Life at King Arthur Flour is a bed of roses: Shaping Fondant for beginners

threadcakes

Threadcakes contest winner 3D catagory 2009

I don’t know about you, but this cake reminds me so much of the cast and crew I get to work with each day.

You know, I really love where I work for so many reasons. For instance, during your fifth year as an employee-owner of King Arthur Flour, you get knighted for the first time. You kneel on a pillow during our holiday celebration (known as Twelfth Night); then Steve Voigt, KAF president, states your title while dubbing you on the shoulders with a sword, and you rise to the adoring applause of your fans (or at least your friends and co-workers). The titles are often humorous, and tie in with your work here at KAF, plus your personality and hmmm, shall we say “quirks?”

For instance, Carol here in customer service is Countess Carol, Sorceress of Smiling Service and Maker of Mischievous Magic. Fellow baker’s hotline baker Mary T. is Mistress Mary Maven of Multi-tasking. PJ’s 15-year title is Wizard PJ of Wordsmithing and All Things Creative, Poet of Promotion. And our Web guru Joe Caron, known for his smooth talking and eclectic appetite, has the most outrageous title: Baron of *BS* and Buffets!

I’ve only been to a couple of knighting ceremonies, and it’s always a treat to hear someone’s new moniker. I still have a full year to go before I get my first title, but I’m rather betting it’s going to have something to do with decorating. Over the past year or so, I’ve done a lot of cookie and cake decorating for the catalogue and for our Traveling Baking Demos. Decorating cookies is how I got my start on the blog (see The Other Cookie Baker), and I still get tickled when our merchandising/graphics folks, Deb and Ruth, ask me to decorate something new for photography.

As a blog writer, I’m also a blog reader. Earlier this summer I came across a contest for decorated cakes called Threadcakes. It’s sponsored by Threadless, a fashion site for unique T-shirt designs. The gist of the contest is to create a cake based upon one of their original T-shirt designs, using your favorite decorating medium. What a concept! I would check back every few days to see the latest entries. “Man,” I thought “How cool would it be to enter a cake!”  I mean, just look at the winning entry, the fantastic “Noah Express” pictured above.

 

Little did I know that I would have been immediately disqualified, as King Arthur Flour was sponsoring prizes for the contest, and it would have been an ethical no-no. Luckily Halley, our Web director, asked me if I had seen the contest and if I was interested in doing a blog based on the same idea and sharing the Threadcakes site with our readers, too. I jumped on it as fast as a duck on a junebug and immediately said I would do “Fondant For Beginners with Ribbon Roses.” It was one of the  first things I ever learned to make with fondant, and a technique I have used over and over. So, if  you aren’t quite ready for Noah’s Ark, let start a little simpler.

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First, let me tell you there is no recipe for this blog. It is strictly about techniques, and other than the fondant itself, no special tools or products are needed. Here’s a handy materials list, though:

1 tub ready-to-use fondant
gel or paste food coloring
cornstarch or confectioners’ sugar to prevent sticking
plastic gloves to prevent rainbow-colored hands
toothpicks
pizza wheel or sharp knife
rolling pin or pastry roller
round cookie or biscuit cutters
small bowl of water
a batch of your favorite cupcakes (I used the Tender White Cake )
a batch of buttercream icing ( I used Quick Buttercream)
Optional but nice: sugar pearls, tweezers

First let’s see what fondant looks like.

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If you are thinking Play-doh, you get a gold star. Fondant is very similar in texture to new Play-doh, soft and smooth. It’s a bit dry and stiff when it first comes out of the tub, but kneading brings it to a supple texture, perfect for rolling and shaping.

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If you choose to color your fondant, I can’t say enough about using protective gloves. I have ended up with fuchsia-colored hands more times than I care to count. You can also knead the fondant in a zip-top bag to keep clean.

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After kneading for 5 minutes or so, the fondant will be smooth. Add the gel coloring. Avoid the liquid colors you buy in the grocery store. The extra water will affect the fondant’s texture. I like to use a snipped drinking straw as a disposable scoop.

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As you knead in the color, it will have a lovely marbled effect that is very pretty for flowers and ribbons. It makes a nice background as well.

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As you continue to knead, the fondant will even out to one solid color. A dusting of cornstarch or confectioners’ sugar keeps the fondant from sticking. Use a light coat, though; you don’t want to dry it out.

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Once you have all of your basic colors established, lay them out and keep them well covered with plastic wrap. Fondant will dry when exposed to air, and this will cause your decorations to crack.

