Becca is an experienced cake decorator who loves to help beginners learn the tricks of the trade.
Save Money and Make Your Own Mediums
When you start out cake decorating, you're going to realize there are tons of mediums you can use to achieve specific looks for your decorations. Instead of spending loads of money on pre-packaged mediums with ingredients you'd be hard pressed to pronounce, why not make your own? Most of these are simple and can be made in a few minutes. Because they don't contain preservatives or additional chemicals needed for shelf stability, they will taste much better than their ready-to-use counterparts.
I have never bought a package of modeling chocolate in my entire career because I tasted it once and I could taste the chemicals. Maybe it's just me, and to each their own if you can't taste it. But it is so easy to make your own, why not give it a shot?
In this article, we'll look at recipes for:
- Marshmallow Fondant
- Classic Fondant
- Modeling Chocolate or Candy Clay
- Royal Icing
Marshmallow Fondant Recipe
As I've stated previously, the majority of my clients do not like the taste of fondant. And I'm not going to lie—I don't like it either. Luckily, there is a version of fondant that can pull off a nice smooth surface that tastes of marshmallow. Because that's all it is: marshmallow, a little shortening, flavoring, and powdered sugar. You can whip up a batch of MMF, as it's called in the cake decorating world, in a matter of minutes. The best part about this is you don't need a stand mixer in order to get it nicely smooth and incorporated.
- 16 oz bag Miniature Marshmallows
- 1/2 cup Shortening
- 2-5 tablespoons, depending on the humidity Water
- 2 lbs Powdered Sugar
- Place the entire bag of miniature marshmallows in a large bowl. Pour the water over the marshmallows and give them a stir to coat them.
- Place the bowl in the microwave and heat on high for 30 seconds. Remove the marshmallows and stir well, and heat another 30 seconds on high. Remove and stir, and continue the heating and stirring process in 30 second increments until the marshmallows are melted and begin to slightly puff up. Do not heat beyond the puff stage or you will not have a successful fondant.
- Place about 3/4 of the powdered sugar on top of the melted marshmallows and use a rubber spatula or plastic spoon to fold the two together. You're going to have a lot of lumps at first, and that is fine, they will work out in the next step. Continue to fold the sugar into the marshmallow until a sticky ball forms.
- Grease a surface well with shortening and turn out the sticky ball onto the greased surface. Pour the remaining sugar on top and knead the remaining sugar into the ball. Continue to knead up to 15 minutes to incorporate all the sugar into the marshmallow.
- Your finished product should be smooth with no lumps, elastic and not dry, and not sticky to the touch. It should have the consistency of Play-Doh all the way through. Once you achieve this consistency, slather the ball of fondant in a layer of shortening and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap.
- Allow the fondant to rest for at least 6 hours before you use it. It's better to let it rest 24 hours. You can leave it at room temp to rest, or you can refrigerate. If you refrigerate, make sure it comes to room temp before you start to roll it out.
Classic Fondant Recipe
If you're like me and hate the taste and texture of marshmallows, then MMF is a no-go for you. So I've been using this recipe from an old cook book I had laying around for a delicious alternative to the store-bought fondant I was used to using. I modified the recipe a bit for taste, and what is presented here is a rolled icing that tastes good, behaves like fondant, and clients actually enjoy the taste of it. It is a little softer than store bought fondant, but you can add more powdered sugar to it if it is too soft to manage for you.
- 1/2 Cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 1/2 tablespoons Knox unflavored gelatin (or any brand you like)
- 1 cup plus 2 teaspoons light corn syrup (I use Karo)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
- 1 tablespoon salted butter
- 2 1/2 tablespoons food grade glycerin
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (use clear if looking for a pure white fondant)
- 3 1/2 to 4 pounds of powdered sugar (dependant on the humidity in your area)
- For pure white fondant only—three or four drops of white food coloring
- Pour the cream into a medium sized microwave safe bowl. Add the powdered gelatin and allow it to bloom for five minutes, You'll know it's ready when the mixture becomes firm to the touch.
- Microwave the mixture for 30 minute increments, stirring between microwaving, to liquefy the mixture again.
- Add to the gelatin mixture the corn syrup, butter, vegetable shortening, and vanilla and microwave again for about 1 minute on high, or until the butter has melted. Set the mixture aside to cool to room temperature.
- Add half the powdered sugar to a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the sugar and use a sieve to strain the gelatin mixture into the well. Grease your hands with shortening liberally and mix the sugar and gelatin until a sticky ball forms.
- Add more powdered sugar until a slightly firm ball forms. Turn out the ball onto a well greased surface and continue to add the rest of the sugar until you get a consistency very similar to Play Doh. You'll need to knead this mixture very well and very aggressively, about 15 minutes to get it completely incorporated and smooth.
- Slather the ball of fondant in shortening and wrap it in plastic wrap. Allow it to set up for at least 6 hours, or ideally 24 hours before using. Wrap any unused fondant in plastic wrap or it will dry out and become unusable.
Scratch Fondant Recipe Rating
Simple Gumpaste Recipe
When you need some gumpaste and are in a pinch, or you just don't feel like going through all the steps of making it from scratch, you can make it easily with two ingredients you may already have on hand. If you don't have these ingredients on hand, they are very easy to find at local hobby stores or online and are generally inexpensive.
- 1 pound of fondant—marshmallow fondant will not work for this, it must be non-marshmallow fondant
- 1 teaspoon of tylose powder
- Work with small portions of fondant at a time, and add a small amount of tylose powder to each small portion.
- Knead the portion well and cover it quickly in plastic wrap.
- Work your way into the entire portion of fondant, adding small amounts of tylose powder to each portion, until you complete the batch. Then add all the small batches together and knead it all very well.
