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Some Thoughts on Fondant Icing

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Just a few quick things to note, as much for myself as anyone else, on my experience yesterday of working with fondant icing. Firstly, I used a really simple recipe that I loved. I intend, when I have time, to get up a link to all the various recipes for the cake components – I did the sensible thing and printed them off so I could find them again, and also so that my laptop wouldn’t end up with a lovely but impractical coating of icing itself. Unfortunately I can’t find it right now – it’s extremely difficult to find a recipe for rolled fondant icing that doesn’t involve gelatine, corn syrup and various other ingredients including shortening. I still have that half tub of vegetable shortening in my fridge. I fear that one day it will break out and choke my in my sleep, or that it’s creeping out night after night and feeding me up while I’m unaware, until one day I’ll wake up and realise that I’ve put on three stone and it happened so gradually that I didn’t notice… Creepy shortening…

Here is a photo of my homemade fondant icing. I have nothing much to say about it – it’s not much to look at, either… Still, nice to get a bit of colour about the place in the form of photographs. It was either this or the creepy shortening, and nobody needs that.

Anyway, the icing recipe required a bit of tweaking – possibly because I used a large egg rather than a medium, the recipe didn’t specify – and resisted any and all attempts to make it Amaretto flavoured (the ‘hint’ of Amaretto was me saying there was Amaretto in it, it wasn’t there in the taste so I figured that the power of suggestion might do the trick) but it was easy to make and worked just as well as the last fondant cake covering I made (recipe in my Still Married Cake post). It took some getting used to though, and several attempts at rolling out then covering the cake as it kept tearing. The suggested thing to do is to powder the worksurface with icing sugar, which is what I did when I was making the white chocolate cake covering for the Still Married cake. However, as I had to use a *lot* of the icing sugar to keep the icing from sticking, it ended up being unbearably sweet. Now, I have a sweet tooth, but even I had to leave the icing on my plate. It was like a picture of a basket of kittens wrapped up in a fleecy blanket with rainbows on it and being held up by a freckle-nosed, gingham clad girl scout; sickeningly sweet.

This time, to avoid that, I used coconut oil to grease the worksurface and rolling pin. This worked out really well because the oil is solid at room temperature in the Scottish climate, but melts with the heat of your hands so I could just rub it over the surfaces and it melted without a whisper of complaint. I was extremely proud of myself for this bit of brilliance. I further impressed myself when I decided that rolling the icing out on a swatch of coconut-oiled greaseproof paper was an even better idea, so that once it was the right size I could just flip it upside down over the cake and peel the paper off, to reveal a smooth, clean surface of icing without trying to drape it over both hands *and* the rolling pin so as not to stretch and break it. Truly, I felt like a fondant icing genius.

Another top tip is this: clean your surfaces. In fact, clean your surfaces, hands, face, hair, apron (or clothes), cooker, sink, bedroom… Cake crumbs have a way of hiding until you’re rolling out the fondant icing, then sneaking in under your rolling pin so that you roll them right in and have to dig them back out again and leave a crater. Then, if you don’t take this one excavated crumb very carefully outside of the house to dispose of, as you might an unwanted spider, it will do the same thing again. And again. And again. Get rid of the crumbs, people. They are your enemy. I was lucky in that the cake recipe I used was very firm and moist, and held together really well (it sliced like a dream, too). However, it did contain both ground almonds and coconut, things which take the potential loose crumb count practically to infinity.

I did find with the first two cakes that I had to set the fondant icing aside once it had been rolled, to cool down. The kitchen was pretty warm, and I don’t mind telling you that so was I, because it was important to me to get the icing right, especially after making such a big deal to myself about making the fondant by hand and not buying it ready-made. The heat from the surroundings and from my hands made the icing a lot more liable to tear, so once I had rolled it I set it aside, out of the kitchen, to cool off and become a bit firmer. If I’d left it too long it would have dried out, though, and then been too brittle to cover the cakes, so a word of caution there. By the time I was covering the third cake I was much more confident, and the kitchen had cooled down a lot, plus I had developed my soon-to-be-patented coconut oil and greaseproof paper method of applying the fondant, so it went a lot more smoothly.

The appearance of the cake was still a lot less professional than I wanted – something I’ll have to sort out if I really want to take this up seriously and expect people to pay me money for my cakes. I can’t decide if this un-smoothness was due to a lack of firmness when applying it, or if the icing was too thin, or if I should have applied two thin coats instead of one. I think the Still Married cake might have had two coats, actually, now that I come to think about it. That still looked pretty bumpy though so it can’t all be down to that. I suspect that I was too cautious with the icing, scared of tearing it and having to patch it – which I did a couple of times, though having an almost-white buttercream on and around the sponge helped to disguise this. I noticed a lot of air bubbles in the end result, and also a definite bulge around the sponge and a dip where the sandwiched layers came together. I think it mainly comes down to practise, though, and perhaps some kind of smoothing tool might be available? I know you can buy one for royal icing, but I’m not sure if the same thing would work on fondant. I also wondered about using a knife dipped in very hot water – this works on a poured fondant or a normal white icing, but I didn’t want to risk turning what was a decent enough finish into a ruined, melted mess.

Finally, and unrelated to fondant icing, is the recipe I threw together for the coconut cream cheese buttercream, which was the big success of the whole cake, I think, bar the ever so cute dinosaur on the top. That was:

  • 150g butter, at room temperature

  • 150g cream cheese
  • 400g icing sugar
  • 100g flakes, sweetened coconut

Method:

  • Use hand mixer to combine butter and cream cheese until totally smooth
  • Mix icing sugar and coconut and add a bit at a time, whisking through until completely incorporated each time

That’s it. It is so easy, but so delicious. I love cream cheese icing now, the cream cheese stops it from being *too* sweet, which worked really well with this cake because of the threat of excessive sweetness from the fondant icing. That said, using to coconut oil to avoid sticking really helped with that, but it was still a pretty close-run thing. I think just butter would have tipped the cake right over into ‘too sweet’ and spoiled it. I do find that cream cheese icing is softer than buttercream, but in this case it set nicely, not squidging out from between the layers of cake despite humid, icing-ruining weather. Huzzah! This photo doesn’t do it justice, really.

Tunes: The first song to come to mind is clearly Lime in the Coconut – and may the deity of your choice bless YouTube for providing me with this incredibly great version by Kermit and associated others – seriously, not only hilarious muppet dancing, but what a great arrangement. Lime in the Coconut is one of those songs that goes on forever, and I’ve never actually had a clue what it was about, but I have a great fondness for it regardless.

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About Rock Salt

Seasoning while rocking out since 1983.

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