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Mayhaw Man

Why Use fondant?

128 posts in this topic

So, there. You know where I stand before I even get cranked up on a big rant.

The stuff sucks. Sure, it looks swell and everything- in the same way that an unbruised, waxed, shiny red delicious looks like a good apple, but turns out to be a mealy, tasteless red orb- but who eats the stuff? And you can tell me that yours is different, it's better, whatever and I'll accept that (though I'll consider you to be a braggart until you send me small samples of your wares-email me and we can arrange shipment) for the sake of argument, but, really, I'll still know that ANY well made icing of almost any sort will be better, more tasty, and more pleasurable to eat than any rolled sheet of stuff plopped over a cake and then tarted up with some shiny geegaws and piping.

Really, I'm not kidding. How did this stuff get to be such a big deal and who really likes it? Warped and worn out brides and their mothers who are just making a series of bad decisions? People who just HAVE to have the shiniest, most perfect cake ever and don't care how it tastes or, maybe, just maybe, it's possible that there are some people out there somewhere who have some sort of fetish for this gooey sheet of nothingness that seems to adorn so many cakes these days?

I'm ok with fondant at baking competitions as I know it makes a swell looking platform for whatever the baker is doing, but, on the other hand, in real life, I think that fondant should be banned completely. Why make a great cake and then throw a sheet of sugary material over it that has the pliability of a sheet of plastic (and often tastes like plastic too. When I think fondant-I think polyvinylchloride! mmmmm, PVC)? Why even bother. Just make a pie, instead, for Pete's sake. At least people will enjoy it.

So, all you bakers out there, explain this recently exploding phemomenon. The stuff is everywhere. It's on everything. Does no one on the face of this planet remember the days when BUTTER CREAM and all of it's very delicious, very edible derivitives were king of the cake mountain? Tell me why you use the stuff? Tell me, please, just how you can justify regularly using something that is, not only not very tasty, but can be really hard to deal with in terms of eating, on cakes that you otherwise spent a great deal of time and talent on? What gives?

Thanks for your thoughtful answers. I'm sure that they will be less rant like than this one. Bakers are so cerebral, unlike writers and vicitims of Katrina related stress disorder. :wink:


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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i agree completely with you that fondant is just simply awful to eat. but the one BIG plus it has is that it helps insulate the cake somewhat in hot weather. so if you have a wedding in the middle of a blisteringly hot summer, you can be sure that your lovely wedding cake will hold up better than a buttercream-frosted cake.

besides, you don't have to eat the fondant. i never do. i hate the way it tastes. but i like the insides. and isn't what's inside that counts, after all?

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I don't think fondant is a "recently exploding phenomenon" at all. I think historically it was used because wedding cakes were meant to last (at least through the first year of marriage, right?). This was when people actually made traditional English wedding cake which is actually a version of heavily liquored-up fruit cake. The fondant sealed out all the air and helped preserve the cake.

Just turns out that for decorating, who could ask for a better canvas than a blank sheet of fondant?

That's the appeal. Roll it out and smooth it on a cake and you have a perfect canvas to show off your decorating skillz (and I mean that with a "z").

This doesn't mean that I like fondant...au contraire, mon frere.

And yes, I've already read your rant on cake vs. pie, so I'm well versed in your attempts to incite eGullet thread riots.

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OK, I'll play. Except it would be more fun if I disagreed with you.

I am a cake lover (note name). More than that, I am a frosting lover. This I believe: that cake is a mere support system for frosting. I believe that frosting tastes best when it's thick and fluffy and swirled onto the top of the cake in undulating whorls. I believe that few people can create gorgeous, sensuous, undulating whorls and thus, rolled fondant was invented.

Some uptight person invented it, so a cake would look smooth. Perfect. Flawless. And then cakes looked so flawless that it was someone's idea to get creative and tip them all to an angle so they didn't look so uptight. It matters more how the cake looks than how it tastes. (Except at the Magnolia Bakery in New York City, where the cake tastes crappy and looks crappy!)

