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Why Is My Fondant Tearing? (5 Common Causes)

Why Is My Fondant Tearing? (5 Common Causes)

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Fondant is absolutely fabulous as a cake covering when done well. But as many bakers will acknowledge, it can be incredibly tricky to work with, especially for less experienced bakers. Today, we will look at all the reasons why fondant is tearing and how to prevent it.

Fondant can tear or crack for a variety of reasons, including the following:

  • Fondant being rolled too thick or too thin
  • Using old fondant which has dried out
  • Working in a dry climate
  • Working too slowly
  • Adding too much powdered sugar or corn starch to the fondant.

When I first started working with fondant, I found it very tricky, but I never looked back once I got used to the techniques. So, if you’re ready to level up your cake game and learn how to avoid frustrating issues with your fondant tearing, then read on.

Why Is My Fondant Tearing?

As we mentioned earlier, there are various reasons for fondant tearing, and we will discuss them in greater detail now.

What is “Elephant Skin” Fondant?

“Elephant skin” is the term we use if the fondant resembles cracked and wrinkly elephant skin. This happens when the top layer starts to dry and forms a “crust”, which will crack or wrinkle when you move the fondant. This is a common issue if you work in a dry climate or too slowly.

1 – A Dry Climate

The lack of humidity in a very dry climate might result in your fondant drying out while working with it.

How to deal with the issue:

  • Always work with fondant on a cool surface and in a cool room to maintain a good consistency.
  • You might benefit from using a humidifier while working with the fondant.
  • Learn to work quickly to prevent the fondant from drying out.
  • Kneading in a bit of vegetable shortening or modelling chocolate could give you a bit more time to work with the fondant.
  • You could spread a very layer of shortening on your work surface before rolling out the fondant.

2 – Timing

As with the lack of humidity/dry climate issue, if you take too long to work with the fondant, it can start to dry out and crack when you move it.

How to deal with the issue:

  • Learn to work quickly to prevent the fondant from drying out.
  • Kneading in a bit of vegetable shortening or modelling chocolate could give you a bit more time to work with the fondant.
  • Keep your fondant wrapped in plastic when not working with it to prevent it from drying out.

3 – Fondant Is Rolled Too Thick or Too Thin

If you have rolled your fondant too thick or thin, it can tear or crack when you work with it.

If it is too thin, it becomes very fragile and tears easily. On the other hand, the fondant becomes too heavy when rolled too thick, and the weight can cause it to tear.

How to deal with the issue:

  • The fondant should be rolled until it is 1/8 inch thick.

4 – Old Fondant

Sometimes, if the fondant has been stored for too long, it could result in it being dry and cracking when you work with it. This is because it has probably been exposed to too much air.

How to deal with the issue:

  • If the fondant is not too dry, kneading in some vegetable shortening or modeling chocolate to try and get it back into a workable consistency.
  • If you aren’t planning to use fondant often, only buying small packages is a good idea.
  • If you don’t use it all, wrap the leftover fondant in cling wrap and then place the wrapped fondant into a zip lock bag. This should prevent it from drying out too much.

5 – Too Much Powdered Sugar or Corn Starch Added

The most common issue is the tendency to use too much powdered sugar or corn starch when working with the fondant.

Adding these ingredients changes the consistency of the fondant and will dry it out, although corn starch appears to dry out fondant less than powdered sugar.

As a rule of thumb, to prevent fondant issues, use corn starch in high humidity climates and powdered sugar in drier climates.

How to deal with the issue:

  • Try not to use corn starch or powdered sugar when working with your fondant, whether kneading or adding color to the fondant. If you must use some, use as little as possible.
  • If the fondant gets a little soft, let it ‘rest’ for about 10 minutes before using it rather than adding corn starch or powdered sugar.
  • Try using a non-stick fondant rolling mat for your cake decorating project.
  • If your dry fondant needs any added moisture, add either shortening or glycerine.

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

We have looked at the common reasons why fondant tears or cracks, but it is essential to get the basics right before you need to start troubleshooting.

Understanding Fondant and Its Ingredients

Fondant is a sugar-based “dough” used to decorate cakes. The sugar in the fondant helps it set and seal the cake underneath.

Other ingredients that make up fondant include water, glucose, gum and usually, gelatine. With the correct ratio of wet to dry ingredients, you will have a pliable dough.

When there is too much liquid in the fondant, it will be too soft to work with. On the other hand, if there is too much gum or dry ingredients in the dough, it will be too dry, crumbly, or rubbery.

A sticky layer of buttercream icing or ganache is applied to the cake, which helps the fondant to adhere to the cake. The fondant is usually rolled into a thin layer, around 1/8 inch thick, and is laid over the entire cake.

First Things First – Your Cake Structure Must Be Good

Making sure that your cake structure is perfect will avoid many cake decorating issues. Use high-quality ingredients and tools – bench scrapers, turntables, palette knives and cake pans.