To begin, we will cover a cupcake with a smooth fondant top. You will need to roll out a sheet of fondant with your rolling pin, and take out your round biscuit or cookie cutters. You are looking for a sheet that is about 1/8″ thick. You can see it next to the cupcake in the photo.

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To ensure that the fondant covers the top of the cupcake, test your cutters until you have found the correct size. This cutter is too small, and the fondant would not end up covering the edges of the cupcake.

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This cutter is just the right size. It comes right to the edge of the cupcake and will ensure a nice fit. Cut your fondant rounds a few at a time, so they don’t dry out as you work. And KEEP THEM COVERED!

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Fondant needs a little something to help it stick to the surface of the cake. Apply a layer of buttercream. Not too thick, or it will squirt out from underneath the fondant layer. Gently lay on one of your fondant rounds, right on top of the buttercream.

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Gently smooth the fondant onto the top of the cupcake, right to the edges. It’s very pliable, so be careful not to press too hard or stretch it out too much. Use a bit of cornstarch on your fingers if there’s any stickiness. As a fan of clean new paper and smooth whiteboards, I love this part!

Now for the roses. While I love the red roses, I found the deep color a little hard on the eyes for demonstrating, so I’ll show you how to make the roses in pink.

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To begin the rose, roll a thin (1/8″) sheet of fondant, approximately 6″-8″ long. Using a pizza wheel or sharp knife, cut long strips, approximately 3/4″ wide. Each strip will make one rose.

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Beginning at one end of the ribbon, make a small fold, and roll the ribbon around itself. This makes the center of the rose. You could stop here, trim off the excess and have a perfect little rosebud.

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Continue rolling until you reach the size you like, or the end of the ribbon. Gently pinch the bottom of the roll to seal the piece. Smooth the side seam with your finger.

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Using gentle pressure, roll the end of the rose to taper off the excess at the bottom edge.

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Trim off the excess, so that you have just a small taper on the back of the rose.

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Almost done! Using your thumb or finger, gently roll back each layer of the rose to spread the “petals” out and give dimension to the piece.

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To make the calyx for the rose, make a small cone of green fondant. You’ll want to hollow it out a bit, to hold the base of the rose. I used a wooden chopstick here.

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Set the base of the rose into the hollow on the calyx and smooth them together.

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To attach your pieces to the cupcake, use your finger to spread a bit of water on. This will act as glue to hold the pieces together. Be careful not to add too much water, as the colors may bleed. Also, anyplace that fondant gets wet will appear shiny, so only put the water where it will be covered up.

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To make the leaves for your roses, pinch off a small amount of green fondant. Press it flat between your fingers, or between two layers of parchment. Pinch one end to form the curl of the leaf.

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To add veining to your leaves, a toothpick works great. Just press the tip into the fondant while it’s still pliable. The point of a bamboo skewer would also work well.

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Sweet!

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Not a big fan of pink? Try red roses for a more dramatic look.

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Or how about white roses on a pale pink background, with pastel green leaves?

To make pastel colors, just blend some of your base fondant with a large chunk of white fondant. You can make any shade you like.

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For a sparkly look, place little balls of fondant on your cupcake top, add a tiny touch of water, and press in sugar pearls. The ribbon on the center of this cupcake was cut with a pie crimper, and applied with a touch of water on the back.

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So here they are, a royal round of ribbon roses fit for any one of our knights – even Susan, Lady Reid, Baroness of Baking Sheetdom and Duchess of Delectation!

MaryJane Robbins
About

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...

comments

  1. EY

    That is certainly lovely, but one question I’ve always had about fondant is How does it TASTE?
    It is sweet and creamy and you can add any flavor you like. Joan@bakershotline

    Reply
  2. Monica H

    This is a great demonstration- thank you! And your cupcakes turne out beautifully. My favorite is the white cupcake with the pastel pink roses off to the side :-)

    How did you make the white rose on the darker pink background?
    Thanks Monica! The white rose ribbon was cut with a pie crimper tool, giving it that ruffled edge. The scalloped edge on the cupcake top was from a scalloped edged cutter. See how many different ways you can make the same flower? :) Happy Decorating! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  3. Tanja

    This entry is a bit disappointing. I thought I was gonna see how to make fondant.

    Here is a link you might enjoy: http://thecookduke.com/fondant-recipe/
    Frank at KAF.

    Tanja, OH I’m so sorry that you were disappointed. I’ll add “fondant from scratch” to my growing list of future blogs. I’ve changed the title of the blog slightly to reflect that it is about shaping. Thanks for your feedback. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  4. Mike T.

