Wow, it's been over a month since our last blog, about time we write about SOMETHING, huh? I figure today would be as good a time as any to address something that is a bit of a mystery to some people.. fondant!
Now, if you've read about fondant at all, you'll already know that in some circles, it has a bit of a bad rap. I think I'll start by explaining that.
First of all, know that fondant has been used in europe for many years, but that it's only more recently that it's made the trip across the pond, and been used on cakes here at all. I think the first I remember seeing it was about 10 or 15 years ago, and back then, it was something REALLY weird to see on a cake. Now, almost every cake you see in the magazines is done with fondant. That's with good reason, too - fondant allows for far more flexibility in design than buttercream does, and honestly - it's far more fun to work with!
Where does fondant get it's bad reputation? In my (not so humble!) opinion, the answer is twofold. For one, the American (well, North American) palate is pretty slow to adopt and adapt to culinary trends from foreign countries.. especially when it involves a unique texture. Fondant and its use just hasn't become ingrained in our culinary culture yet.
Another issue is that some fondant is.. well, it's pretty nasty. I remember my first foray into the use of fondant. It was long before I really considered baking for a living. I was in a craft store, and saw a box of the Wilton fondant. I'd never made OR tasted a fondant cake before, but thought it looked like something neat to try. So, I bought a box and took it home, anxious to try it.
Holy crap. Not only was it difficult to work with - sort of crumbly and very tough - it didn't really smell appetizing at all. I proceeded anyway, and came up with a pretty decent looking cake for a first attempt at the medium. Then, I served it. Even my husband - a man that lived on Hamburger Helper before meeting me, and would likely eat anything as a result - couldn't eat it. I'm not entirely sure why it was marketing as something to put on edible items! It was like.. lard mixed with sawdust and sugar. Just really gross.
I don't want to come across like I'm bashing any other cake business, so just know - I'm not aware of ANY cake business that uses Wilton fondant for anything but "dummy' cakes for their shop - and I know at least 100 cake people!
Anyway.. if Wilton fondant was a person's first exposure to fondant, I'd completely forgive them for assuming fondant was nasty, and for being too scared to try different fondants! I actually just googled the words Wilton, Fondant, and Nasty together... funny stuff!
Actually, a third consideration is that I've noticed a trend with non-fondant cake designers who like to bash the use of fondant. For whatever reason, they've decided not to use fondant themselves, which is fine - it's a personal preference! - I just don't agree with putting down the medium for their own gain. Some bakers don't want to invest the money (commercially available fondant is expensive, and could eat into their profit margin), some don't want to invest the time (buttercream designed cakes take far less time to produce!), and some are just really old school and don't adapt well to changing trends. You'll recognize them by the use of plastic bridesmaids, LOL. In all seriousness, some bakers just may not have been exposed to GOOD fondant, and/or won't invest the time and effort into researching or making their own.
At this point, you're probably wondering why I am such a cheerleader for the use of fondant, huh?
Well, for starters.. I make my own fondant. I don't use glucose or lard or anything else that some bakeries claim to be in all fondant. I use a couple of base ingredients that everyone loves - marshmallows and icing sugar! That's it, that's all. Can't go wrong with that, huh? I make a soft, rollable candy dough out of it, and that's what I cover cakes with.
Of course, it doesn't stop there. Depending on the cake flavor, I usually end up flavoring my fondant. My Chai cake gets a bit of vanilla added to the fondant (the marshmallows give it a light vanilla flavoring to start, though!). For chocolate fondant, I use Hershey's cocoa - regular for the lighter shades of brown, DARK Dutch Processed cocoa for dark browns, or as a base for black fondant. The great thing about my chocolate fondant is that the darker chocolate fondants taste almost EXACTLY like a Tootsie Roll! I can use any one (or mix!) of many flavorings to make my fondant taste wonderful. My personal favorite is my lemon flavored fondant, which I use on my Zesty Lemon cake. My lemon fondant tastes very much like lemon Skittles. Yum!
In fact, I have to be careful when baking a "personal" cake at home for family or friends. Any fondant I make at home is apparently a reasonable and expected target for my husband to run off with!
Sooo.. taste is not something you really need to worry about with my fondant. Texture, maybe. My fondant is noticibly softer than a lot of the fondant out there, but here's where we come back to 'the North American palatte'. Admittedly, we are used to the texture of buttercream, and the chewy texture of fondant is something that some people just plain aren't used to.
Something to consider, though. You don't put flowers on your cake with the intention of eating them. Sugarpaste / gumpaste designs aren't something many would enjoy eating (and would likely chip a tooth on!), and a lot of people aren't fond of eating royal icing decorations either. Does that mean you shouldn't consider their use? Hell no! You do those things for the looks! Nothing comes close to the lush look of fresh flowers, few things are as intricate, dainty, and impressive as good and realistic looking sugar flowers, and royal icing allows for design elements that you just can't get with buttercream.
Fondant is another design element that should be celebrated for its unique qualities. From the porcelain finish on some cakes, to the cartoonish and shiny effects you can get from it (with a little effort and a different technique) - to all of the cool looks you can get from moulding, twisting, cutting, rolling and painting fondant. Fondant allows you do some really fabulous things with cake that buttercream really can't. A great example of this is my Coach Handbag cake. That one is just plain not possible to do with buttercream!
So, enjoy it for the taste, enjoy it for the appearance.. just don't be swayed by rumor! The absolute worst you could possibly expect from your Celebration Generation cake is that some people may leave the fondant on their dessert plates at the end of the night. That's fine - underneath that fondant is a gorgeous cake - torted with several layers of delicious filling, and frosted with freshly made (from scratch!) buttercream. Some of your guests may not like the texture of fondant. Some may just have had too many bad expriences with fondant in the past to even try it. Many will devour it and love the candy-like taste of it. All will have a complete cake experience, regardless of whether they ate the fondant or not. And you... you will have had an extreme cake at your celebration! A showpiece you will remember fondly forever, that people will talk about.. and above all, that tasted fabulous!