When it comes to baking different foods for the first time, it can be extremely difficult to get everything right. After all, getting baking recipes correct takes time, practice, and a good eye. One example of how troublesome baking can be is often found with fondant.
Fondant is often used to decorate cakes and it is fairly common in that regard. However, getting a fondant just right is something that isn’t easy for beginners to achieve. Your fondant can either come out too hard or it can end up being far too soft.
Chances are that if you are a beginner at cooking, you might not know what to do to remedy the situation, and more often than not, baking more fondant isn’t the best option.
One part of being a good baker is knowing how to quickly and easily fix mistakes, and this means knowing what to do when your fondant doesn’t turn out the way it is supposed to.
Whether your fondant is too hard or too soft, you will be able to salvage the fondant and continue making your cake look amazing.
What Causes Problematic Fondant?
First things first, it is important for you to know why your fondant didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to. Once you know why your fondant is the way it is, it will become much easier for you to prevent the issue from happening again.
For fondant that has become too hard, the reason for this is almost always that the fondant has been left out for too long before being applied to the cake. For commercial fondants, the glycerin will keep the fondant moist and ready to be applied to a cake, however, this will harden and dry out over time if it is not being used.
On the other hand, there are also homemade fondants. These very rarely harden, as the recipe is vastly different than that of commercial fondant.
Chances are that if your homemade fondant has become hard, then there was something wrong with the recipe, and you should consider looking it over again.
As for fondant that is not solidifying fast enough, the problem is often that the humidity and air temperature are not prime for the fondant to harden. As mentioned earlier, most fondant will naturally harden over time when simply left out.
If the temperature is cool and the air is humid, it will be very difficult for the glycerin in the fondant to dry out, making it harder for your fondant to solidify.
Now that you have a better idea of why your fondant is not doing what you want it to do, you should begin to think about how you are going to solve the problem. There are more methods for softening fondant, but hardening fondant is far more straightforward and simple, meaning that neither issue is particularly worse than the other.
For many bakers, it is simply a natural part of the baking process to deal with little mishaps such as fondant not behaving.
How Do You Soften Fondant?
As fondant is exposed to the air, it will naturally begin to dry out and harden. If you were not ready for the fondant to dry out and solidify, you might feel at a loss as to what you should do or how you should handle the situation.
Thankfully, there are a couple different ways that you can go about softening the fondant back up.
The first method that you should try is using softening oils, specifically glycerin. As mentioned earlier, in most commercial fondants, glycerin is the oil that keeps the fondant moist in the first place. Therefore, by adding more to the fondant, you can begin to restore the fondant’s natural texture.
When you are adding the softening oils, you will want to make sure that you are kneading the fondant out in the meantime. The glycerin will trap water molecules, which will rehydrate the icing, and as you knead the fondant, this will spread both the glycerin and the trapped water molecules.
You should add approximately one teaspoon of glycerin for every pound of fondant you are working with.
If you do not have glycerin at the ready, you can achieve the same effect with vegetable shortening. Rather than pouring the shortening onto the fondant, you will instead coat your fingers in the shortening. From here, you can simply knead the fondant back into a soft, moldable state.
If you do not have either vegetable shortening or glycerin, you can consider softening the fondant by placing it in the microwave. You will want to first find a microwave-safe bowl to put the fondant in.
From there, you will want to microwave the fondant in five-second intervals to make sure that you do not overdo it.
After each little burst of microwaving the fondant, remember to knead the fondant once it has cooled down enough to touch it. Continue doing this until the fondant has the flexibility that you need for your cake.
Always remember that you can add more of a softener, whether it is glycerin, vegetable shortening, or heat. You cannot necessarily take it away. Remember that a little bit of material can go a long way, so be careful not to overdo the softening of the fondant.
How Do You Harden Fondant?
On the other side of things, you might find that the fondant you are working with has become too liquid-like to work with. This could happen because you overdid the softening of the fondant, or it could be that the recipe simply isn’t the best.
The main way that you go about hardening fondant again is by introducing airflow and heat to help the glycerin dry out a little bit. For homemade fondants, this helps to speed up the natural process of fondant hardening when it is left out in the open.
What this means is that hardening fondant again is incredibly easy and straightforward, and it doesn’t take a lot of work. However, there are other methods that you can use besides heat and airflow, if you do not want to work with the oven.
If you choose to use your oven, what you will want to do is set the oven to a medium-warm setting and let it heat up for about five minutes. After those five minutes have passed, turn the oven off and open it up.
Place the pieces of fondant that need to be hardened on a sheet pan that has been lined with parchment paper, and place this sheet pan into the cooling oven.
Typically, small fondant pieces should remain in the oven for no more than ten minutes. Larger fondant pieces should remain in the oven for no more than fifteen minutes.
Once your fondant pieces have sat in the cooling oven for the designated time, you should take the sheet pan out of the oven to let it air dry for about thirty minutes.
In most cases, this will leave you with sufficiently hardened fondant. If you do not want to work with the oven, or you are unable to use the oven, you can consider the unorthodox method of using a hair dryer as a replacement heat source.
If you plan to use a hair dryer, you will want to first start by putting your fondant on a sheet pan that has been lined with parchment paper. From here, you should set the hair dryer to its lowest setting, and you should stand about a foot and a half away from the fondant.
Turn the hair dryer on, move it around the pieces to let all areas dry out thoroughly, and let it run for no more than ten minutes, depending on the size of the pieces.
Similarly, you should also let the pieces sit out at room temperature for about thirty minutes to ensure that they are sufficiently hardened. With the hair dryer, it might be difficult to get all areas of the fondant hardened, but it will be much easier to go back and heat the fondant a little more compared to heating the oven and sticking the fondant back in.
If you would rather use additives to harden your fondant, you have two choices. There are tragacanth gum and carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC). CMC is also sold under the names “tylose powder” or “tylo powder.”
Tragacanth can take up to 24 hours to completely activate, which is generally one of the reasons why it isn’t typically used to harden fondant, and it has a bad tendency to leave a yellowish tint on light-colored fondant pieces.
It is also growing less common, likely for the above reasons, meaning that if you need to harden your fondant with additives, you should use CMC if possible.
To apply CMC, all you really need to do is mix one to two teaspoons of powder for every pound of fondant you are using. Generally, you should use one teaspoon if you live in an arid environment and two teaspoons if you live in a more humid area. You should knead the fondant first and then immediately apply the powder.
From there, let it rest at room temperature until it is dry, and you will have your sufficiently hardened fondant.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.