There is an exception to this: cassata. I like cassata. I like the taste of almond fondant on the cassata. I like the smooth glassy surface in which glaced fruits are reflected.


I like to bake nice things. And then I eat them. Then I can bake some more.

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... but, on the other hand, in real life, I think that fondant should be banned completely.

Sorry, no argument from me. I agree completely. And I'm a decorator.

A related topic but a side note---For some reason, no one at Wilton has ever tasted the Wilton brand of fondant because it tastes so effing bad. If they had tasted it no one in their right mind would waste the packaging on it. No not because it is a gelatinous blob of ooze but it just tastes so something's gone horribly wrong bad. I cannot explain this --there is no answer for it.

Now about the other fondants that can actually be eaten if one were so inclined to eat gelatinous ooze, it's here in America from across the pond. Across the pond they use it because of tradition--lots of them don't like it either--you're right it's pretty. I mean you gotta figure it's often covering fruitcake and that launches us into a whole 'nuther debate. But they often do have a marzipan layer in between of course. One out of two ain't bad, or was that one out of three?? And in the hotter climates the use of fondant almost makes some sense because it does not melt as easily as buttercream. Anyway...

I make marshmallow fondant, melted marshmallows + confectioner's sugar then I add candy clay which is melted chocolate combined with corn syrup. It's ok. It's got a circus peanut flavor going on and I like to flavor it raspberry beyond that. Sorry. I'm not shipping but I'll share the recipe.

Fondant is a nice tool in the decorator bag--but it's not highly desired anywhere to be truthful. We also make faux fondant now--you will like this--we take good ole' American buttercream and round all the edges to make it look all pretty like fondant. Yankee ingenuity at it's finest.

So there's hope...but not for Wilton's. Wilton is giving an otherwise questionable product a uniquely consistent terrible taste and thus doing everyone a HUGE disservice. It's absurd. Controversy within controversy within controversy. But again--that's a whole 'nuther subject.

So you're right and I agree, but I will use fondant if they pay me. :raz:

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You have to tell us what happened to make you rant in the first place!! Did you have to eat wedding cake recently?

Secondly, I also agree: It's nasty! One of the bakers I work with loves the stuff, thinks it's soooo yummy! Ich! I had to do petit fours last weekend for a wedding, and hadn't touched it in ten years, since school. I had an unpleasant time with it, getting it just the right temperature, pouring it quickly, then not touching it more than once. It clumped, streaked and tore off part of the top of my cute little cake, but I only used it on top, and it sure made it easier to cut the lovely almond-raspberry torte into itty bitty squares. We buy French stuff in a big blue bucket, but we use it a lot more frequently to make croquants, lovely hard candy stuff to garnish desserts. Please don't make it the next foie gras and have it banned!

So, don't give yourself a heart attack! Peel the crap off and enjoy the rest of the cake! No one will think you have bad manners. They probably want to, too, and will be glad you did it first!

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You have to tell us what happened to make you rant in the first place!! Did you have to eat wedding cake recently? 

Secondly, I also agree:  It's nasty!  One of the bakers I work with loves the stuff, thinks it's soooo yummy!  Ich!  I had to do petit fours last weekend for a wedding, and hadn't touched it in ten years, since school.  I had an unpleasant time with it, getting it just the right temperature, pouring it quickly, then not touching it more than once.  It clumped, streaked and tore off part of the top of my cute little cake, but I only used it on top, and it sure made it easier to cut the lovely almond-raspberry torte into itty bitty squares.  We buy French stuff in a big blue bucket, but we use it a lot more frequently to make croquants, lovely hard candy stuff to garnish desserts.  Please don't make it the next foie gras and have it banned!

So, don't give yourself a heart attack!  Peel the crap off and enjoy the rest of the cake!  No one will think you have bad manners.  They probably want to, too, and will be glad you did it first!

the stuff you're talking about is soft fondant and is very different from rolled fondant which is found on wedding cakes. rolled fondant usually has the addition of powdered sugar and glycerine and/or gelatin...pretty similar to sugarpaste and pastillage...but doesn't usually dry as hard.

