Ready-to-roll icing always comes in white. What’s the best way to colour it evenly?
Estimate the amount of fondant you need to cover your cake, then knead it for a minute or so until it is smooth and pliable. It’s best to have a bit of leftover fondant so that you can add some white if you initially over-colour. Also, make sure you colour enough fondant for the purpose, because trying to match tones if you have to colour another batch can be very tricky (don’t worry about making too much, because fondant keeps well for several weeks in an airtight container). For the best results, layer colour little by little (using a tooth pick dipped in the colouring) until the desired shade is achieved. Knead the colour and fondant together as you would work bread dough. You can even try to blending different colours for fun. But, please don’t try to mix the colour in a mixer, it does NOT work!
I’d like to make my own fondant roll-on icing. Is it easy to do?
Homemade fondant can be tricky because a slight imbalance in the recipe can result in it becoming too sticky or greasy. Most people buy fondant because it assures you consistency in flavour and texture, and of course it’s easier! By all means have a go, but be prepared for a margin of error.
We’ve heard it’s good to ice a cake that’s been in the fridge or even frozen first as it provides a firmer base to work with. What’s your take on this?
I am not a big fan of freezing cakes before decorating them. I would only advise you to chill a cake prior to carving it into shape because this makes it firmer. If you try to cover a frozen cake with fondant, the icing will start to ‘sweat’, which makes it difficult to work with. A cake should be cool – but not too cold to achieve the best results.
I love butter icing – but it’s so unhealthy! Is there any way it can be made less rich?
My only answer to this is, ‘No!’ Buttercream icing sounds heavy, but if you make it well, it tastes light and delicious. A real buttercream must be made of high quality butter, but you could perhaps add less sugar to make it less sickly. Some people make a 50 per cent butter and 50 per cent vegetable shortening version, but I don’t find this as tasty. Butter melts in your mouth – shortening does not. I say treat yourself and go for the real thing.
What’s the best way to stick roll-on icing to a cake?
A thin layer of buttercream icing works really well. Make sure your cake is cool, apply the buttercream to the sponge, and then you can simply place the fondant directly over the top and it will stick. Just be sure to smooth it down and ensure there are no air pockets, as they can cause the fondant to drop when the air has come out.
I’m fine with icing the top of the cake, but everything goes pear-shaped when I try to do the sides and get them neat. This applies to both fondant and buttercream icing. Any tips?
Invest in a good set of spatulas (with a sharp edge), and a turntable. To get the fondant really smooth, you can also get a tool called a fondant smoother. It looks like a small iron and it literally works wonders.
I’m afraid to get too creative in case I make a mess of things. How can I make my cakes look great without my lack of expertise becoming obvious?
Practice makes perfect, but if you don’t have time, just go for a simple design. A cake doesn’t have to be complicated to look good. Roll out some coloured fondant and use pastry cutters to make nice, clean, regular shapes. Christmas cookie cutters work very well, as you have hearts, stars, flowers etc, to play with. And then just get creative. Cut them in different sizes and shades, and place them all over. Perfect.
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