We have all seen those divine looking wedding cakes that tower over the entire reception and look like they have been sculpted by the renaissance masters. The magnificent beads around the layers, the immaculate white sheet that blankets a juicy moist vanilla cake, and those realistic sugary flowers are typically made with one ingredient: fantastic and versatile fondant icing!
Last year, I made my nephew’s birthday cake and made sure it was extra special because it was his eighth birthday. I knew that he really loved to play with his Nintendo games and liked to dress up as Super Mario or Bowser during Halloween, so I decided to make him a Mario Land cake for his special day. This was a particularly difficult task as I had minimal experience of making decorative cakes (I used to make custom-themed cupcakes a few years back). You see, I have baked a lot of cakes in my lifetime, but making fondant is not my strongest point.
Therefore, I did what any responsible chef/baker in my situation would do, I planned ahead so I wouldn’t be pressed for time before my nephew’s birthday. My sister-in-law had got him pretty excited about his cake, so there was no way I was going to let him down. Therefore, I decided to make the fondant a day in advance. Rolling up my sleeves, I got to work. After a few hours, I finally had a good chunk of white fondant, which I then wrapped in cling-wrap and placed in the refrigerator. After patting myself on the back, I went to get some much-needed sleep, confident that baking the cake would be a breeze now that the fondant had already been done.
But when I started baking the cake the next morning, I found out to my horror the icing was almost rock hard. I left it for a few minutes and tried to roll it, but to no avail. I quickly realized that I might need to consult the ever trusty internet to find out what I could do, and found a couple of techniques. After trying out some of them, I finally succeeded in making the hard fondant nice and soft like clay. In the end, I was able to avoid disaster and create a cake that was a big hit at my nephew’s party.
So today, I would like to share with you what I did to make that fondant soft, as well as some other techniques that you could try out for yourself.
Image from Amazon.com
The problem with fondant is that it dries out too quickly. One of the best tips for making sure fondant becomes soft again is to mix it with more glycerine. Fortunately, this is readily available in my local supermarket. The product that I bought is called Glycerine by Wilton. Here is a link to it if you are interested.
The product that I bought is a bit pricey. There are other cheaper alternatives, but as this was going to be used for a children’s party and eaten by kids, I wanted to play safe. Before buying your glycerine, always make sure it is safe for consumption.
So how do you use glycerine to soften fondant? Well, here are my step-by-step instructions on how to do it:
- Take a pound of your hard fondant and pour about a teaspoon of glycerine in it.
- Start kneading your fondant straight away before it dries and really work your hands deep in into the fondant while you’re doing it.
- You will notice immediately that your fondant begins to loosen up and starts to get more pliable.
- Add a bit more glycerine if you feel your fondant is still not soft enough.
- Pro Tip: Glycerine is not just for making fondant more pliable. You can also use it to fix cracks in your fondant cake. Put some glycerine on your fingertips and gently rub the surface on the fondant that you wish to repair.
Admittedly, glycerine is not exactly a household product, so it might not always be feasible to get it. For dilemmas such as this, a good alternative is to put shortening in (there is a good chance that you already have it in your kitchen and it’s more readily available in stores).
Just get a small amount of shortening and mix it in with the hard fondant. Be extra careful not to put too much shortening in, however, as it can change the properties of the fondant (making it starchier). This will ruin your fondant, and you may have to fix it by adding confectioners sugar and some cornstarch.
This is the least effective method and I do not recommend it unless you have no choice because you do not have the ingredients and time to soften the fondant. Simply place your rolled fondant in the microwave and set it to high for about 20 seconds. Then carefully take out the fondant and try rolling it. Keep doing this step until your fondant is soft enough for you to roll it.
Keep in mind that you have to be pretty quick about this. Fondant that is heated on a high setting dries out quickly, and it might even be harder to form it. As with nearly everything cooking related, make the microwave a last resort option.
Place a small portion of your fondant into the food processor and hit pulse. The heat coming from the motor should soften your fondant enough for you to form it into your cake. A word of caution, however. This will only work if your fondant is not too hard. Otherwise, it could seriously damage your food processor.
When it is done right, the food processor can be a great alternative. However, I recommend that you try using glycerine or shortening first before the other methods.
I’ll always remember the look on my nephew’s face when he got his Mario Land cake. Those are the things that stick with you throughout your life. I know that in my own way, I have been part of his cherished childhood. He is a bit older now, but he still tells me about that cake from time to time.
On the other hand, if I had not been able to fix my hard fondant, then his smile could have easily been a frown. I loved writing this article because it is great to show you that even kitchen disasters can be fixed with a little bit of detective work on the internet and some planning. I really hope that you enjoyed this article today as much as I had fun writing it.
If you love working with fondant and learned a lot from our article, please share it with your friends and family. Also, if you have any stories or comments related to what we have discussed today, please write them down in the space provided below. Keep on baking and rolling!