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Mayhaw Man

Why Use fondant?

128 posts in this topic

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.

The topic of whether American (powdered sugar) frostings are "buttercreams" has been discussed quite a bit in the past. They are not buttercreams, but the fact remains that many people equate those frosting with buttercreams and call them such.

I can say with some confidence that Sugarella knows the difference between a real buttercream and an American buttercream.:raz:


Baker of "impaired" cakes...

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...Shouldn't cake be good to eat? Isn't that the point? It's a treat, not a construction project.

You've obviously never made a tier cake. Construction project is exactly what it is plus so much more. It is both dessert and engineering feat of magic, delivered with pinpoint freshness and designed to slice & serve like buttah in all the right colors and flavors not to mention artistically designed to be the breathtaking* focal point of the reception hall.

*hopefully breathtaking in a positive way :raz:


Edited by K8memphis (log)

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You've obviously never made a tier cake. Construction project is exactly what it is plus so much more.

Right. Exactly. We agree.

Cool looking stuff should also, just as importantly, be good to eat. Otherwise bakers could just use those bakers dummies and make a stack to the ceiling. Good cake that looks great is even more fun than just good cake. My complaint is good looking cake that is not good tasting because it has been covered in a sugary version of plastic. What's the point in calling it cake? Wouldn't it be more accurate to call it a one of a kind, sugar art, centerpiece?


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

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

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...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.

...

I've made this observation YEARS ago. After attending many, many, many weddings over the years, I've discovered (by trial and error) that most brides didn't give a crap about how the cake tasted...only that it looked pretty.

Most of the weddings I've attended had wedding cakes that were iced in either whipped cream or "American" buttercream. And the vast majority of them just tasted bad.

Some of the more recent weddings I've attended have had Italian Meringue Buttercream iced cakes and the rolled fondant that you despise.

I'm not a fan of the taste and texture of rolled fondant. I can't get past that chewiness. But it's a really beautiful look on a cake. I don't see too many buttercream iced cakes that look as stunningly iced as a fondant covered cake. But I still didn't want a fondant cake for my own wedding cake back in 2001.

For the most part, my customers don't request fondant covered cakes. I guess it's because I don't do wedding cakes but stick to the party & dessert cake genre.

And believe it or not, most of my customers prefer the "American buttercream." I personally like Italian Meringue Buttercream the best, but I've gotten some comments that it's not sweet enough or it's too buttery.

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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 realise I'll probably get run out of town, but I like fondant - :shock: - the cat is out of the bag. i admit, I've only ever had homemade fondant, thinly covering a marzipaned fruitcake (Including my own wedding cake - married an englishman). On a fruitcake, it is great, adds a bit of sweetness and crunch to the spicy, dense cake and the soft marcipan. I imagine that a thick layer of commercial fondant could be pretty unbearable.

Just my two cents

/Mette

p.s. I like moderate amounts of royal icing as well....

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The point of this stuff is to be peeled off the cake and left in a pile on the plate. Or wadded up in the napkin.

The first time Peter had a cake with that fondant stuff, he wondered why they served the cake with plastic wrap. But, then again, he always wants pie for his birthday.


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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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. 

...

I've been a victim of "cake mix zealots" myself and over the years, I've found that the "cake mix vs. scratch cake" debate is an extremely touchy one. Those who advocate scratch cake baking had better tread lightly. :wacko:

When I began my foray into cake decorating by taking the Wilton classes, they recommended baking the cakes with Duncan Hines. So I did. And it worked for the most part. But a little part of me nagged me inside...I felt like I was perpetrating a deception by passing off a boxed cake as a Kris creation.

Finally a light bulb went off in my head and I realized that I wanted to be known as a scratch baker. Both my mother & maternal grandmother baked from scratch so I wanted to continue in that tradition.

Therefore, I set off to find and develop recipes that that I could master. It took a lot of experimentation, but I finally have a collection of scratch cake recipes that serve me well for my baking purposes. I'm still experimenting to a few elusive recipes that I haven't perfected yet (e.g. white cake). But until such time that I get them under my belt, I just don't offer them for sale to my customers. :laugh:

I find the aroma, taste and texture of a well made scratch cake to be infinitely preferable to a boxed cake. And I swoon over the batter. I don't like that "fluffy" and "airy" cake mix texture that has no real density or "weight" in your mouth. And the smell of the chemicals when I open a box mix makes me slightly nauseous now. Don't even get me started on the color of your typical "yellow" boxed cake mix.

I take a lot more inward pride when I bake a scratch cake. I am NOT condemming anyone who uses cake mixes in their baking. Everyone has to determine what is best for his or her baking operation.

But I'm constantly learning, experimenting and developing on my cake journey. And I find that this is what works for me.

