inch round double layer with a smaller double layer round on top. Should I cover them both at the same time after they’ve been stacked or before I stack them?

  8. says

    Hello Darla,

    Thank you so much for sharing us this very helpful idea. I have been following you in a while now + I am lovin’ it. I have never find an entry like this that is so easy to understand. You have mentioned it really well + with a picture—that is absolutely wow, especially for the first timer like me. Although, I have a few questions if you dont mind. I am going to bake a cake for a friends birthday & can you please tell me if I have to decorate everything already a day before or on the day of a birthday? My friend’s birthday is at 2pm. Should I do the fondant + decorations at night & refrigerate it or do everything in the morning? Its my first time to decorate a cake + I am confident of doing it because of you (you are inspiring). Thank you so much and I wish you a wonderful weekend.

    Kind regards,
    Lamielle from Switzerland xöxö

  9. says

    Oh, I forgot to mention that I will be putting a chocolate icing inside + out of my cake and place the fondant on top. Will that work? Thank you once again…Lamielle xöxö

    • says

      Hi Lamielle, Thank you for your kind words. :)

      When i work with fondant, I usually like to make all of the fondant decorations the day before, and decorate the cake the day of, depending on when the part is. Sometimes I will start decorating the day before, if I need the cake done early int he day. I don’t usually refrigerate the decorations, though, unless it’s very warm or humid where I am working. I just store them in a cool dry place until I’m ready to use them.

      Working with chocolate frosting should be fine with fondant, as long as your fondant isn’t a very light color, like white. You can also make the fondant a little thicker to help hide the darker frosting underneath.

      I hope this is helpful. :)

  10. says

    Hi there, nice blogging! I just wanted to offer a tip….when covering a cake with fondant, a cake stand is an excellent tool; but mainly for the frosting bit and then later when smoothing out the fondant with your tools (or hands). When you cover the cake with the fondant, the cake should be on the counter (on the cake board too) so that when you drape the fondant over, it does not drag and weigh down on the cake (pulling the actual cake layers and helping them crack). Once the fondant has been trimmed, then the cake stand can come back into play. It took me my first several cakes to figure this out, but you will get a stronger cake in the end :)

    Happy Caking!

  11. Kayla says

    Thanks so much for this easy to follow guide! Fondant covering my first cake tonight… *GULP* my brother wedding cake at that! Didn’t realise I would have to refridgerate the cake after the crumb icing! So glad I read this!

  12. Mariah says

    I was inspired by your steampunk cupcakes and want to make a steampunk cake for a party I’m having in June. I want it to be in the shape of the hat and I was wondering your thoughts on this. I have never done any cake decorating with fondant, I’m a little scared.

  13. lilian says

    Hi Darla,am actually afirs timer and was so much encouraged by your lesson,but pls i need to know the recipe for fondant,frosting and how to mix it. Thanks

  14. says

    Hello Im going to be making a cake here soon as soon as i get the tools. Very helpful thank you for the info. I have a MM Fondant that I found on line . Wish me luck :0) Check out my food bog if you like at the site listed above. (Just getting it up and running) – Slopy Joe.

    P.S. Have a Wonderful Mothers day

  15. Kailee says

    So I am planning on making my two best friends a cake using fondant and I was wondering if I made the cake a day before I give it to them if I could put the cake in the fridge or what. I don’t want to ruin anything, but I dont know what I would have to do.

    • says

      I don’t like to refrigerate fondant cakes if I don’t have to because the fondant can start to sweat if it’s warm or humid. If you do decide to refrigerate it, I recommend removing it from the fridge a couple of hours before you intend to serve it, to allow it to come up to room temperature.

  16. kylie says

    Hi there.. I’m making my own 21st birthday cake for my party this year :) it’s going to be a 2 tiered cake, the first covered in black fondant and the 2nd in purple. I’ve just practiced making fondant for the first time using your MMF recipe and i think its looking pretty good!!
    Im’ planning on decorating my cake in the morning, but my party is at night time. I want to know if this is a mistake as i love in South Africa, and its spring now, so its generally pretty warm. Will my cake melt before my birthday party? if it does, how can i stop it from happening?
    I really want to impress my friends and family so I’d like it to be perfect :)

  17. Sylvia says

    Hi Darla I’ve just discovered your page and was so pleased to see that someone else had the same problem covering their cake – we always think we are the only ones that have disasters and I’ve had a few. I am never happy with the finish on my icing so am going to practice with your hints eg make sure cakes are level and give it another try. Regards from the Wilds of Africa, Sylvia

  18. Sally says

    Hi Darla, I prefer to use corn flour instead of confectioners sugar as you use less and seems to absorb moisture from the fondant better, just a tip awesome website

  19. says

    Hi Darla,
    Was frustrated when my fondant failed, ang googled, trying to find out why that i bumped here and seemed to have almost similar ‘disaster’ :))
    I am doing a fondant cake for a friend. Previously, twice to be exact, i never cover my cake in buttercream before fondant. They are not perfect but turn out okay.
    When making this one, i google for tips and tutorial…all says need to frost my cake proir to putting fondant.
    Frosted, refrigerate and rolled fondant…..my fondant later became wet and one part of fondant (sides) bulged, not all sides, only that particular spot. Felt so frustrated as i m to deliver tomorrow…..just hope i can do something to correct it…
    I m not expecting any reply as i see that this post was way back in 2010… Its just that i m pouring out my frustration over this ‘failure’ :(.

    Rgds…khadijah – Penang, Malaysia

  20. tonia okoli says

    This is pretty inspiring!am Nigeria a firs timer pls can u help me with d recipes For fondant n buttercream icing.Thanks so much.

  21. tonia okoli says

    This is pretty inspiring!am a Nigerian a firs timer pls can u help me with d recipes For fondant n buttercream icing.Thanks so much.

  22. Emmanuel A kulimi says

    Cant fondant cake last long with a refrigerator? And most of items i dont have it in my near by then what subtitute can make to fondant my cake. (+2347067798781) can you just ice a cake in the apsence of fondant will it be ok?

  23. marcelle says

    Hi, thank you so much for posting this. I bought ready made fondant but I’ve heard that you need to add something to prevent the fondant from cracking. I bought a product called CMC which you add to the fondant (one tsp in 500 gram plastic icing, which I presume is fondant). I live in South Africa so I have no idea whT the American equivelant is. My question is, do I have to add anything to the fondant? The packet said it is a stabelizer. I am only starting my journey of baking so I apologize if this is a very stupid question!