Cake Decorating Hacks: Hand-Painted Fondant

Painted fondant has limitless possibilities – it’s just like a blank canvas.

Painted fondant has limitless possibilities – it’s just like a blank canvas. This is one reason Shannon Bond, owner of Shannon Bond Cake Design in Olathe, Kansas, thinks painted fondant is so popular because of how much you can personalize it. She’s painted cakes with very abstract and modern designs and others featuring details of the French countryside.

“I don’t see it as a trend that’s going to disappear,” she says.

Having experience with watercolor painting helps, but you don’t necessarily need to be good at painting to find success with this decorating trend. You will need a variety of medium-grade paint brushes, gel-paste food coloring and vodka to thin it down. Bond recommends using a food-safe pencil to trace your design first.

While your crumb-coated cake is chilling, you can roll out your room-temperature fondant. (You might need to knead it out first to soften it.) Roll it out on a flat surface covered in powdered sugar in the same shape as the cake you’re trying to cover until it’s ¹⁄₈-inch thick. It should be big enough to blanket the top and sides with a few inches leftover. Gently cover your cake with the fondant and press it onto the top and sides, lifting the skirt as you smooth downward. Remove any air bubbles by pricking them with a sterilized sewing needle. It’s best to paint on dry fondant: “I like to let it rest overnight,” Bond says.

After it’s dry, Bond says you can either paint directly on the side of the cake or onto sheets or applique of fondant that you attach after you’ve painted them. Depending on the design you’re trying to paint, she recommends cutting templates and marking the side of the cake with a toothpick, then outlining and filling in the colors.

“If you have scrap pieces of fondant after you’ve rolled it out, you can practice on that first to get a feel for the food coloring and the amount of liquid in it," Bond says.

To make your paint, simply add a few drops of vodka at a time to the gel-paste food coloring. The more alcohol you add, the lighter color you’ll achieve. If the color starts getting darker as you’re painting, add a little more vodka – it dries quickly.

The easiest way to get this trend right is to take your time and experiment. But, as Bond says, “if you make a mistake, you can use vodka to wipe it off the fondant.”


▼ Fondant

Recipe by Shannon Bond, owner, Shannon Bond Cake Design

“This will change people’s minds on what a typical fondant tastes like. It’s not gummy… It just dissolves in your mouth. Fondant tastes much better from scratch than when it’s store-bought,” Bond says.

Yields | 4 pounds fondant |

  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup corn syrup
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp food-grade glycerin
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • 1 dash salt
  • 3 lbs sifted powdered sugar, divided (plus more for work surface)
  • vegetable oil

| Preparation | In a 2-cup measuring cup, add cream and gelatin and stir to combine. Let bloom, approximately 5 minutes. Microwave 45 seconds and then stir. If it’s not yet liquid, heat for another 15 seconds.

In a glass bowl, add corn syrup, butter, glycerin, almond extract and salt. Add gelatin mixture and stir. Microwave on high for 2 minutes or until butter is almost melted. Stir again, and then let cool until lukewarm, 30 to 60 minutes.

In the bowl of stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, lightly grease a large mixing bowl and add 2 pounds powdered sugar. Strain lukewarm mixture through a mesh sieve into powdered sugar. Mix with dough hook on low and slowly add remaining powdered sugar. When mixture gets very thick, turn it out onto a powdered-sugar coated work surface and continue to knead in powdered sugar by hand until smooth. (You might need to adjust the amount of powdered sugar to suit your climate and needs.) Dough should be soft; it will stiffen slightly overnight. Coat in a layer of vegetable oil, double-wrap in plastic wrap and place in a zip-close bag to rest overnight. Let rest 24 hours before using.

If sealed and stored in a cool, dry place out of sunlight, fondant can stay good for approximately 6 weeks. If fondant gets hard, microwave it in 10-second increments until it’s a little warm, then re-knead. You can add gel paste food coloring or powdered food coloring before or after the resting period.

Mallory Gnaegy is a part-time journalist, full-time publicist and wannabe chef who takes food-inspired adventures, often on bike, and she never lives by the motto, "Don't write with food in your mouth."

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