With elaborate sugar flowers, intricate icing vines, and cascading ruffles, wedding cakes can be total works of art. And if you ask the artists behind these masterpieces what their preferred medium is, they’ll likely all give the same answer: fondant.
What Is Fondant?
Fondant is edible icing that can be rolled out to cover a cake or used to sculpt three-dimensional flowers and other details. It's made of sugar, sugar water, corn syrup, and sometimes gelatin or cornstarch.
“It’s a great tool for decor,” says baker and dessert artist Melanie Moss. “That’s mostly how we use it.”
Meet the Expert
Melanie Moss is a co-founder of Mini Melanie, a Brooklyn-based cake and dessert company. In 2018, she was the winner of a chocolate-themed competition on Food Network’s Chopped.
If you’re going for a major wow moment with your wedding dessert, chances are high this important baker’s tool will make an appearance. To learn more about the icing type ahead of actually slicing into your cake, read on.
What Does Fondant Taste Like?
“A lot of sugar,” laughs Moss. “It’s super sweet, with a pretty good bite to it.” The key difference between fondant and the icing you might use on your standard made-from-a-box grocery store cake is texture. Rather than being silky and creamy, like buttercream, fondant has a thicker, almost clay-like texture. Instead of being spread with a knife, fondant must be rolled out and then draped and shaped over a cake.
Another version of fondant is poured fondant. “It has a higher liquid content, and is used to cover traditional desserts like petit fours,” says Moss. “It’s very traditional, fancy, frou frou, and you get a nice shine with it.”
The Pros of Fondant
Fondant will harden, which means it can endure warmer temps and still hold its shape for the entire duration of your celebration. “If you’re having a summer wedding and the cake is going to sit outside for hours, a fondant cake is not going to melt,” says Moss. The hard, flat surface is also the ideal canvas for painted cake designs, and is necessary to make anything more geometric or angular, such as a square wedding cake. Groom’s cakes, which often take on unusual shapes such as a football helmet or a whole building, also can’t happen without the icing. Finally, fondant’s malleability is what allows bakers to create the elaborate shapes and designs—ruffles, blossoms, lace textures, etc.—that make a wedding cake feel so special in the first place.
The Cons of Fondant
The taste and thick texture of fondant can be a bit intense for the average palette. For this reason, many wedding cake designers will either remove the fondant layer before serving slices to guests, or take Moss’s approach: “We like to make sure a cake tastes great by covering it in buttercream, and then adding on as many fondant decorations as you want,” she says. “It’s the best of both worlds.” What’s more: those fondant decorations can be removed and then preserved as wedding keepsakes.
Should You Use Fondant on Your Wedding Cake?
If you want your wedding cake to be a unique shape, resemble a sculptural work of art, or be adorned with sugar flowers or other three-dimensional designs, know that fondant will likely be a necessary part of the design. The same holds true for an outdoor wedding: if your cake will be exposed to the elements for several hours, a fondant coating will keep it from getting droopy or losing its shape ahead of your big cake-cutting moment.
If you’re going for something simpler and more rustic—like, say, a naked cake—fondant isn’t necessary. It’s also not necessary if height is your only concern: A multi-tier wedding cake can happen just as easily with a buttercream coating.