Fondant vs. Gum Paste:
When to use. . .
I usually see things in black or white - right or wrong - ask my opinion and I will give it to you. With that being said, sometimes there is no correct or clear answer - but I will definitely voice my thoughts. After making cakes and teaching for two decades - one of the most common questions I get asked in the classroom is:
When do you use Fondant versus Gum Paste?
Pay attention because I am going to help all of you new artists out there to easily answer this question using my favorite medium - cake!
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
You can see the list of ingredients but the TWO ingredients that are most important to understand are: Glycerine (only in fondant) & Gum Tragacanth (a natural gum but similar to tylose in both). These two ingredients are the reason why fondant and gum paste behave so differently.
Will really never dry all the way through - it will crust a little - but if you cover your cake/cupcake with it you will be able to bite through with no problem. Think of it as pie dough BEFORE it is baked. Fondant dries on the outside first while the middle stays chewy.
TIP FROM ELISA: If you find your fondant dry you can always add a bit of glycerine and it will help to add some elasticity
Is dough that rolls out very smooth - just like fondant. BUT you can roll it much thinner - without it tearing - and it will dry very, very hard. So if you want your sugar flowers to dry beautifully thin and hard, you are better off using gum paste and do NOT add glycerine.
EXAMPLES OF USE
You can use fondant to cover a cake, cupcake, cookie, cake pops, even brownies and marshmallow krispie treats. It can also be used for ANY decoration that does not need to be WEIGHT BEARING, (i.e. heel of a shoe, handle on a handbag, ears on a bunny), any two-dimensional decoration cut by hand or with cutters, from silicone molds and more. I tend to use more fondant on cakes where I know the “clients” are too young to order the cake themselves.
All examples of cakes covered in fondant and all decorations can be made of fondant as well (below).
- The clasp on purse.
- All items on popcorn (stripes and kernels) can be made from fondant.
- Nesting doll cake - (not weight bearing) - entire cake cane be decorated in fondant.
Now here is where I make a big confession, I LOVE gum paste! You know when you start taking lessons at something and you are really BAD… but then you get into the rhythm and you realize there is hope for you after all. Well that is exactly what happened to my cake decorations when I learned of gum paste.
Sure you can make stripes and polka dots with fondant but with gum paste you can roll the dough SO MUCH thinner, it won’t break and it will allow you to straighten the edge without leaving any indents from the tools or your fingers. Gum paste allows your creations to pop out of molds easier. It allows you to cut straighter letters and make curly cues.
Gum paste is my choice when making:
- Anything to look realistic - like metal dog tags (below)
- Buckles and grommets on hand bag cake
- Sugar decorations that need to dry hard (i.e. chopsticks - below)
- An object that needs to stand up on the cake (i.e. shoes, ribbons, little characters, sugar flowers - below)
To help you better visualize when to use Fondant or Gum Paste - I will use my Animal Safari Cake (below) that I made for my second cake decorating book, Confetti Cakes for Kids.
- Covered bottom “box” and top “lid” (Both made out of cake)
- Covered base
GUM PASTE ONLY
- Loop Bow
- Tissue paper
ELISA’S PREFERENCE FOR GUM PASTE
- Figurines (monkeys, giraffe, elephant)
- Polka dots
- Beads at bottom of cake
- Palm tree
THE BOTTOM LINE
Remember how I started this post? Well as you can see there is NOT a 100% accurate answer. You will find people that use fondant and gum paste interchangeably - but believe me there is nothing like true gum paste. My cakes are cleaner and more accurate because I use gum paste! As an artist, I prefer gum paste because it doesn’t dry too fast, it is malleable enough to sculpt figurines, (like my little safari animals), and it dries fast enough to get clean lines, stripes, letters and ribbons on a cake.