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What Is the Difference Between Fondant & Gum Paste?

Updated April 17, 2017

Contemporary celebratory cakes can be tall and extravagant with multiple layers and opulent designs. Fondant and gum paste are two confectionery substances that allow cake designers to create awe-inspiring designs --- from elegant to fantasy. Though the two forms of sugary dough are often used together on a cake, their roles are different: Fondant is used for icing, while gum paste is applied towards decorative accents.

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Fondant is a sugar paste available ready-made or made from scratch. The basic recipe usually requires 0.907kg. confectioner's sugar, 1/4 cup water, 1/2 cup corn syrup, 1 tbsp gelatin, 1 1/2 tbsp glycerine and 1 tsp flavouring (such as vanilla). Cook the gelatin in the water until it becomes soft and dissolves. Then, add the flavourings and glycerine before combining the liquid with the sugar. Knead the mixture, and the end result is a soft sugar dough.

Gum Paste

Making gum paste requires tylose powder, a commercial gum-based powder that helps make the paste stiffer and more moisture resistant. Making this paste, according to Jaynie Maxfield's book "Cake Decorating for the First Time," usually requires the combination 4 egg whites, 0.907kg. of icing sugar and 56.7gr. tylose powder. Beat the egg whites for about 10 minutes before slowly adding about 3/4 of the sugar, putting aside the rest for later. Once the sugar is completely incorporated, add the tylose powder. Increase the speed to high for one minute to thicken the dough before scraping it onto a surface sprinkled with confectioner's sugar and kneading in the remaining icing sugar. The result should be a thick white paste that is firm and not sticky.

Culinary Uses

Fondant can apply a seamless, smooth icing to formal cakes. To use it, knead the fondant like dough and work in any food colouring to produce the right hue. Roll the fondant out with a regular rolling pin, until it is about 1/4 inch thick, on a surface sprinkled with cornstarch. Then, blanket it over a cake already frosted with a thin layer of butter cream and smooth around the cake's sides before cutting off the excess.

Unlike fondant, gum paste is used for only small decorations, such as realistic flowers. Dye the gum paste to the right shade using food colouring, then roll it until almost paper thin on a non-stick palette using a 6-inch non-stick roller. Then, wind it around a thin, green florist wire to create anything from calla lilies to irises.


Fondant can be made or bought in large quantities, and excess dough is stored by wrapping it tightly in cling film and placing it in an airtight container for up a couple months at no lower than 7.22 degrees C. In this state, it will last for up to two months.

Gum paste is drier and stiffer than fondant, thus unused portions are more likely to crack in future applications. Quickly wrapping unused gum paste in cling film and placing it in an airtight container can help prohibit this but doesn't guarantee the dough will stay moist. Once moulded, dry gum-paste flowers at room temperature for one to three days, depending on the size of the flower. Once dried, the flowers can be put in an airtight container, where they will last up to a year.

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About the Author

B. Maté has been reporting on creative industries since 2007—covering everything from Fashion Week to the latest artist to wow the Parisian art scene. Her experience stems from a marketing background, with more than 12 years of experience consulting fashion-forward entrepreneurs.

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