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Fondant vs. Buttercream - The Great Debate


Choosing wedding cake is a lot of fun, and it’s also an amusing task for a wedding planner. We learn quickly how much, or how little, our brides and grooms actually know about the wedding cake. When choosing the design and details of your wedding cake, you will need to decide what type of icing you’d like, and it usually comes down to two options: fondant or buttercream which are the most common for covering cakes. This topic has been the source of much culinary debate, but at the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference. The type of icing you choose to cover your confectionary masterpiece with is a personal decision but there are pros and cons with either choice. You simply have to consider the style of the finished cake. We’re here to fill you in on everything you need to know when it comes to choosing between these two types of icing.

Buttercream icing can be applied in rustic swirls or smoothed to a perfect finish depending on the preference of the designer. Fondant is usually elegantly smooth and is also very versatile for textured designs. There are countless tools to roll pretty patterns onto the surface of this sugar dough. Most cake decorators find it is easier to fix texture and finish errors when working with buttercream because fondant often has to be redone completely depending on the flaw. This can cost considerable money for a beginner because fondant is quite expensive to make from scratch or purchase premade.

What is Buttercream?

Buttercream is by far the most common cake covering and it has many variations. Some are teeth-achingly sweet and thick while others are quite complicated with rich flavors and texture like rich whipped cream.

  • Basic Buttercream:This is the sweet icing that is usually found on kids’ cakes and the easiest to make with very few ingredients. It is simply a blend of butter or shortening, confectioner’s sugar and flavoring. This icing can be tinted any color and piped into nicely defined designs. A cake iced with basic buttercream can be stored either in the fridge or at room temperature for a day with no issues. If the filling is perishable or delicate such as a mousse, then take care not to keep this type of cake unrefrigerated in warm weather.

  • Meringue Buttercream:This is a lovely icing which is not too sweet and takes a bit of practice to perfect. It requires beaten egg whites and sugar boiled to a soft ball stage to create the smooth stable texture. Meringue buttercream can be flavored and colored slightly less bright hues than basic buttercream. This icing should be stored in the fridge but care must be taken that there is no unpleasant or strong odors in the fridge. The icing will pick up that flavor and taste less delicious as a result. The cake should be brought back to room temperature when serving because the icing can be very hard when cold. The icing and decorations made from meringue buttercream will melt or slip if left out during a hot humid day so choose a different option for those pretty summer weddings outdoors!

The Pros and Cons of Buttercream

Pro – tastes great and has lots of potential to change the flavor Pro/Con – softer texture is enjoyable to eat, but more susceptible to the elements (heat and humidity are its enemies!) Con – delicate and can be stressful to transport Con – near impossible to make as smooth as fondant

What is Fondant?

Fondant is a play dough like sugar paste that can be rolled out and draped over a simple or sculpted cake. It is usually kneaded until very silky and pliable and can be used to create a smooth seamless finish on cakes in any color. This cake covering is very popular with some decorators because it can be colored any hue, favored and shaped into a dizzying assortment of decorations, figures, flowers, ruffles and other design elements.

Fondant cakes can be put in the fridge and will remain fresh for days which is a positive characteristic especially if the event is during the summer. A cake can be covered, finished with simple borders, set aside until the big day of the event and then decorated on site. Fondant cakes need to be brought to room temperature before serving and care needs to be taken not to touch the cake while it warms. It can become sticky and fingerprint prone! One of the reasons fondant is avoided by decorators is that it has a very sweet taste and funny gummy texture that some people find very unpleasant.

The Pros and Cons of Fondant

Con – some people don’t like the flavor or texture. Pro – it can make unique moulded shapes for toppers and embellishments Pro – very smooth finish, basically unachievable with any other icing. Pro – can be used as a base for hand-painted tiers Pro – tools can be used to roll patterns onto the fondant

Best of Both Coverings

If you truly love the pristine surface of a fondant covered cake then do not worry about guests who hate the taste or texture. Buttercream needs to be applied under the fondant layer or the draped covering will not stick to the cake.

The buttercream is also iced on thickly to cover bumpy layers and flaws in the surface of the cake so the fondant lays flat and smooth. Anyone who likes fondant can eat it along with the rest of the layers and those who dislike fondant can simply peel it off. So, the cake covering is a personal choice of the decorator who knows what will enhance the design and occasion.

So… Which Is Better? As we stated above, choosing between fondant and buttercream icing is a matter of personal preference. First, decide what’s important to you when it comes to your wedding cake, and it will likely start to become clear which type of icing will suit your vision the best. When you choose a few inspiration photos from Pinterest or wedding magazines and bring them in for a consultation, your cake designer will easily be able to tell you which is which, and what icing will achieve your desired look. Luckily, you will often end up with the best of both worlds, as buttercream may be put on top of the cake, but under the fondant to create an ideal base for the fondant.

What kind of cake will you choose for your perfect wedding day?

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