Hello Amblers! This month I’ve been dabbling with a bit of dreaded fondant work for a friend’s birthday cake. Normally I would shy away from fondant as much as possible, but I was feeling brave and, as it was a special occasion, I rose to the challenge.
As the last (and only) time I attempted a fondant covered cake was a frustrating, lumpy mess, I immediately scoured the internet for tips and tricks to help me get the high quality finish I was after. I stumbled onto the incredible Sharon Wee of We Love Baking, who not only creates amazing cakes but also provides free tutorials online to help others achieve the same. Here are my top tips for making the most of your fondant:
- Quality matters – if you aren’t making your own fondant it really does pay off to source a good quality fondant rather than store brand. I used Renshaw ready to roll fondant.
- Don’t mess with the consistency – using cornflour instead of icing sugar when rolling out your fondant stops it sticking without the fondant taking on more icing sugar and drying out. Similarly, don’t get it wet (unless you intend to stick two pieces together) and don’t try to colour pre-made fondant; you’ll end up with a sticky mess that never dries out.
- Layer up – fondant should never go directly onto the cake (for one thing it won’t stick). You can use jam to stick it, but to get a really smooth finish it’s best to use buttercream or chocolate ganache. Not only can you smooth these out to make a really sharp edge, but also they add depth of flavour to the cake.
- Timing is everything – you need to work fairly quickly once you’ve started your cake. The buttercream shouldn’t be on more than about ten minutes before the fondant goes on: if it’s too dry it wont stick. Similarly, the more you work the fondant and leave it out in the air, the more it will dry out, and if it dries it will crack. When it comes to cutting shapes though, it’s best to leave them to dry out fully before assembling on your cake.
After all that hard work, I definitely earned a cakey treat! I took to Züger’s tearoom to try out some of theirs. I ordered their tea of the month – a passionfruit rooibos, pear and coffee cake and the blackberry bakewell tart.
The cakes appeared rustic and a little rough around the edges, but the decoration was thoughtful and it’s reassuring to know that they’re homemade. I found that the almond flavour on the bakewell petered out mid-mouthful and the jam didn’t seem to add much, the blackberries however were a welcome addition and added a refreshing zing. The pastry was deliciously flaky and the texture of the frangipane was sticky and moist. The pear and coffee cake surprised me, as I was expecting a sort of gooey pear and coffee sponge, but it was more of a traditional coffee cream cake with fresh sliced pears layered inside. I found the coffee to be quite subtle, but that wasn’t a bad thing, as the pears might be overpowered otherwise. The sponge was delicate and the coffee cream really brought it together. My only complaint might be that the pears were a little under ripe and quite thickly sliced, making it awkward to eat. The tea was flavourful and came with a little chocolate on the side, which was a nice touch.
The cakes, although a little old fashioned and lacking finesse, were tasty and the teas were full of flavour and nicely presented. I wouldn’t say I’d be rushing back, but it did hit the spot at the time.
I’ve also recently been looking into developing some gluten free cakes. Anything gluten free certainly comes with its trials and is notoriously difficult to work with, often being too dry or crumbly. I’ll keep you all posted on how that goes.