    For dusting with the cornstarch, I learned to use a nylon stocking as a fine sieve to keep the lumps out. Just buy a new pair (please don’t use an old one) and put a bit of cornstarch into a piece of it and use it like a powder puff.
    Hey Mike,
    Thanks for the tips, both on cornstarch and clean stockings! Too funny man :) ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  5. itsworthalook

    To flavor it, do we just add extract and knead it in? I saw the comment about not adding extra liquid by using liquid food coloring…
    Great question. I like to use oils or extra strong flavors, because you need just a tiny amount, and don’t have to worry about watering down your fondant. Just knead the flavoring in as you knead in the coloring. Keep in mind that if you flavor your green fondant with mint you might not want to blend it with root beer flavored brown fondant. Blech! :) ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  6. Deanna

    You’ve done it again! No sooner do I get something in my head that I must learn how to make/do and you’re blogging about it! For some reason I’ve been afraid to try fondant – now I can see I don’t have to be. One question though, how should the cupcakes be stored? Should you refrigerate and/or cover the cupcakes if they’re not eaten that day? Will the fondant get hard if left uncovered during a birthday party? Thanks!
    Hi Deanna, must be that great minds think alike. To store the cupcakes you can store at room temperature in a covered container. That will help keep the fondant soft.
    During the party, the fondant may get a tiny bit dry around the edges, but will not turn rock hard. If you leave the cupcakes uncovered at room temp. for 24-48 hours, they will definitely get very hard. Hope this helps! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  7. Linda J

    These look absolutely gorgeous! You all do such a wonderful job on the tutorials.

    How fun it must be to work at KAF and have the knighting ceremonies—clever names!

    Reply
  8. Fran

    That is amazing! How absolutely beautiful the cupcakes are. Thanks for the demo. I’d be darned if I’d make my own fondant – buying a tub of the stuff sounds like the way to go to me!
    Thanks Fran. Yes, making your own fondant is quite a process. Maybe in a future blog we can cover that (pun intended!) ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  9. Adam Abeles

    What a wonderful way to perpetuate a a useless creation myth. My only hope is that consumption of this cake was solely limited to the already brain dead and that no children were involved. The last thing we need is for Science to depreciate further amongst our youth by the enticement of a tasty treat whilst blatantly lying to them that the earth is but 6000 years old and that two of EVERY organism on earth, bacteria, viruses and at least 1500 species of yeast included, fit on a small wooden boat built by a 900 year old man.

    Judging by the pics they had enough trouble fitting the fondant animals in the sugary vessel and the cake maker barely scratched the surface in her limited choice of flora (she decided against including the fauna for whatever reason) for she would have to have a fondant factory to accurately depict the entire myth. I am perplexed to how she would create the microscopic and one-celled organisms out of fondant, but I suspect but I digress….

    Let`s just use a little logic and ask how is one supposed to fit billions and billions and billions of organisms, keep them alive and from consuming each other in a shoddy and tiny fictitious frigate commandeered by a 900 year old man on a foolish trip to nowhere.

    I am trying to to see the logic in King Arthur Flour taking this route by awarding this cake anything other than the inside of a trash can.

    Adam A.

    Thanks for sharing your comments on the Noah’s Ark cake. The judges in the Threadcakes contest viewed hundreds of entries covering a broad range of subjects and chose the winners based on the criteria of the contest.
    Here at King Arthur Flour, we try to walk a middle ground and share recipes, stories, photos and baked goods from divergent faiths, cultures and communities. We appreciate as bakers and artists the skills needed to create a unique and detailed cake regardless of subject matter.
    Thanks again for sharing your views. We hope you enjoyed the learning process for the fondant roses. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  10. Sharon

    I love the look of fondant, but not the taste. A good compromise is marshmallow fondant, which is a breeze to make, a joy to work with, and tastes far better than the purchased stuff. To make it, melt 16 ounces mini-marshmallows with 2 tablespoons water in a double boiler, add 2 pounds confectioner’s sugar, and knead in a stand mixer with a dough hook until smooth and elastic, adding a tablespoon or two of water if it tears (meaning it’s too dry). Rub a bit of shortening around the ball of fondant, wrap it tightly in two layers of plastic wrap, and put it in a zip-top plastic bag. Let it stand several hours or overnight or, refrigerated, several weeks — then use as above.
    Thanks for the decorating tips — always useful to see how others do it!
    Hi Sharon,
    Thanks for the recipe. I hope folks who don’t want to purchase fondant will give this a try. Happy Baking! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  11. Lyna

    MaryJane, congratulations for a level-headed reply to Adam A.—much more diplomatic than my initial reactions. Talk about going off topic!

