Top Tips for Working With Fondant / Sugar Paste - Pretty Witty Cakes
Sep 10

10 September 2018

Top Tips for working with fondant / sugar paste

New to working with fondant (also known as sugar paste)? Here are my top tips:

Tip #1: Always use a good brand if using pre-made

I always use Renshaw's professional brand. It is a good dry fondant which is perfect for people with cold hands. For more information about the different brands of fondant, see this post here.

Tip #2: Make sure you prepare it

When you take sugarpaste/fondant out of the packet it will typically be quite soft.  

For modelling work you will need to add 1 teaspoon of either Gum Tragacanth or 1 teaspoon os CMC (as in the video).  These powders look like some class A drug but they are not! They are totally food safe powders that are added to make the paste dry out a bit more quickly. This made is much easier to model with. 

Tip #3: What is the difference between Gum Trag and CMC 

Gum Tragacanth – the real thing!  

Gum Tragacanth is a substance which is derived from the sap of a plant in the Middle East.  The sap is drained from the root of the plant and then dried. 

This forms a powder which doesn’t taste of anything, smells horrible but is ideal for thickening up fondant (also known as sugar paste).

The powder is a light cream colour and very fine so you would not want to breathe in too much when smelling it or it can cause you to cough as it enters your lungs.

As Gum Tragacanth is a natural product, I regard it is the “real thing” and I use this in all my modelling work as you will see on the videos.

CMC

CMC stands for or Carboxymethyl cellulose.  In short, it is the chemical version of Gum Tragacanth.  It looks exactly the same.

CMC tends to work a little bit faster than gum tragacanth and is also a little bit cheaper as it is a chemical version of the real thing.

Tylose powder

This is a brand name for CMC so is effectively the same thing as CMC.  It works in the same way and is again a chemical version.  It is usually again cheaper than Gum Tragacanth due to its chemical nature.  

Tip #4: Use Trex or Crisco

If your fondant / sugar paste starts to dry out or get too cracky, add a little bit of Trex or Crisco.  This is white vegetable fat (like lard) and it is a bit like moisteriser for fondant. It will iron out any of the dry, creased cracks. 

You can buy Trex/Crisco from your supermarket and it is not expensive. You store it in the fridge like butter and it will last months.  Typically it is about £1 / $1 for a large tub and well worth buying. 

Tip #5: Use heat in your hands to smooth the paste

One of the best tools in cake making are your hands.  Once you have massaged your paste and added any Gum Trag or CMC, if you still see any little creases or lines or cracks, use the heat from your hands. 

You will literally see them vanish if you press quite firmly and roll the paste balls in your hands.  

Tip #6: Buy dark colour pastes

Technically you can colour sugar paste / fondant any colour you choose but when you are making dark colours like navy and black, you will need a lot of gel food colouring. This can change the consistency of the sugar paste so that is is much harder to work with.  

For this reason, I tend to always use pre-coloured dark colours.  For lighter colours, I colour my own. For more information about colouring fondant, see this post here

Tip #7: Use it for the right purpose

Fondant and Sugar paste go on the top of cupcakes or cakes.  They are also used for modelling characters and figures.  

If you want to make delicate sugar flowers, you should use Gum Paste (Florist Paste) as that is more stretchy and dries harder and can be rolled much thinner. 

Bonus Tips

Bonus #1: Sharp Edges

Fondant /Sugar paste can be used in different thicknesses for covering a cake. Beginners will typically start with around 5mm thick and as you get more experience you will work to 2 to 3mm thick. 

It is best to go as thin as possible but not so thin that the fondant tears.  

The same applies with any decorations. So if you have flat decorations like circles or flowers on your cakes, keep the fondant as thin as possible.  Usually around 1 to 2mm for decorations. 

Bonus #2: Roll on the right surface

Fondant is quite sticky so when you are rolling it out, it is best to use a large non-stick board.  

If you don't have one a stainless steel, or granite surface is ideal but don't roll straight on there. You would be better to either grease the surface with vegetable fat (Trex) or cover with a thin layer of cornflour or icing sugar. 

I don't use Trex to cover the surface as I find that the fondant then slips a lot. I use icing sugar sprinkled on the surface.  If you later find there are little bits of icing sugar showing on your covered cake, you can get rid of them with a brush with a little water on the end and gently "wash" then off the cake. The water will then evaporate as the fondant dries. 

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