Getting back to fondant though...I don't see the fondant trend dying down anytime soon. The cat has been let out of the bag on American shores and by all indicatations, the brides here are just crazy over fondant now. The look is divine although like I mentioned before, the taste leaves something to be desired.

I wonder if cake decorating pendulum will ever swing back into the direction of fussy, ornately decorated buttercream cakes complete with lots of piping and swags.

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...: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.)

...

I've often wondered about that too...why a home based cake decorator would want to use buckets of Bettercream or whatever the price club/supermarket is using for their cakes. I think that stuff is even worse than "American buttercream."

But I remain silent in order not to be publicly castigated.

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You've obviously never made a tier cake. Construction project is exactly what it is plus so much more.

Right. Exactly. We agree.

Cool looking stuff should also, just as importantly, be good to eat. Otherwise bakers could just use those bakers dummies and make a stack to the ceiling. Good cake that looks great is even more fun than just good cake. My complaint is good looking cake that is not good tasting because it has been covered in a sugary version of plastic. What's the point in calling it cake? Wouldn't it be more accurate to call it a one of a kind, sugar art, centerpiece?

It is a one of a kind sugar art centerpiece. That's exactly what it is. And well yeah, we do set up cake dummies all iced up to be grand and beautiful. All of the above is true. Sometimes one portion of the cake is a dummy, sometimes one portion is cake and the rest is dummies. Fondant can be so easily removed and is so artistically essential.

I mean I make shamrocks and rose petals out of it. I flavor it raspberry and nobody knows it's f-o-n-d-a-n-t and they eat it up like candy. Y'know what??? I can't hardly eat any kind of icing at all except chocolate. I don't like the other stuff anymore probably from having consumed inordinate amounts earlier in life--it's icky. However, it would make my job ever the more difficult to do cakes without icing.

But you are right fondant as a cake covering does not agree with our palettes probably never will and Wilton is fanning the flames on this hot topic. However it does not affect the taste of the cake inside it's offending shell. And the cake is iced with something else too.

So peel it off and enjoy :) Or wad it up and throw it at someone. Geez we should start a new trend. Like kicked up spit wads. Hmm, I could so get into this...especially if my brothers were around...

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Oh.My.Holy.Butter. This thread has my daughter in the throes of yet another fit against commercial cakes. Last year for her birthday we had to try over 17 bakeries in our new hometown before I finally ended up paying a local well known bakery an EXTRA fee to make genuine buttercream frosting for the buttercream frosting that they ADVERTISE as their buttercream frosting.

This year, kiddle insists, I shall be forced to make the cake myself, enough to feed 40, and I'm, well, let's say that I'm 'challenged' in the art of finishing a frosted cake. That's the kindest way to put it. Talk about an ugly frosted cake! But, it will be delicious, and she says that is what cake is for.

The idea of a box as cover is ingenious! This could become a keepsake for the guest of honor, what a great marketing idea! They could use the box to hold cards and favors for posterity, perfect!

American buttercream is an abomination against humanity, and I do not understand why any independent bakery would use it. I mean, a chain food store, well, they're the fast food of cakes, fine, let them. But, a local, privately owned baker? How INANE. What is the point?

And, on the subject of FONDANT, which is the point of this thread, I know :raz: : I find fondant to be ridiculous. I received a fruit cake from an expat American friend(who is living in London) 3 years ago that had a fondant cover, I was flummoxed as to why. He said that is how they are made; now I know why. YUCK. What I really hated was that the fondant had absorbed some of the cake bits and I couldn't get them off wthout some of the paste, what a waste of cake bits!

My hope is that fondant is a fad which will trickle down to the masses over the next decade, and thus fall out of favor with high end bakers again. I will NEVER pay for a cake that is not delicious through and through, from stem to stern, naked AND dressed. I WILL gladly always pay a premium for a more beautiful, more delicious cake than what I could make at home, but otherwise, we're not doing business my baking friend. And I'm sorry about that, bcause I make a terribly ugly cake.


More Than Salt

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Rebecca263, 17 bakeries you had to try? Wow, your daughter is very exacting... :laugh:

What kinds of things did you (or she) find wrong them?

And why would you have to pay extra for a bakery to make something that they advertised as their basic type of icing? I don't get that.

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Rebecca263... Wow, your daughter is very exacting... :laugh: 

What kinds of things did you (or she) find wrong them? 

And why would you have to pay extra for a bakery to make something that they advertised as their basic type of icing?  I don't get that.

You aren't kidding when you call Kiddle exacting! This was her Sweet 16 and our first year without Thal Brothers(Miami Beach buttercream masters) or the store 91 Publix baker(her favorite 'junky' frosting) to do the deed. She HATES fake buttercream, we only eat cake on rare occasions, and we couldn't find anyone who makes a decent frosting in our area. As she repeated to me often "It's for my only 16th BIRTHDAY!". I had looked into a cake from an NYC baker, but decided against it, as the local bakery agreed to make a buttercream with real butter. This was a cake for 48, BTW. I ordered a cake for double that, and there were no leftovers.

