If you’re new to cake decorating, the directive, “Start with a chilled, crumb coated cake,” may leave you with more questions than answers. Crumb coated with what? Chilled how? Never fear, my cake newbies, I’m here with the answers you need to confidently prep your cake for a snug, sugary coat of fondant!
First things first
The vast majority of cake decorators cover their cakes with either ganache or buttercream before applying fondant. For help covering your cake with ganache, check out my earlier post here.
As for buttercream, there are two general camps: meringue based or crusting. My personal preference and the preference of many cake designers is to use meringue-based buttercreams under fondant. Both will work just fine, so if you’re team American buttercream, then go for it!
Finally, you must chill. 😎 Cold, firm cakes are the best canvas for achieving smooth fondant success whether you use ganache, meringue-based buttercream or a crusting buttercream.
How to use buttercream under fondant
Step 1: Prepare the cake
If your cake’s edges are on the crisp side, it’s a good idea to trim down to the soft fluffy cake interior before crumb coating. Hard edges under fondant can leave your finished product with lumps and bumps. Plus, the crunchy cake crust may be less palatable to your guests if they do end up peeling the fondant away.
Another added bonus is this gives you the opportunity to truly get your cake shape in check. Smooth sides are key when prepping your cake for fondant.
Step 2: Layer on the buttercream crumb coat
Scoop a few cups of buttercream into a smaller bowl and reserve the remainder for your final coat. Working from a small bowl will prevent you from contaminating the whole batch of buttercream with little speckles of cake crumbs.
Crumb coat your cake following these directions. Then pop the crumb coated cake into the fridge for 10 minutes or so, just long enough for it to set up firm.
Step 3: Add a thicker coat
Working from the clean bowl, apply a thicker finishing layer of buttercream. You want to apply enough buttercream so that no solid portions of cake show through, but not as much as you would if you were leaving this as your finished cake.
It’s OK if you can make out where some of the cake is beneath the buttercream. The goal is to avoid leaving areas that will be dark enough to show through the fondant. Return the cake to the fridge until it is chilled solid.
Step 4: Shave the cake
Yes, you read that correctly! This is my own personal tip that has worked for me for years. It’s a real game-changer and has helped me to achieve smoother cakes with sharper edges.
When you’re ready to cover your cake with fondant, scrape the surface of the cake with a metal bench scraper that’s been dipped in warm water then wiped clean.
This final “shave” over the chilled buttercream will crisp up your corners and remove any spatula lines or bumps left behind after your crumb coat. Scraping the cake in this way also helps to gently rough up the slick smooth surface of the chilled buttercream, giving your fondant a more secure surface to adhere to.
Step 5: Get rolling
As soon as your cake is ready to go, get that fondant moving. Here are some instructions for rolling out fondant and covering your cake.
While you’re rolling out the fondant, keep the cake in the fridge: Applying fondant to a solid, chilled cake is a far easier endeavor than trying to cover one that’s warmed up and squishy. Return your cake to the fridge to firm it back up if at any point you feel it’s gotten too soft.
If the surface of your cake feels too slick or solid for the fondant to adhere, brush or spritz it with a very light coating of water before applying the fondant.
For answers to all of your fondant questions and some quick tips, check out this 1fondant FAQ post!