American buttercream — butter, confectioners' sugar, a splash of milk or cream and a bit of vanilla and almond extracts whipped to fluffy perfection — is my go-to frosting for most cakes.
Buttercream is easy to make, comes together quickly and requires no special equipment. And it's relatively easy to use — apply a thin crumb layer, let that set, then slather it on to your heart's content.
My love of buttercream tends to make me forget about all the other great icings and frostings in the confection world. Fondant — the smooth, pliable icing used on intricate wedding cakes and other confections — is one I love to work with but often forget about.
There are a few different types of fondant, but it's essentially sugar clay, like Play-Doh, but sweet and tasty rather than salty and pasty.
Traditional fondant is a mixture of sugar, water, gelatin, vegetable shortening and glycerol (glycerin). Fondant can also be made with just sugar, water and cream of tartar. And yet a third method — the one I used in the following recipe — calls for sugar, marshmallows, vegetable shortening and flavoring.
You can buy fondant already made, which is super convenient, and ready-made fondant is your best bet if you want dark-colored fondant, such as black. But it's so much cheaper to make it yourself. A 24-ounce package of fondant costs $9-$12, but you can make own for about $1.50 per pound.
It's possible to make this by hand, but I found using a stand mixer to be much, much easier. However, don't use a regular hand-held mixer. The mixture is just too thick and stiff for a hand-mixer to handle.
Rolled Marshmallow Fondant
1 (16-ounce) package miniature marshmallows
1 (32-ounce) package confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting
½ to 1 teaspoon flavoring such as vanilla extract, lemon extract or peppermint extract
¼ cup shortening
Food color paste, as needed, if desired
In a very large, microwave-safe bowl, combine the marshmallows and ¼ cup water. Microwave in 30-second increments, stirring well between each, until mixture is smooth and looks like marshmallow fluff.
Using a rubber spatula, scrape mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Set aside about 1 ½ cups of the confectioners' sugar. Add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, to the melted marshmallows, mixing well between each addition. After you've added all but the reserved sugar, mix in the flavoring and shortening (you can also add coloring at this point if you want your fondant to be single color), and then knead in as much of the reserved sugar as necessary to make a pliable but firm dough. Shape into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for at least 8 hours.
When ready to use, divide fondant into portions. Knead it a bit to soften. If colored fondant is desired, knead in a bit of gel color to create desired shades. Lightly dust your work surface and the fondant with confectioners' sugar and roll to desired thickness, about ¼-inch thick works well for most applications. If the fondant sticks to your work surface or to the rolling pin, dust it with a little more sugar.
Cut and shape as desired. Re-roll scraps as necessary. Fondant will keep for 1 to 2 months in an airtight container at room temperature. Do not freeze or refrigerate it.
To make a "glue" for sticking fondant pieces together or for adding decorations such as candy eyes, heat about 1 tablespoon of the fondant with about ½ teaspoon or so of water in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Stir until smooth. Brush or dab a small amount onto the candies or the fondant you want to adhere.
Makes about 3 pounds fondant — more than enough for 24 cupcakes.
Food on 10/23/2019