Thursday, February 16, 2012

Covering a Cake With Fondant

There are a couple of things I've said I'd never attempt to show using still photos: piping drop strings and covering a cake in fondant. I figured one of these days I'd recruit my husband to play videographer and have him record me doing these techniques that rely on motion more than most. Well, today I was covering a cake with chocolate fondant, and I figured I'd snap a few shots and try to convey the steps involved. Perhaps a video will be forthcoming, but in the meantime, here's what I do. 
The VERY first step is to bake a cake, level it, tort it, ice it, and chill it. The fondant goes on best when the icing underneath ("undercoating") isn't squishy. Also, don't ice the cake all the way to the base; leave a margin of a little less than half an inch. You'll avoid icing squishing out at the base when you get to the step of cutting away the slack. So, here's the setup I use: a sifter loaded with powdered sugar (the fondant may need it if it's very sticky), a teaspoon or so of Crisco (if the fondant is dry and crumbly, you can knead some in), a fondant smoother, a small pizza wheel or a sharp knife, a rolling pin (I prefer the Wilton Wide Glide Rolling Pin), a ruler, and a mat (I like the Wilton Roll-N-Cut Mat; it's essential for rolling out the right size for the cake). 
There are sets of rolling pin guide rings available that take all the guesswork out of rolling out the correct thickness of fondant. I almost always use the medium-thickness orange ones.
I dampen the counter under the mat with a spray bottle of water or a paper towel. This keeps the mat from sliding around.
Measure the cake up one side, across the surface, and down the other side. Add about three inches for "slop", and that's the size of circle you'll want to roll out.
Sprinkle your mat with some powdered sugar. Be prepared to use more after each flip of the fondant. 
 Dust the rolling pin with powdered sugar, and roll the fondant out much as you would cookie dough. Start from the center and work your way out. Flip the fondant frequently, and re-dust the mat and rolling pin as often as necessary (like if the fondant starts to stick to either).
A few cracks are no big deal. If they don't smooth out after a few flips, however, you might need to start over. Knead a little bit of Crisco into the fondant. The right consistency is just one of those things you'll be able to recognize more quickly with practice.
I apologize for the lack of quality in these photos. Juggling the phone and the rolling pin with my hands covered in powdered sugar and Crisco was no easy task, and I just couldn't turn off the flash.
At this point photography became impossible. I have yet to master the technique of rolling the fondant up around the pin without it sticking to itself (you see this method all the time on Cake Boss) so I slide my hands under the fondant almost all the way up to the elbow…
…and then drape it evenly across the cake.
Initially, I smooth my hands across the top and down the sides to the base…
And then I smooth it even more evenly with the fondant smoother. I haven't had air bubbles plague me yet; they can be pricked with a pin at an angle and flattened out with the smoother if they occur.
Be sure to smooth the fondant as close as possible at the base…
…before running the pizza cutter or knife around to cut away the slack. Wrap the excess fondant tightly in plastic wrap twice, then store it in a plastic container away from heat and light. At this point, don't put this cake in the fridge or cover it; stash it in a cupboard away from temperature extremes. All there is to do now is decorate and eat it! 

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