Anyone who has ever watched a baking show on television or who has been to an upscale wedding has likely seen a cake trimmed with colored fondant. Painting fondant is like painting a canvas, and the opportunities and possibilities for inspiration and expression are endless.
What Is Fondant?
Unlike cakes made with traditional icing, fondant has a hard, firm surface, which is why it's such an ideal canvas for painting. Thicker than most icing, fondant is generally sold in rolls and unrolls in a way that's similar to unrolling modeling clay. It's firm, but slightly tacky. It takes practice to unroll fondant, but once you've done it, you have a firm surface to decorate in a myriad of ways. Rolled fondant is very sweet and made with water, corn syrup and sugar.
Pre-rolled sheets of fondant are draped over cakes and shaped and molded to the exact specifications of the cake. In this way, the entire surface area of the cake is enveloped in the fondant and pressed as close as possible to the original shape. This is how fondant makes cakes appear to be so uniform. The fondant unifies all the pieces beneath covering them and acting like a brand new surface onto which all sorts of elegant decorations can be painted.
Painting With Gel Food Color
One of the most popular things do to with fondant is, not surprisingly, to paint it! The beautiful smooth white surface is practically begging to be covered with color, and fortunately, there are some very easy and practical ways to do that. One of the most popular ways to decorate fondant is with gel food color.
Gel colors can be diluted slightly with vodka to soften the colors and the consistency of the gel before applying it to the cake. You don't need to be an expert in painting to do a good job painting fondant, but it does help to have a set of brushes that will accommodate the size of the fondant you are using.
Because alcohol dilutes the colors of the fondant gel paint, experiment with the colors you're trying to achieve to make sure you get the look you're going for before actually applying it to the cake. But if you make a mistake, have no fear. Wipe the area gently with a little bit of alcohol and start again.
Tips for Painting Fondant
Painting with gel food color can take some getting used to, and cake painting is no exception. If you haven't painted cake before and you're beginning your cake painting journey with fondant, you may find that you need to practice a bit before you paint directly on the surface of the prepared cake. A good idea is to collect the scraps and bits of fondant that are left over after you've shaped the rolled fondant to your cake. These are great to begin your experimenting before committing to the cake itself.
You can also get a food-safe pencil that helps outline the parts of the cake where you plan to paint so you can set yourself up for success. This is an especially helpful strategy if you are a little bit clumsy with the brush. Mix the vodka and gel coloring and begin painting.
Food gel dries quickly, so mix a little bit at a time and add vodka as necessary to keep the paint colors consistent.
Ashley Friedman is a freelance writer with experience writing about education for a variety of organizations and educational institutions as well as online media sites.