The secret of creating professional-looking cakes that are beautifully decorated is simple fondant. Fondant is a sugar-paste icing that you can mould, sculpt and colour. Easy to roll and manipulate, this icing is ideal for all forms of decorative cake art from a superb whimsical interpretation to an elegantly designed confection.
Buy your fondant by the roll or tub in any supermarket cake decorating department or at a kitchen or chef's equipment shop. Or make it yourself. Fondant is sold in a bright, white colour. To make additional colours, add a tiny dash of gel food colouring. Knead the paste until you get the desired shade.
Achieve a satin finish by rolling out the fondant icing with a rolling pin. Roll to about a 3.5 mm (1/8 inch) thickness. Apply a layer of buttercream icing to your cake, which will act like "glue," and then cover with the fondant layer. Seal the edges. The beauty of fondant is that it hangs together nicely and won't tear when you apply it to cover a cake.
Keep the cake covered so that it doesn't dry out while you are working with other pieces or colours. Knead the coloured fondant until it is warm and moulds easily in your hands. Cut, sculpt or form your decorative pieces by using your choice of cutters, butter presses and various cake decorating tools to create patterns, friezes, trims, borders, bows, polka dots, images or letters. Apply each piece to the covering layer using the buttercream icing as glue. For small, sculpted pieces, use a bit of icing or water to attach each piece.
Keep the cake at room temperature. Fondant seals a cake and protects its freshness for a couple of days. It is best not to refrigerate a fondant-decorated cake because the condensation will change the colours and loosen the decorative touches. Keep it in a box or under protective glass instead, to protect the cake from dust or germs.
Use gloves when working with gel paste colourings.
Protect the work surface when kneading in food colourings.
Paint details on your cake or fondant embellishments using edible paints and gels.