- Slather the outside of the gumpaste mixture with shortening and tightly wrap in plastic wrap. This recipe can be used immediately for flower making or character making. It does not need to set to be effective.
Classic Gumpaste Recipe
If you want to go all out and create your very own from-scratch gumpaste, here is the go to recipe. It is made from mostly natural ingredients, save from the Tylose powder. From my understanding, Tylose powder is made of sodium carboxymethyl cellulose gum and dextrin. CMC is also used in fireworks, which can make you raise an eyebrow. So don't ever buy CMC powder, even though it's cheaper in bulk. Buy the food grade tylose powder so you know you aren't going to poison someone.
- 8 egg whites, brought up to room temperature
- 1 1/2 pounds plus 3/4 cups of powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
- Place the egg whites into a stand mixer bowl. Mix on the medium setting with the paddle attachment until the whites are just beginning to become foamy.
- Turn the mixer speed to low and very slowly add 1 1/2 pounds of the powdered sugar to the egg whites, scraping down the sides of the bowl when needed. When all the sugar has been added, you should have a soft royal icing consistency.
- Turn the mixer speed up to medium at this point, and whip the mixture until it becomes shiny and soft peaks form. It is at this point that you want to add in the white food coloring if you are looking to create a pure white gumpaste.
- Turn the mixer speed back down to low and very slowly add the Tylose powder. Once all the Tylose powder has been added, turn the mixer speed to high and the mixture will thicken considerably and quickly.
- Once thickened, turn the mixture out onto a greased surface, scraping the sides of the bowl to remove all the ingredients. Knead the remaining 3/4 cup of powdered sugar into the mixture until you a soft, unsticky dough forms.
- Wrap this dough tightly in plastic wrap and allow it to set for 24 hours before using so the Tylose powder will have time to activate. Make sure to cover any unused gumpaste so it doesn't dry out and become unusable.
Modeling Chocolate or Candy Clay Recipe
Modeling chocolate is also known as candy clay. The two terms are used interchangeably, and the reason for that is because you can either use candy melts or real chocolate to make it. I've used both, and with great success every time. The beauty of modeling chocolate is it tastes wonderful, holds it shape perfectly, is easy to work with and quick to make, and can be made into any color you need. The drawback to using modeling chocolate is that you can't use it in high heat or humidity or it will melt as chocolate does.
- 2 pounds of white chocolate
- 1 cup of light corn syrup (I prefer Karo.)
- Melt all the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl for 30 second increments until almost completely melted. When you have tiny bits of unmelted chocolate left in the bowl, stir until it melts. The reason to pull the chocolate at this stage is once you scorch the chocolate, you have ruined the batch. It is better to pull a little early and allow the residual heat to melt the remaining chocolate than to scorch the entire batch.
- Add the corn syrup all in one go and start stirring slowly. You'll notice the chocolate seize almost immediately. Continue to stir only until the chocolate comes together in a firm ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
- Gently knead the chocolate to form a solid ball and place the ball on a piece of parchment paper to roll out, exactly like you would a batch of cookie dough before cutting cookies.
- Cover the modeling chocolate disk with plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 24 hours before using.
- Once it has had time to rest, cut or tear off the amount needed to perform your task and knead it well to get it supple. You can also add food coloring once kneaded to get the colors you want to match your theme. Only use gel or powdered food coloring.
My Favorite Royal Icing for Cookie Decorating
There are several different ways to make royal icing. Some use egg whites, some use meringue powder. Some use corn syrup, some don't. This is my personal recipe for the best cookie decorating royal icing. It tastes amazing and the flavors can be customized, and it dries hard and glossy. It's very easy to work with and dries pretty quickly for royal icing. It stacks well and doesn't break very easily. And did I mention it tastes amazing?
- 5 tablespoons meringue powder
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
- 1 teaspoon butter flavoring
- 3/4 cup water
- 2-3 pounds powdered sugar (dependent on humidity in your area)
- In a large bowl, whisk together the meringue powder, corn syrup, flavorings, and water until foamy.
- Whisk in the powdered sugar in small amounts at a time until it becomes soupy.
- Once the mixture is thicker, but still runny, start beating it with a mixer and add more sugar until it becomes transparent white and stiff peaks hold.
- You can alter the consistency by adding water tiny bits at a time until you get the consistency you want. This recipe results in stiff consistency royal icing.
Classic Royal Icing for Cakes
I don't ever use this recipe, it's just nice to have around if I need it. Instead of using powdered meringue, it uses raw egg whites. I'm not afraid of doing this at all, I just don't know how well I'll like the taste because I personally hate the taste of meringue. So, if you wanna give it a shot, make sure you use pasteurized eggs to avoid food poisoning. This is the classic royal icing recipe that most pastry chefs use rather than my modified recipe using powdered meringue and corn syrup.
- 4 pasteurized egg whites
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with a hand mixer until frothy.
- Add the sugar, small amounts at a time, until the mixture becomes shiny and stiff peaks form. This will take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the strength of your mixer.
- Fold in the vanilla flavoring until well incorporated.
- Store the icing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Watch Ann Reardon Teach You to Make Marshmallow Fondant
This is All for Now
So those are my most often used mediums and some recipes for each of them. How you approach your design is going to be up to you, your taste, and what you're wanting to achieve. I use all these recipes regularly and can repeat them at will when I need to. When you start making your own mediums, you'll become so accustomed to it that you won't even need to look at the recipe in order to execute it flawlessly.
If this article is well-received, I have several more medium recipes in my Rolodex head arsenal that I'll be more than happy to share with everyone. Happy baking and rock on!