That's nothing. You should have been with us while we were trying local pizzerias for the aforementioned birthday. It literally took months and dozens of slices to decide.

Finally, I had to pay extra because they, although they make a delicious cake with a fine crumb and flavor, normally make a shortening based "buttercream", and HRH said that would not do. They were willing to make a genuine buttercream for more money (and it was delicious, maybe it was Italian, because it wasn't very sweet), and told me that they had a European client ask for this a few years before.

Real buttercream is more expensive than bucket buttercream! And it's worth it!


More Than Salt

Visit Our Cape Coop Blog

Cure Cutaneous Lymphoma

Join the DarkSide---------------------------> DarkSide Member #006-03-09-06

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One of the topics that I write about is weddings, and so I read a fair amount of wedding magazines. 99% of cakes that are shown in wedding magazines are fondant cakes. Why? because they look pretty, photograph well, and can use interesting techniques. So brides have come to equate (or perhaps have always equated) fondant with wedding cake. It's that very finished and polished look that is so hard to duplicate otherwise.

There will not be fondant on my wedding cake.


The Kitchn

Nina Callaway

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Well a big thank you to Mayhaw Man for bringing this up. I've actually never had fondant, but since I'm continually looking for cakes to add to my repertoire, I keep looking at fondant-covered stuff thinking I'm an idiot for not knowing how to make or use it. But I've never been much interested in pretty cakes. If you can make it attractive without much fuss, fine, but to deliberately add a thing you already know tastes godawful,... well, that seems near criminal to me :wacko: .

It's a big gripe I have in my own end of the business, bread baking. Too many times my husband and I are lured into a bread shop by the gorgeous shapes in the window and are invariably disappointed, usually in a very big way, by the actual breads. They're just obscene. And that's it, isn't it. It's food porn plain and simple, and not in a good way. It's should be pleasurable, not fake. It's like watching the feigned expressions of ecstasy and listening to over the top moans of pleasure.... Not that *I* ever watch porn. :biggrin:

During our first trip to Italy a few years ago, we were taken in in much the same way, and there they go to great lengths to make elaborate, beautiful looking breads. And they taste no better than wonder bread -- maybe worse. It took us forever to find decent bread in Italy. And even friends we thought would have known better brought home a bag of gorgeous looking stuff and we had to force ourselves to choke it down.

So, anyway, flavor always over pretty. In bread, cakes, the whole shebang. I feel the same way about so much of what I see in restaurants, the ostentatious display versus just good food.

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You have just described what I call the "Starbucks Syndrome" where countless people judge other coffees by Starbuck's quality. Mind you, this is the place that forgoes the barista and uses a push button where liquid goop is plopped into a cup, Whaala, Espresso!

I blame the lazy consumer. I blame Rachel Ray. I blame the politicians, the economy and chain stores.

It is all part of the food chain, business eat business. As more lazy consumers settle for second best and something cheap, due partially to the failing economy and just being lazy, they perpetuate Wal-mart type bakeries into churning out crap, which in turn forces the local bakeries to uses mixes and things in a bucket (more crap) just to compete, which in turn is perpetuated by a perky TV host who just hasn't got the time to do anything, like cook, but finds time to teach us how not to, quickly. It's all crap.

What a world...what a world....

I maintain my stance that fine artesian products will make a return, because how much crap can people take?

:laugh:

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Or wad it up and throw it at someone. Geez we should start a new trend.

I would support the wadding up and throwing of fondant at brides making their otherwise glorious exits from wedding receptions. I suspect that, in a very short time, bridal magazines would have editorials warning of this new trend and that the result would be wedding cakes that were not constructed of ammo for inebriated wedding guests. Problem solved.

Good Plan. You heard it here first.


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

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

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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.

I love baking a great cake. I bake for the taste, texture and use of quality ingredients. I'm not a good decorator though and I know the way the cake looks plays a big part. If someone orders a scrumptious, indulgent cake for a celebration, (and they pay the price for a quality cake) you want it to look good sitting in the middle of the table. I'm working on that part. My husband keeps encouraging me to practice with fondant. It looks way cool. The reluctant part of me is the part that wants everything to taste as good as it looks. Although he likes the look of those polished cakes, he thinks it's silly to have half the cake be inedible. I agree. But I also agree that you can't get that look any other way. I'm working on decorating with fruit, chocolate, and other tasty garnish that add an elegant touch. (Like those amazing pineapple flowers!!!). But, if I ever want to go farther, esp into wedding cakes, I know I need to learn how to use fondant. But, I want to make it tasty too. Any other ideas?

