Please refer to What is Fondant? for a primer on this versatile ingredient. Once you have familiarized yourself and decide you want to play, here are our best tips for covering a round cake smoothly with rolled fondant:
When working with fondant for cakes, we like to use rolled fondant, which should be malleable but not too soft and not too firm. Room temperature plays a role, as do the temperature of your hands and the formula of fondant that you are using. Follow any manufacturer or recipe instructions, such as using glycerin to soften, not using shortening to soften, zapping in the microwave to soften or using cornstarch to dust your work surface. Every cake decorator figures out his or her preferred approach with time. One pro trick is to knead your fondant and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes. What you thought was too soft or firm might find its equilibrium all by itself.
- Prepare your cake with a crumb coat of frosting of your choice or have your cake dummy ready.
- To roll out the correct amount of fondant, use the following formula: Measure the cake height and multiply that by 2. Add that number to the diameter, then add 2 inches. This will give you some wiggle room. Roll the fondant out to that diameter.
- Use a scrupulously clean work surface as any little crumb or piece of dirt will create a bump in the fondant. Roll out to about 1/8th of an inch thin. Thicker fondant might be easier to pick up and move around, but it might create more folds once on the cake. Practice and see what works best for you.
- Roll the fondant up onto your rolling pin (we like to use a wide, straight French rolling pin), then unroll and drape the fondant centered over your cake or cake dummy.
- Use your palms or a fondant smoother, which is a specialty tool to help keep your cake looking pristine. Begin on the top of the cake and gently press down to help the fondant adhere and to remove any air bubbles. Carefully move down the sides slowly and evenly, guiding any trapped air down and out from the bottom edges. If you create or encounter any wrinkles, carefully lift the fondant away from the cake and smooth the fondant down again.
- Use a sharp knife, a pizza cutter or a pastry wheel to trim the bottom of the fondant flush with the bottom of the cake. If your cake is on a cardboard round, the fondant should cover the round so that you do not see it.
- Cakes covered with fondant don’t have to be refrigerated, but can be if you have a perishable filling. Small condensation droplets might form upon bringing it back to room temperature. Do not touch them! That will create worse marks. Allow them to evaporate and you should be good to go. If you don’t have to refrigerate it, go to an appliance store and get a gigantic box (if you are making a tiered cake) and store the cake inside. Any which way, the cake should be protected. Some decorators use a light plastic bag, such as those from the dry cleaners.