The cake itself is very important. Generally speaking, a standard white, vanilla, yellow or chocolate, or pound cake will hold up well and is perfect for use under fondant.

Light cakes such as chiffon or angel food will not hold the heavy weight of the fondant very well. Also, cakes such as carrot and similar, with heavy mix-ins, may have an uneven surface and show through the fondant.

Practice Does Make Perfect

As a seasoned baker, I can attest to the old adage that practice does make perfect. Unfortunately, my first few cakes, especially the fondant ones, were full of mistakes.

Practice on dummy cakes, and don’t give up. It does get easier to work with.

Check Your Fondant Before You Apply It to the Cake

If you find tiny cracks in the fondant, knead it well before you start rolling. The warmth from kneading it should prevent any unnecessary cracking and tearing.

If the cracks don’t disappear, rather don’t use the fondant. Use a fresh batch of fondant icing instead.

Not All Fondants Are Created Equal

Find your favorite fondant by testing a few different brands. If you get to know the features of your ideal fondant, you will be better equipped to avoid any issues.

A good fondant is nice and pliable – neither too soft nor too rubbery. As with the porridge in the tale of Goldilocks, it is “just right”.

Not only is consistency important, but you should test out the brands or recipes for taste, appearance, texture, cost, ease of use, and how it how reacts to added color. If you make your own, try a few different recipes.

Some of the more prominent brands of fondant include Bakels Pettinice, Satin Ice and Massa Ticino. Once you’ve found a fondant that works for you, stick with it.

Price does not always indicate quality and remember – some brands are formulated for specific climates.

To make sure that you have a winner, buy a small pack to try before attempting a big cake project—experiment by kneading, rolling and moving it around to see if it works for you.

Make Sure You Have a Sturdy Base

Fondant makes the cake quite heavy, so make sure you place your cake on a sturdy base. This will prevent the cake and the fondant from cracking.

Use Enough Fondant to Cover Your Cake

Roll out more fondant than you think you will need – this will allow you to cover your cake generously without needing to stretch the fondant. With a few inches of overlay, you will be able to trim the fondant around the base of the cake very neatly.

Store the Fondant Properly

Keep your fondant covered or wrapped in cling film when not in use.

When you’re done decorating your cake, roll the unused fondant into a ball and coat it with a thin layer of vegetable shortening. Then be sure to wrap it tightly in cling film and then place it in an airtight container or ziplock bag.

Store the fondant at room temperature, and it should last about a month. Fondant should never be stored in the freezer or a refrigerator.

On a similar note, ensure that your decorated cake is stored at room temperature as well.

Fixes for Fondant Disasters

All we ask for is a lovely smooth finish, but things often go wrong, despite our best intentions. There are, however, a few quick fixes to try if your fondant is cracking or tearing.

Fill the Crack with a Fresh Piece of Fondant

Patch up the tear or crack by filling it in with a fresh piece of fondant. Knead a small amount of fondant with your hands to warm it up.

Rub the warmed fondant over the crack in a circular motion. You can then smooth the edges with an icing smoother or use your fingertips coated in shortening.

Fill the Crack with Some Paste

By mixing the fondant with water, you can create a paste and apply it over the cracked area. You can then dampen your finger and gently wipe it over the area to blend it in. Essentially, this creates a grout to fill in the cracks.

Cover It Up

If the damaged area is in a conspicuous spot and a bit too unsightly, use a bit of creative license and find a way to cover it up:

  • Pipe some icing over it the area
  • Cover it with a design element
  • Add a fondant border
  • Add some sort of fondant texture such as quilting

Give It a Gentle Rub

Try lightly rubbing the cracks in the opposite direction of the cracks – creating a bit of heat to make the fondant pliable. If the crack is on the side of the cake, remember to work upwards!

You can also try to smooth any dry areas and small tears with a bit of shortening on your fingertips.

Square cakes are particularly tricky, and the corners of the cake often tear. However, rubbing the areas gently in circular motions with some shortening should meld the edges together.

Disguise the Tear with Some Shortening

Sometimes, you can disguise the tear with some vegetable shortening on a white or ivory-coloured cake.

Sometimes You Just Need to Start Again

If the fondant is beyond repair, sometimes the best thing to do is just start afresh with an entirely new piece of fondant. However, be careful not to reuse damaged fondant as it may have bits of icing and cake stuck to it, making it even messier.

Final Thoughts

I hope that this guide has given you all the information you need to make sure that your next fondant cake decorating experience is a smooth as silk and as professional as it can be.

By using a good fondant and with the correct application, you should avoid most of the common fondant issues. And if the fondant is dry and it tears, you should be able to fix it with the tips we mentioned above. If all else fails, don’t be afraid to take it off and start again.

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