    Reply
  12. Kathleen

    I just had to tell you how beautiful these cupcakes look. And your decorated cookies are just gorgeous. Thank you for sharing with us
    Thanks Kathleen,
    I appreciate your kind comments and hope you find inspiration for your own great creations. :) ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  13. Jason

    This is great! I have been reading this blog for a while now and have tried a few things, but I love the decorating tutorial. I plan to try this with my kids soon, and would love to see more tutorials on decorating. Thanks!
    Thanks Jason,
    These roses are very do-able with kids. We made some in our baking class 2 weeks ago, they were a big hit. Check out our playdough blog, and chocolate balloon blog and Pancake Art for more fun with kids.

    Reply
  14. Amanda Burlingham

    Mary Jane,

    I stumbled across your Web site while looking for white/wheat flour conversions and now, I am in love with you and your whole company! Your site provided me with the info I needed to bake my delicious – and now nutritious – apple bread. Plus, I have always wanted to learn how to wield fondant, and now I know (and shall!). Thank you for doing what you do so well and with so much zeal. As a PR professional, I also commend you on your response to Adam A. Finally, thanks for the great lead on t-shirts. I strayed from my quest for wholesome recipes and purchased four Threadless tees for me and my family. I hope to be back to read more soon!

    -Amanda
    Thanks Amanda, and welcome to the crew! I’m so glad you enjoyed the blog and the link to Threadless. My 14 yr old daughter had a long list of T’s she “has to have” before school starts, so I’m sure I will be ordering before long too.
    Glad to have you here. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  15. Bridget {Bake at 350}

    I have always wanted to try fondant…now you’ve given me the courage to do it! :) I see the Satin Ice container…is that the brand you’ll be carrying? I’ve heard really good things about the way it tastes compared to other brands.
    Hi Bridget,
    We will be carrying the Satin Ice fondant again in the fall, and yes we really prefer the flavor of this fondant over others. Have fun with it! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  16. sangeeta

    This was truly one of the best step by step directions for using fondant I have seen.Makes it very believable as it comes from you folks at King Arthur’s.Your products(I buy at my local organic store) are a true indulgence for me and my family.I love your Catlogue’s esp for the recipes!So thank you.
    Thank you so much Sangeeta, I’m so glad that you enjoyed the blog. I hope others learn from it and are inspired as well. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  17. mugsmom

    Thanks you soo much for this site. I work at a high end cooking store and we are always recommending this site for items that we don’t carry. Love the tutorials. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  18. Elaine A.

    OK MaryJane – you have convinced me! I HAVE to try working with Fondant. My husband has been nagging me to try it cuz I have been watching all the cake decorating shows on TV. Cupcakes seem like a low stress starter. Thanks!!
    HI Lainey!
    You SO can do this. You did a terrific job with the chocolate balloons, and I know you love to play with playdough, so go for it! XO~ MaryJane

    Reply
  19. Caryl

    Great tutorial! The photos are great and really make all the difference …. I’m going to try this asap ….Thanks much :-)

    Reply
  20. Karen Barnitt

    Love this site, wonder if you can help me. I am trying to make fondant sweets. I roll out the fondant, but when i cut the shape of the sweet, i can’t get it off the greese proof paper, without it just turning into a shapeless blob. Do you just rub the cornflour onto the greese proof paper?Will this then make it easy to lift off the paper? Is it a good idea when packing them to sell to dust the inside of the packageing with cornflour aswell? Thanks
    HI Karen,
    I’m not sure what kind of fondant you are using. Are you using tub fondant, or homemade or ??. Please drop us a line at bakers@kingarthurflour.com with all your details and my fellow bakers and I will be happy to offer advice. We look forward to hearing from you. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  21. Vickey Gray

    Hello MaryJane,
    My Granddaughter is getting married on July 14, 2012. I have made the wedding cakes for all my daughters and now my Granddaughter wants me to make hers. Problem is, I have never worked with Fondant before and that is what she wants on her cake. it will be made from the Cake Boss-Buddy Valastro’s cake recipes. I got your site from his book. It will be as follows; the 16″ will be 2 layer round carrot cake, the 14″ will be 2 layer octogon red velvet cake, 12″ will be 2 layer round chocolate cake, 10″ will be 2 layer vanilla cake. The iceing between and on top of all cakes will be cream cheese. I just need to know what I do to make sure I get the fondant put on correctly. you make everything look easy. Thank you for your site.

    Reply

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