I'm going to be making a novelty cake soon and the decorating suggestions - not directions, just suggestions - call for using fondant to cover the irregularly shaped cake. I'm very comfortable with the baking part but I've never used fondant before. I feel a little intimidated by it.
Do I want to make the fondant myself or buy it pre-made? I have access to wholesale baking suppliers.
Are there any tricks or tips I should know about using fondant?
All suggestions that will allay my fears are welcome.
It has been a while since I worked with fondant, but here's what I suggest. The first time buy your fondant. That way you get a feel for how it "should" be. But commercial fondant can be cold and crumbly so you have to work it by hand (and with short mild blasts in the microwave) to warm it up and get it maleable enough to roll out. It is pretty tough stuff but when you mold it around irregular shapes and corners it tends to crack - so have it plenty warm.
I made the mistake of refrigerating a fondant-covered wedding cake once and it started to sweat immediately after coming out of the fridge. I powdered it back to its matte finish with powdered sugar!
If you want to make it: three cups sugar, few Tbsp water. Cook to soft ball, skim while cooking; pour on stone top, work inwards w/ spatula til sugar whitens again and hardens. For use, heat slowly to expand and make slightly liquid; don't heat so much that you lose gloss. Do a trial ahead of time on a shoe box or something.
Used to cheat as an 18 year old baker, superheating to get it workable for a longer time period at 5:00 in the morning after very little sleep. Fall asleep standing, hand in fondant...YAAAAGHHH!
I took a fondant class a couple of years ago and the instructor said that unless you were a professional baker who was rolling out several batches, just go ahead and purchase one of the 3-5 lb. bricks of fondant instead of making it.
Some other tips I learned:
-As for keeping it from crumbling or cracking (store bought or homemade fondant), the trick is to always keep what you're not working with covered w/ plastic wrap. Then it won't be difficult to work with at all. When you're making your main fondant base to cover your cake, make sure your cake is standing-by, cooled, on a cardboard round that perfectly fits the base, and is covered w/a layer of royal icing (or else the fondant won't stick to the cake).
-To color your fondant - Take only the fondant you think you'll need and color it with paste-coloring (not gel), kneading the color into the fondant.
-When your fondant is in position on your cake, you can use the back of a smooth, plastic measuring cup to smooth out the tops and sides.
-Painting onto fondant - You can use the same paste coloring and mix it with a little bit of clear evaporative liquor (such as gin),use a soft paint brush and paint away.
Best of luck!