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And yes, I've already read your rant on cake vs. pie, so I'm well versed in your attempts to incite eGullet thread riots.

Riots? Hardly.

Only a search for a deeper truth and the need to promote and foster intelligent discussion on burning topics of the day.

Unless I bring up Okra. Then, well, I'm looking for a fight. All comers. No holds barred.

Maggie- what set this off was that a friend of mine brought me a big honking hunk of wedding cake that was left over from a job that she worked on (she's a caterer). Turns out that it was a big wedding and that there was actually a BACKUP cake just in case the rabid guests wiped out the other one (but of course, they didn't-it was covered in fondant so, as one would expect, the first cake was not finished at all). The mother of the bride didn't want the extra cake (natch-it was covered in fondant) so my friend whacked it up and shared it among her friends. I was very happy, until I opened the box and saw the little sculpted, perfectly formed hunk of sugar art that resided in the box. I gamely PEELED the stuff off and enjoyed a very nice almondy kind of wedding cake with some butter cream between the layers. It was very good.

But, it's that whole peeling thing-hell, I don't even peel shrimp. Why would I want to, or be forced to, peel CAKE? I want to eat it all-not just the delicious interior that lays hidden beneath that plasticy outer layer (no matter how beautifully decorated). That's silly. That would be like sucking out the red jelly and leaving the donut (well, not really-I could SEE doing that-but you see what I mean). A cake, with icing, should be considered a sophisticated food delivery system and ALL of it should be readily and happily consumable.

Peeling Cake? If that's the plan, why not just make some kind of round, cake like box suitable for decorating and use that to COVER the cake? When it comes time for the bride and groom to whack the thing up and feed each other they can just remove the cover and cut the delicious example of the bakers art that lies beneath. This also would raise the safety factor as, though I can find no evidence to back this up (but that never has stopped me before-ever-and it vertainly won't now), I'm sure that many a groom has had to be rushed to the local hospital as he gamely tried to chew his way through the covering on the cake that the bride shoved in his mouth during that all important and oh so cute photo op.

Carry on.


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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I agree. It's revolting. If I ever get married, it's happening in the dead of winter as I refuse, refuse, REFUSE to have a fondant-covered cake. I want my guests to LIKE the cake. Hense, I shall use buttercream.


-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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Ok, I'll play too. I happen to enjoy eating fondant covered cake. I happen to enjoy covering cake in fondant, and decorating in fondant. In fact, I use it almost every single week on either a wedding or all occasion cake.

While many people do not care for it, it has now become so mainstream that they know to 'peel it off' as you say. I've seen people do this with buttercream too. They simply eat around it. I do agree that it seems like a waste by leaving it on the plate, but for some designs it is essential.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of the old style decorating (aka Wilton style). I like the Lambeth method, more because of it's difficulty and artistic quality. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE icing..if it's good. I always request the corner piece and the 'rose', lol. I know how to do this type of decorating, and think I'm not too shabby at it either. However, I prefer the more contemporary look of fondant. I like the crazy crooked cakes. I like the daring things we now can do with cake, with the help of fondant.

What other canvas provides the smooth finish of fondant? What allows you to do intricate painting and eyelet work on a cake? What else can create that sleek contemporary perfect look other than fondant? Buttercream can be smoothed out to close to perfection, but try to paint it and you can get gouges in your icing. Some designs simply can't be pulled off in buttercream. (A raw silk effect for example.)

There is nothing wrong with a cake that has the swirls and whirls of icing on it. That is, if that's the 'look' you're going for. It can be a lovely addition to an event. However, today's brides are being fed that they should to have a personalized cake. I'm totally down with that too.

I also like shiny cake, lol.

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And yes, I've already read your rant on cake vs. pie, so I'm well versed in your attempts to incite eGullet thread riots.

hell, I don't even peel shrimp. Why would I want to, or be forced to, peel CAKE?

This lunacy would never happen to a pie. Thank you for yet another argument in favor of pies. :biggrin:



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A cake, with icing, should be considered a sophisticated food delivery system and ALL of it should be readily and happily consumable...why not just make some kind of round, cake like box suitable for decorating and use that to COVER the cake?

