11/04/2011 09:33 am ET Updated Aug 31, 2012

How To Cover A Cake With Fondant

If you want the smooth, finished look of fondant on your cake, chef Dianne Rossomando of The Culinary Institute of America says it's not difficult to do. Fondant is basically a sugar dough that's rolled out and applied over a coat of buttercream icing. You can find it at baking supply and craft stores -- very few bakers make their own.

First, chef Rossomando kneads the dough. It's important to soften the fondant to make sure it's pliable enough to roll out. She suggest kneading it until there's very little resistance, then rolling it into a thick cylinder and bending it slightly in the middle. If you don't see any cracks, the fondant is ready to roll out.

Before you begin rolling, make sure your cylinder is longer than the circumference of the cake. This will ensure you have a sheet big enough to cover the cake completely once you're done rolling it out. Dust the surface of the table lightly with powdered sugar, then roll out the cylinder as evenly as possible, rotating it often to achieve a circular shape. Ideally, you want the thickness to be about 1/4 inch -- if it's too thin, it will show cracks and wrinkles. Once you think you have it the correct shape and thickness, make sure by running your fingers around the edges, looking for uneven spots. Remove all of the excess powdered sugar by brushing over it with your hand.

Your cake and buttercream should be chilled. Lightly press a paper towel on the top of the cake to remove any condensation that may have occurred. To transfer the fondant, roll it up on the rolling pin, then roll away from you over the cake, letting the fondant drape over the cake. Cut off any major excess, leaving a 2-inch rim to work with. With the palm of your hand, coax down the fondant, pulling out the excess so it doesn't ripple. Work quickly, as fondant can develop an unattractive skin if exposed to air for too long.

As a final step, chef Rossomando uses a paddle to smooth out the fondant, then pushes the bottom edge toward the cake to make a seal. After she trims off any remaining edge, the cake is finished and ready to decorate.

For 60 years, The Culinary Institute of America has been setting the standard for excellence in professional culinary education. In this video series, experienced chefs and educators show you how to tackle essential cooking techniques.

Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Chef Rossomando from the Culinary Institute of America, and I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: how to cover a cake in fondant.

The reason people love fondant so much is that it gives such a beautiful, clean surface. It's basically a sugar dough that you're going to roll out and form over your already-buttercreamed cake. We'll be working with purchased fondant; there are very few bakers who would still go through the whole process of making fondant on their own.

You need to work with your fondant, so I'll just re-knead it until it feels really soft and it doesn't give you any resistance whatsoever. You want to get it to the point where it can roll out on a rope, and then when you give it a bend, it doesn't crack on you - that would be a good indication that it's been kneaded enough.

We're rolling this fondant out into a cylinder shape, which is basically so that we can get the length of our cake. You want to be sure it at least exceeds the size of the cake. Now I'll go ahead and start rolling out my fondant. I'll dust the surface of the table lightly with powdered sugar, and start rolling; I'll apply a little bit of pressure on the top of the fondant, and just press it down across the surface. You want to be sure to roll this out as evenly as possible. Keep on rotating the fondant, which not only helps prevent it from sticking to the surface, but also keeps it in a nice round shape. We want to roll it to roughly a quarter of an inch thick; if it's too thin, it will show tears and wrinkling.

Now it's at about the right size and thickness. I'm just trailing my fingers around the edge of the fondant to make sure I don't feel any thick areas. I'll also be sure that I remove all the excess powdered sugar - not applying a lot of pressure, but just brushing over the surface. This will also bring up a slight sheen, and it almost feels like you're touching the surface of a glass tabletop, it's so smooth.

Now we'll apply the fondant to the surface of the cake. Before I do that, I take a paper towel and gently remove any condensation that may have occurred while in the refrigerator. It's essential to have a cold surface, to apply fondant to the cake.

To transfer the fondant from the tabletop to the cake, you want to roll the fondant up on the rolling pin, and then bring the cake closer to you, and I always roll it off the pin away from me. So I let the fondant drape over the cake. I'm not applying any pressure. You can see I have more than enough fondant, and I'll cut off the excess so it doesn't interfere or weigh down your final application. Then I'll take the palm of my hand and lightly coax down the fondant. You want to make sure you pull out any of the excess so it doesn't ripple or have a pleated effect. I keep pulling with two fingers in opposite directions, so I have a smooth straight surface.

You want to work very quickly with fondant; as it sits and gets exposed to air it starts to form a skin on the surface, and it looks almost like elephant skin. I'm going to use the paddle now. It has a straight side and a rounded side, and I'll use the straight side for the edging of the cake, and the rounded side for the rounded edges. I'm going to just slowly massage the fondant all the way around the edge of the cake. Now I'll push the fondant towards the cake along the bottom edge, so it makes a really good seal from the bottom of the cake to the top of the cake, so you don't have a big gap and it doesn't give a sloped effect. Now I'll start trimming away the excess fondant; I'm going to use a scalpel. I want to come as close as i can to the edge of the cake, using the turntable to help me rotate around the cake. Then I'll just make a slice in it so I can remove all the excess.

This is our finished product, a fondant-covered cake; it's not too difficult, and it looks great.

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