We’ve all seen beautiful cakes covered in a smooth picture-perfect finish of fondant at events and bakeries. It gives desserts that professional – aka expensive – look that tempts us to have a slice. Sadly, if that fondant is like most store-bought versionsthen we’re in for an unpleasant surprise. To be generous, most taste like a mix of cardboard and sugar with a chemical aftertaste. How can something that makes cakes look so good taste so bad?
Luckily for all you aspiring cake decorators, creative DIY-ers, and parents on a dream-birthday-cake mission you can make a much tastier but equally beautiful fondant at home (and it’s surprisingly fun, almost reminiscent of playing with Play-Doh). All you need are marshmallows, icing sugar, shortening and some sort of colour scheme in mind for your fabulous creation. With Mother’s Day fast approaching it’s the perfect time to channel your inner dessert designer and surprise your mom with something special.
If you’ve never worked with fondant before it’s easy to get carried away planning your 17-layer rainbow cake, but it’s better to stick to a smaller decorating project like cupcakes or cookies. That way all you need to do is cut out shapes or letters with cookie cutters and adhere the fondant to your dessert with a little bit of icing. Voila! Pretty and professional.
Stephanie Eddy, who writes about her baking exploits at clockworklemon.com, lives in Okotoks, Alta.
½ of a 400g bag of mini marshmallows (200g)
2½ cups icing sugar (300g)
1 tablespoon water
Food colouring (optional)
This recipe makes enough for a batch of cupcakes or cookies. If you are covering a large layer cake with one colour then make a double batch.
Place the marshmallows in a large, microwave-safe mixing bowl. Toss them with the tablespoon of water to make them damp. Microwave for 30 seconds at a time until they are puffy and mostly melted. Measure out the icing sugar and place in a separate bowl (this makes it easier to add it in as you go).
Grease a spoon or spatula with some vegetable shortening and stir marshmallows until smooth. If you are colouring your fondant, then stir in some food colouring. The gel or powdered food colouring works better than the liquid. If you are using liquid food colouring you may need to add a bit of extra icing sugar.
Stir about a ¼ cup of the icing sugar into the melted marshmallows. A lot will stick to the spoon but don't worry about it, or try to scrape it off. Keep adding icing sugar into the bowl, and using the spoon or spatula to stir and stretch the marshmallow and incorporate the sugar.
When half of the sugar has been added to the bowl and worked into the marshmallow, use the shortening to generously grease your hands and begin to gently knead the remaining sugar into the fondant. At first it will feel very soft and puffy, but as you work in the rest of the sugar the fondant will become more firm and dough-like. Keep kneading until all of the sugar has been incorporated.
Take the fondant out of the bowl and place it on a clean counter. Knead a teaspoon or two of shortening into it to get rid of the powdered sugar from the outside and to keep it from drying out. If your fondant is still very sticky at this point, put it back in the bowl and add icing sugar, a tablespoon at a time, until it’s easier to handle.
Cover the fondant with a piece of plastic wrap and stick in a Ziplock bag. Allow to rest for about an hour to cool to room temperature.
When you are ready to decorate, grease your work surface well with shortening. Knead your fondant to get it workable, and then roll out to your desired thickness (I’d recommend 2 mm to ¾ cm). If the fondant is a few days old then you can get it workable again by putting it in the microwave for 2 seconds at a time. Even stubborn fondant will give in after a little bit of heat and being kneaded on a greased surface.
You can use the fondant to cover iced cakes, cupcakes or cookies. Use round cookie cutters of different sizes for cute and easy polka dots or cut the fondant into even strips to layer for a striped effect. Shapes like hearts and flowers look great on icing or on top of a base layer of fondant. Leftovers can be stored for up to three months wrapped in plastic in Ziplock bags at room temperature in a cool spot away from direct sunlight.