"a sophisticated food delivery system" - I love it! And I also love the idea of having a decorated box that covers a perfectly delicious cake, for those who don't appreciate the subtle nuances of a flawlessly executed buttercream.

While many people do not care for it, it has now become so mainstream that they know to 'peel it off' as you say. I've seen people do this with buttercream too.

I don't think they are peeling off real buttercream, I believe they're peeling off that monstrosity of an American invention, creamed-crisco. I truly abhor fondant, but there is no word that effectively describes my revulsion for creamed-crisco. Why not just inject plastic into the guests veins? It would save the cake maker a lot of time and trouble.

Why wouldn't a bride and her mom want the last thing their guests eat to be absolutely delicious in every way? Why sacrifice excellence of flavor for "a look"? I don't get it.

Eileen


Eileen Talanian

HowThe Cookie Crumbles.com

HomemadeGourmetMarshmallows.com

As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists. ~Joan Gussow

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well, i actually would rather eat fondant then a cake iced in american buttercream! i really dislike the texture and taste of it. i pretty much iced all my cakes in smbc and cover them in marshmellow fondant. i love the way it looks.

personally, i tell my customers to just peel it off before they cut into the cake and pitch it. then again some people love the stuff. my sister peels it off my cakes in strips and eats it. :wacko: i do, however, add different flavors to my fondant, i especially like my chocolate version, taste like tootsie rolls. :biggrin:

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I live in sunny Singapore, where it's about 30C all year round, and one my cuz's had his wedding at outside--have no idea what he was thinking. But the all-important cake wasn't covered in fondant.

Thank goodness. The stuff is disgusting.

Cake is meant for eating. Looking good is nice, but it's just wrong to make it so important that you sacrifice the taste!


May

Totally More-ish: The New and Improved Foodblog

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This is one of those topics that really has no right or wrong answer, since taste in all its form is subjective.

However, personally, I love decorating with fondant, but I hate it on my cake, lol. For me, it has more to do with the texture and the marshmallow fondant is even worse, spongy. I also don't want to pick the stuff off my cake to enjoy it, that ain't eating, that is work. :wink:

Side by side, it will never beat a buttercream in taste, especially the Italian or Swiss meringues.


Edited by RodneyCk (log)

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This is one of those topics that really has no right or wrong answer

This is where you and I disagree. It's bad. That's that. That's the right answer.

But seriously-judging from the answers here- admittedly a small sampling but lots of decorators and bakers are in the mix-I would say that I have hit on something:

Apparently many people are willing to sacrifice flavor and goodness for good looks. I suppose that I am not suprised-after all, people pay crazy money for things all of the time that don't work as good or for as long as something that they could have paid much less money for that would have worked just as well, or even better. It's a status thing, I suppose.

But carrying that out just a bit further-many of the responses here have suggested that you just don't eat the stuff. Well, ok. My question is why would/do you spend so much time working on something that even the baker and the decorator don't expect to be tasty? Shouldn't cake be good to eat? Isn't that the point? It's a treat, not a construction project. If you want them to peel something off, just put a cake covered in a nice icing in a little box, beautifully decorated, and let them peel off the box and EAT the cake.

While it's true that I'm kind of pushing the point just a bit, I am being kind of serious. In what other food craft do people spend so much time making something that is basically inedible and that most people, apparently, do not enjoy?


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Brooks: unlike your position on cake vs. pie, you are on the money when it comes to fondant. Of course, no one ever puts fondant on pie, only cake. Score another point for pie. Oops, sorry, that's another thread.

On topic: I have seen amazing-looking fondant creations, and I have a great deal of respect for the artistry involved. I also understand that visual stimuli can enhance the enjoyment of food. Ultimately, though, I favor taste over presentation. When presentation detracts from taste, it crosses the line.

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I understand that some people value the look of the cake over its taste. And a wedding is a show in many repects. But personally, I weigh in on the side of flavor, consumability, and eating pleasure over visual appeal and preservation. It should look good enough to eat.