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My husband and I have been having a debate about the look of a finished cake.

He is of the opinion that a cake should look professionally finished...even if the taste is "so-so."

I don't want to name names, but there is a baker who is becoming well known whose cakes are baked from scratch. He uses Italian meringue buttercreams and other natural ingredients in his cakes. The cakes are expensive, but the frosting job looks like something that your average home cook/baker would do.

After seeing some of his cakes on tv and on his website, my husband feels that they look sloppy and unpolished and that he has no business selling cakes like this. A girlfriend of mine also shares this view about this baker's cakes.

I (and my mother) on the other hand see the inherent "charm" that a cake like this can possess. Not only is it a cake that's from scratch and probably tastes good (I've never actually sampled his stuff because he's located in another city), but the cake has a "homemade" look to it that reminds people of the cakes their grandmothers and/or mothers used to make. Not to mention that there seems to be a growing contingent of people who decry a pretty looking cake that tastes like artificial crap. :laugh:

So I guess there's something for everyone out there.

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Finally a light bulb went off in my head and I realized that I wanted to be known as a scratch baker.  ..........  I'm still experimenting to a few elusive recipes that I haven't perfected yet (e.g. white cake). 

Here's another lightbulb: "White" is not a flavour.

There, problem solved. No more white cakes.

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...But, if I ever want to go farther, esp into wedding cakes, I know I need to learn how to use fondant.  But, I want to make it tasty too.  Any other ideas?

Although I'm not a big fondant fan, homemade fondant tastes superior to the commercial stuff. I've made homemade fondant ONCE and I liked the taste better than the commercial fondants I've tried (Wilton, Bakel's & Albert Ulster's Massa Grischuna). But you still have that chewy texture and it doesn't last nearly as long as the commercial stuff.

There's another fondant-like product out there called Choco-pan which tastes better than regular rolled fondant. It comes in a variety of flavors, including a chocolate flavor which is reminiscent of a tootsie roll. But it still has that chewy texture that I find difficult to get past. It's also more expensive than most fondants.

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P.S. - A few years ago when I wrote the owners of Choco-pan for samples, they obliged gratis. I don't know if they still do that though.

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You can easily replicate that choco-pan flavor by adding chocolate candy melts or chocolate plastic into the fondant. It still has THAT texture though.

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Finally a light bulb went off in my head and I realized that I wanted to be known as a scratch baker.  ..........  I'm still experimenting to a few elusive recipes that I haven't perfected yet (e.g. white cake). 

Here's another lightbulb: "White" is not a flavour.

There, problem solved. No more white cakes.

:laugh:

You're right, it's not a flavor. But occasionally I get people who ask for "white" cake. I never got any requests for white cake until I removed it from my menu (since I have yet to perfect a scratch recipe).

So I reply that I don't offer white cake anymore but how does a vanilla flavored butter cake sound? I haven't had anyone refuse me yet.

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Part of this is marketing. I decided very deliberately to emphasize the "rustic" quality of my breads and cakes, and although the cakes in particular might not look so fabulous on a web site, a fondant covered cake with piped flowers and ancillary decoration would be pretty discordant with this

gallery_16410_2294_32444.jpg

And so I don't even pretend to do elaborately-decorated pastries or desserts, and instead I emphasize artisan breads and rustic cakes and cookies.

They're not beautiful in the way of traditional wedding cakes and the like, but when I uncover them and set them on a table for people, they elicit oohs and aahs anyway. One client noted a couple of weeks ago that she'd brought home some leftovers from a rehearsal dinner and because she'd had the rest of her weekend catered, having hired them months in advance, before she'd found me, she had a lot of the standard, pretty stuff set out for lunch and dinner. They went to the refrigerator instead and fought over my leftovers. And by then you know they had to look even more rustic than usual.

I'm usually very skeptical when I see those gorgeous-looking cakes on a web site. There will always be a market for them. But there will always be a market for good desserts of all stripes, and people who really know good desserts will know the difference between simply pretty, not-so-great confections (not knocking all pretty desserts here) and the really fabulous and flavorful dessert that may not be traditionally beautiful. Frankly, anymore, I don't find those traditionally "beautiful" desserts very lovely anymore anyway. So much of it just looks cheesy. For me, it's sort of the disney land of the dessert world.

Not intending to knock the art of making traditionally decorated desserts, not really. But it's just not my bag.

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I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one who loathes fondant-covered cakes. As I have always told my students, the reason for making a cake look beautiful is to make it so appealing that people will want to sink their teeth into it immediately. But if that cake's taste doesn't measure up to its beauty, you've committed fraud and should be arrested and jailed (well, sort of.....).

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