Decorating Cakes: Advanced Article -
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Decorating Cakes: Advanced

If you like the smooth look of fondant or ganache, try these techniques for your next special-occasion cake.

Start with the Cake

Poured glazes, like ganache or fondant, require a smooth starting surface--otherwise you'll end up with crumbs in the glaze or a lumpy-looking cake. Prepare the cake by covering the top with a very thin layer of marzipan or buttercream frosting before glazing.

Poured Finishes: Prepping the Cake

For marzipan, spread a thin layer of jam (or frosting if you used some to fill the cake) to help the marzipan stick to the cake.

  • Roll out marzipan like you would a pie crust, using confectioners' sugar instead of flour to prevent sticking.
  • Use a dry pastry brush to dust away excess.
  • Transfer to the top surface of the cake and use scissors to trim to fit.

For a buttercream layer, use a recipe that uses mostly butter, not shortening: you will need to chill the cake in order to create a firm surface before pouring on the glaze.

  • Frost the whole cake, taking care to make it smooth and level--but don't worry about perfection or about crumbs in the coating, as you'll be covering it up with the fondant or ganache.
  • Chill until firm to the touch.

Glazing the Cake

When you're ready to glaze, place the cake on a cooling rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. The cake should be resting on a cardboard circle for easy maneuvering. Cake circles are available at baking supply stores and craft stores. Or you can make your own: cut a circle slightly smaller than the diameter of your cake pan. You can also elevate the cake by resting it on an inverted dish or other makeshift stand; the idea is to make it easy to cover the cake with glaze without making a big mess. The baking sheet catches the excess and allows you to pour it back into a bowl for reuse.

The ganache or glaze should be warm enough to flow easily, but not hot--otherwise, it will melt the buttercream or lose its shiny finish. It should be about 90-100 degrees F (32-40 degrees C). Use a glass measuring cup or small pitcher for easy pouring. Start pouring at the center of the cake, moving to the sides; try to cover the entire cake in one shot. You can use a small offset spatula to spread the glaze, but be very careful: don't spread too vigorously--you will lose the smooth surface and might gouge into the walls of the cake. You're just trying to help the glaze flow.

If you don't glaze the whole cake in one pour, you may re-use the glaze on the baking sheet. Reheat if necessary and proceed as above. Let coating set before decorating.

Rolled Finishes

Rolled fondant and modeling chocolate--plastic chocolate--also require a bit of finesse, but result in a smooth, matte finish on your cakes. They're a little more forgiving than glazes, allowing you to move flowers or other decorations without leaving a mark.

  • Prepare the cake by spreading a thin layer of jam or buttercream on the top so the fondant will stick.
  • A marble slab is ideal for rolling out fondant or plastic chocolate. Otherwise, make sure you have a clean, dry work surface.
  • Dust the counter with sifted confectioners' sugar (for dark chocolate, use sifted unsweetened cocoa powder) and roll out the fondant or chocolate to between 1/4 and 1/8 inch thick. Thinner is better, but it's also more difficult to achieve.
  • Brush off excess sugar and carefully transfer the fondant to the cake; before you lower it onto the sticky surface, make sure it's large enough to drape over the entire cake.
  • Starting in the center, gently smooth the coating toward the sides, pushing out any air bubbles, and smooth the fondant down the sides of the cake.
  • Use a sharp paring knife to trim the excess. If the bottom edge is ragged, you can decorate the bottom of the cake with a rope of fondant or piped icing.

