Don't be afraid of a little fondant

ABBIE NAPIER
Last updated 10:21 18/08/2014

My mum is awesome at decorating cakes. She plays it down, but she's made some pretty amazing things over the years. 

While she can make hawk figurines out of fondant, I'm more of a rustic decorator - sauces, fresh flowers and so on. 

Last week, I decided to dabble a bit in her side of things - decorating with fondant. I've done the odd cake in the past, but it's all been quite simple and, let's face it, it only looked good from a distance.

Note: Fondant is that icing that comes in blocks and you can roll it out to cover a cake or mould it into shapes and figurines. The sky's the limit really. You can get it in the supermarket baking aisle. 

Last month, I spent about three hours with Amber Silbery of Wildberry Cake Studio decorating a ruffle cake. It was a one-on-one tutorial where the cake itself is already made and the student (me) focuses on making it pretty. 

Fondant can be pretty intimidating. It's fickle, prone to tearing and downright foreign to most people.

I often don't really know where to start and my lack of any real technique more often than not leads to cracks in the icing, cake crumbs everywhere and a pretty shabby finished product. 

For anyone starting out, hopefully these tried-and-tested tips I learned from Amber will make decorating with fondant a little easier. 

1. Ganache* is your friend. In the past I have been much too stingy with ganache. When you decorate with fondant, you cover the whole cake with the stuff, using it to fill all the gaps and cracks, and smoothing it out perfectly. When you lay your fondant sheet over the top, you get a perfectly smooth surface. Seems to me, the correct cake-to-ganache ratio is one part cake to three parts ganache. Don't be shy. 

2. I was always told to use icing sugar to stop fondant sticking to the bench and rolling pin (like using flour when kneading bread). It's actually heaps easier to use cornflour, which is a lot less sticky and keeps everything dry and smooth. 

3. Get a tub of Chefade. Chefade is kind of like Kremelta. Fondant is basically sugar so when you handle it with warm hands, the sugar gets sticky. If you rub a pea-sized blob of Chefade onto your hands before touching the fondant, it won't stick to you!

4. If your fondant is too hard, it's because it's too cold. You could spend some time kneading it with warm hands to get it ready to roll out, but it's easier to pop it into the microwave for 30 seconds to loosen it up. 

5. Colouring fondant. You can buy fondant already coloured. However, if you want to make your own custom shade, you need to use proper food colouring to change its colour (you can get this from Divine Cakes, it's basically a really strong food colouring which gives nice rich colours). If you're making various shades of the same colour, like in the ruffle cake, make all the fondant into the darkest colour you'll be using. Then, to make lighter shades, just add white fondant and mix it all in. Saves trying to match each batch of colour to the last.

It's amazing how these few little tips can make such a huge difference to decorating with fondant. As always with specialty skills, it's the little things. 

Have you tried using fondant before? How did it go? Any tips for beginners? (Check out Girl Meets Food on Thursday for tips on decorating cupcakes my way.)

* Ganache recipe: ganache is one part cream to two parts chocolate. So 300g chocolate = 150ml cream. Boil cream (this pasteurises it and it keeps much longer). Stir in chocolate until it melts. Allow it to set a bit before using it to ice cake perfectly smooth.

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