Fondant cake decorating or buttercream - which is the best? In truth, both these options for decorating your cake have their upsides and downsides. The one best suited to your needs will depend on the cake, the occasion, and the effect you are trying to create.
Pros and Cons of Fondant
Fondant has a few properties that make it extremely useful for decorating certain kinds of cakes. First of all, because of the nature of the substance, fondant can help you create an incredibly smooth finished look to your cake that you simply can't get with icing or buttercream.
If you're not familiar with fondant, think about the last time you went to a wedding. Chances are, the wedding cake had fondant on at least some part of it, if not the entire icing. Professional cake bakers like fondant because of the smooth and "polished" look it gives a cake.
The consistency of fondant also means it can be shaped and moulded in ways that other types of icing can't. Of course, you can have liquid fondant or fondant that has a consistency like play dough. This more solid form of fondant can simply be rolled out and used to cover the cake like a sheet. This is how you can avoid having gaps, bubbles or divots in the icing.
One of the big drawbacks of fondant is how hard it is to make - again, one of the reasons it is most often seen on professionally made cakes. Of course, you can simply buy a pre-made fondant mix.
Another drawback of fondant is that some people don't like the marshmallow-like taste of it. Also, the consistency of fondant makes it a little "chewy" - not a pleasant texture for many cake lovers.
Pros and Cons of Buttercream
Some of the drawbacks of buttercream can already be seen by what we've said about fondant: buttercream can't give you that same smooth, finished look, so if appearances are important for your cake then you will probably prefer fondant. However, buttercream has a few advantages of its own.
Many people prefer the taste of buttercream over fondant. Also, the texture of buttercream is a lot more in line with how most people think icing "ought to" feel. However, this texture also means decorating with buttercream can be a more delicate process.
If you really can't decide on which substance to use for your cake, there's an easy solution: use both. You can have the best of both worlds by adding a layer of buttercream to the cake and covering this up with fondant. This way, your cake will look smooth and spectacular, and due to the consistency of fondant anyone who doesn't like it can just peel it off and enjoy the buttercream underneath.
As a general rule of thumb: if the look of your cake is more important than the taste, use fondant. If you want a better chance of pleasing the majority of tastebuds, use buttercream.
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