"Yo, I want one of those!"

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Guys, can you tell me where I can find this delectable cake vs. pie thread? I spent hours looking for it yesterday and came up zip.

I want to know who won.


I like to bake nice things. And then I eat them. Then I can bake some more.

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Mayhaw Man, I could not agree with you more. I made a severe mistake of posting on one of those "Cake Lady" forums about how I could not understand why anyone would use a mix from a box for their cake, especially when it only takes 10 minutes more to create delicious, pure ingredients, cakes from scratch.

The gates of damnation opened and what came pouring out was not pretty.

Apparently, to my surprise, there are a lot of cake mix zealots who will defend their boxes to the end, probably even waving them like bibles. Is this fear of not being able to make a scratch cake? I have no idea.

The same thing exists with spending countless hours making a decorated fondant cake, complete with gumpaste flowers and embellished relief work, then to have someone pick it all off on the plate in disgust. I don't think taste, for some, is at the heart of the process. Decorating is.

Cakes are my thing, I take them personally. The number one rule, for me, is that first and foremost, it must taste good, real good. How many great fine dining experiences can you reflect back on and remember how the dinner was exactly plated? I bet you can remember how it tasted though.

:biggrin:

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I truly abhor fondant, but there is no word that effectively describes my revulsion for creamed-crisco. Why not just inject plastic into the guests veins? It would save the cake maker a lot of time and trouble.

:laugh::laugh::laugh:

Yes, standard american buttercream is truly sick stuff (1 pkg. crisco, 1 pkg. powdered sugar, blend. :wacko: ) but there are even sicker "frostings" people out there are not only eating, but believe taste good. Those made of whipped edible oil products come to mind.... I always laugh when one of the people on the cake boards asks where they can order buckets of it. I always want to ask tem how good can something be if it comes in a bucket.... but I too have experienced the collective wrath of the cake ladies.

(Some cake ladies, not ALL cake ladies.)

Fondant was invented by the British as a more malleable covereing for fruitcakes, where previously rock hard royal icing over marzipan had been the norm. So they just traded rock hard sugar for soft chewy sugar. It is what it is, but fondant and royal icing (and saving the top tier of your wedding cake for a year) were meant for fruitcakes, not regular cakes.

I know a lot of people who swear by marshmallow fondant as an alternative, but I've never been able to bring myself to make it because it sounds just as sick to me. You've got a lovely cake, subtly flavoured with the right buttercreams and fruit reductions and essences, then you go stick sickly sweet marshmallows all over it. I just don't get it.

I do use fondant, but I make my own and there are ways to make it taste less like a mouthful of straight sugar and there are ways to make it less chewy. And there are ways to apply it thin enough that it blends into the buttercream underneath and can't really be detected, but most cake makers I think stick to the prepackaged stuff.

If a cake design allows for it, I'm glad to omit it and just use buttercream. Or ganache. Or marzipan. Or anything.

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Guys, can you tell me where I can find this delectable cake vs. pie thread?  I spent hours looking for it yesterday and came up zip.

I want to know who won.

Right here. Pie vs. Cake. The thread. The megabattle.

There's still time to weigh in. The polls won't close for a few more hours yet.


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Yes, standard american buttercream is truly sick stuff (1 pkg. crisco, 1 pkg. powdered sugar, blend.  :wacko: )

I always try and correct people, but maybe I am actually wrong. James McNair in his Cakes book, a great book btw, made the distinction clear between powdered sugar frostings and buttercream. The later equates to the Italian, Swiss, French meringue buttercreams and the all the neoclassical versions. The previous is the American type, the "cake ladies", which I should actually include "cake men" as well, but you get the point, readily use, mostly, as you pointed out, with large quantities of shortening.

As a side, James McNair's powdered sugar frosting (all butter) at least altered the process to include beating the frosting over a double boiler setup, so at least the frosting would be smooth and creamy.

In regards to marshmallow fondant, it still has that chemical, false taste. I have never tried it with homemade marshmallows though, not sure if you even can.

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