Jun. 19, 2009 4:26 am
You really should add the marshmallow fondant recipe to this link. It's become so popular lately and is so easy to use!
Jun. 25, 2009 11:51 am
Done! Thanks, Pam!
Aug. 1, 2009 5:23 am
When do you add food coloring to the Fondant to make different coloring? This might be a obvious question, but I was wondering. I'm a new baker...
Dec. 6, 2009 6:41 pm
you use food coloring to tint the fondant. but i would suggest using something like icing tint since its more like a gel than liquid food coloring, but it essentially does the same thing. Just be careful not to get coloring on yourself since it stains! just add some of the coloring to the plain white fondant and then pull and twist the fondant till the coloring is incorporated into the fondant and you get the desired color. I hope this helps. :)
Jan. 27, 2010 9:09 pm
How do you make a seam that does not show? I am wondering about how to make a seam disappear around a corner, or working it around a ball-shaped cake. Thanks
Feb. 17, 2010 2:09 am
i love the look of fondant but i've always wondered what its like to eat? They make adorable cupcakes with it but i imagine biting into isn't too pleasant. Am i wrong?
Feb. 17, 2010 4:31 am
I also love the look of the fondant but not the taste. My question is can a different flavor be added to it?
Feb. 17, 2010 9:13 am
I have only tried marshmallow fondant and I love it! I am told the other kinds are not very good to eat. The MM fondant tastes like marshmallows and would be good on cupcakes. I have made it with the strawberry marshmallows, also and it was very good. You can also use cocoa powder in it to flavor and color it. It is super easy to make, very inexpensive and tastes great!
Boyce D 
Feb. 18, 2010 6:44 am
You can flavor fondant with extracts. I like to use almond extract. As far as the corners go, smooth down the corners first and then work in the fondant on the sides of the cake. This can be tricky. Thinly rolled fondant works best. Fondant is a blast. Play with it and get used to it. You'll love it!
Apr. 21, 2010 9:35 am
If i am making a two tier cake do i need to use cardboard ond dowels. I'd really prefer not too of course, and am wondering if it's only necessary for three or more tiers.
Jul. 13, 2010 12:35 am
if it is only two tiers then you can probly get away with no cardbord, but i would use about 3 dowels in the bottom tier (for support) and mabye one through the whole thing.
Jul. 16, 2010 5:39 pm
The rolled buttercream fondant on this site is pretty tasty. I have always heard that fondant tastes terrible and I had never used fondant, so I made the buttercream fondant and the mm fondant. They both tasted good to me. Other types of fondant do taste funky, though.
Jul. 19, 2010 10:27 am
Hi there, These is a really nice article and made me wonder if you wonderful people could help with the following situation: I am planning to make a very large cow cake that I would like to cover in a smooth covering and -- maybe -- edible foil. I need to figure out an apt covering that will survive fairly well in the following conditions: This cake will be stored in a cooler (probably with dry ice) and transported from Seattle to the desert. It will be brought out a day or two after transport, for a festival, and will be in shade - However, since it will be 100+ out of the shade, even under the shade will not be particularly cool. (I've been looking at Italian meringue, marshmallow fondant, glazes, etc. but am not finding much in the way of maximum usage temperatures. It would be great not to have the cow's covering melt off mid-fest. ; - )) Any suggestions? Thanks so much : - ) Heather
Aug. 16, 2010 7:06 pm
I made the rolled buttercream fondant today and I loved it. I had a problem though when I tried putting it on to the cake. My fondant fell apart, and I was wondering if my dough wasn't stiff enough. Should I add more powdered sugar? Thanks for the help!
Aug. 30, 2010 10:49 pm
what kind of cake should i use underneath mm fondant? it will be for my son's birthday party, and i want something easy and simple, yet impressive.
Sep. 9, 2010 5:45 pm
To Jane & Becki-sue - in feb you asked what fondant tastes like. I discouraged customers from fondant cakes b/c of taste - then I found Virgin Ice fondant from Bulk Barn and Satin Ice from stores in Toronto. Now I LOVE working with it and the last wedding cake - NO ONE peeled it off! It is easy to use and actually tastes good - w/o extra flavoring.
Dec. 17, 2010 11:09 am
Marsh mallow fondant tastes so much better than plain rolled fondant. It is also easier to make! You can also add flavoring to it! As for the food coloring, I recommend taking the amount of fondant you wish to be tinted, then roll it into an egg shaped ball. Dip a tooth pick into the food coloring and make 3 1-inch lines onto the fondant. Then simply kneed it in until it is even with color. If it isn't dark enough of a color, simply repeat until it is the color you desire!
Feb. 23, 2011 4:34 pm
I am a new baker...and i have never used fondant before...but i really want to use it on a birthday cake im making for my friend. it is going to be a giraffe. i've heard that using rice crispies in some areas of the cake is great...but do i cover the rice crispies with fondant the same way i would the cake?
Jun. 24, 2011 10:13 pm
I was wondering If I make a few batches of marsh mellow fondant how should I store it and for how long?
Oct. 5, 2011 7:47 am
When working with rolled fondant spray work area with bakers joy (found in most food store - oil & flour mixure)this helps the fondant from sticking. As far a the marshmallow fondant it is easy to use, but time consuming. Also, I have been told it's just to sweet! I use less marshmellows and less powder sugar.
Oct. 5, 2011 7:49 am
1 more thing always Dirty Ice your cakes if using fondant I can not express this enough! You can use any frosting to drity ice!
Nov. 16, 2011 12:15 pm
Im sorry does anyone know how to make fondant?
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