Fondant for beginners: a guide to using sugarpaste

Whether you call it sugarpaste, fondant or ready to roll icing, learn more about how to use, model and store this wonderful product for beginners and professionals alike!  

As a beginner to cake decoration, you can use sugarpaste to cover small celebration cakes, create toppings for cakes, cookies, biscuits and tray bakes, and for modelled cake toppers… the options are endless! Following a few easy hints and tips will make cake decoration easy, fun and enjoyable. 

In this fondant for beginners’ guide, learn how to use ready to roll icing to cover a cake, the basic modelling shapes you’ll need for cake decorations, how to store sugarpaste icing between uses and tips for storing sugarpaste decorations. It’s over to Emma Chamberlain, talented cake artist, confectioner and qualified chef…

Fondant for beginners: a guide to using sugarpaste

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How to use ready to roll icing to cover a cake

There are a few simple steps you should take to ensure you get an even covering on your cakes and bakes. Start by using this handy cake covering guide to work out how much ready to roll icing you’ll need to cover your cake. 


1. When you take the icing out of the pack, knead it against the work surface with the palm of your hand to warm and wake up the gums in the paste. Knead the icing until it’s pliable and smooth over any lines so you have an even surface to roll over. 


2. Prepare the surface of the cake with a smooth covering of buttercream or ganache as an adhesive so that your icing will sit evenly on it.

3. Lightly dust your work surface and rolling pin with icing sugar so the ready to roll icing doesn’t stick. Don’t dust icing sugar onto the top of the icing!

4. Keep the icing moving and rotate it between rolls so it doesn’t stick to the work surface.

5. To make sure you’ve rolled your icing out enough to cover your cake, you can roughly measure the size by holding your rolling pin vertically against the cake, horizontally across the top, and vertically again at the other side for a basic measurement – then compare this to your icing.

6. Once it’s the right size, roll your icing back over your rolling pin so that you can lift it, then drape it gently over the cake so you don’t get any accidental air bubbles. 


7. Smooth over the top of the cake with the palm of your hand, then gently around the top edges of the cake.

8. If you have any pleats, gently unfold these out and smooth down with the palm of your hand, one at a time.

9. Cut off the excess with a sharp knife to give it a clean finish. Hold the blade straight against the side of the cake for a smoother finish. 

Looking for more help? Check out ‘how to cover a cake with fondant’ and follow along with the video tutorial. And if you encounter any snags like air bubbles, unevenly layered cake and torn icing, take a look at ‘cake decorating mishaps and quick fixes’ to learn how to fix them easily. 

Basic modelling shapes for cake decorations

Modelling cake toppers may seem daunting when you plan the figure as a whole, but breaking models down into basic key shapes makes the process easier.


Main sugarpaste modelling shapes

The main shapes for modelling are a ball, a cone or egg shape, an oval, a sausage shape and a rope. Most elements of a modelled figure are made from these shapes, or variations of them, so by starting with the basics you can start to develop your modelling skills from there. 


What to use

For basic modelling it’s great to use Ready to Roll Icing as it’s easy to shape, but if you want something that will set slightly firmer you can try mixing one part Ready to Roll Icing to one part Flower and Modelling Paste, or add 1tsp Tylo Powder per 250g Ready to Roll Icing. Either of these methods will create a modelling paste for you to create some great cake toppers and decorations.


Top tips! 

  • Remember to knead your icing before use so no cracks appear in the surface. That way you’ll get a smooth and even finish on any models that you’re making.
  • Add support to larger models by using dried spaghetti, which helps keep things in place. Use a small amount of cooled boiled water to attach components of the figure together.


Find more basic modelling tips – and if you’re looking to take your sugarpaste skills to the next level, explore cake modelling tools and their uses.

How to store ready to roll icing between uses

If you have leftover icing at the end of a project, or you want to keep your icing fresh while you’re working on the cake, there are a few steps you can take.

  • Only take out of the packet what you need to use at the time.
  • To keep your icing as fresh as possible, wrap the packet in clingfilm and a grip seal bag or something similar, removing any excess air.
  • Put your sealed icing away in a cupboard – do not refrigerate or freeze.


Tips for storing sugarpaste decorations

  • DO store in a cardboard cake box – cardboard is the best type of storage box as it allows air to circulate. Use a cake box so you know it is hygienic.
  • DO NOT store decorations in plastic containers. They can reabsorb moisture from the enclosed environment and begin to ‘sweat’, becoming soft. Use a cake box so you know it’s hygienic.
  • DO store in a cool, dry place – if you’re lucky enough to have a designated space for sugar craft away from central heating, windows, humidity, etc. they’ll be fine to store there, otherwise in the dining/living room cupboard will be fine.
  • DO NOT store decorations in the kitchen as they can become hot and humid with all the cooking and cleaning that takes place. This can cause dried decorations to reabsorb moisture and become soft.
  • DO NOT store decorations in the garage or shed!
  • DO NOT store the decorations next to strong flavours such as spices as these can taint the flavour of the paste. Another reason not to store them in the kitchen!
  • DO NOT leave a finished piece in direct sunlight. The colours you’ve used could fade resulting in a rather washed out, faded look.


Now you’ve got some great fondant beginner tips to get you started, you can take on cake covering and model making with confidence! Why not have a go at learning how to make a fondant bow? Or learn how to marble sugarpaste to create a striking finish! 

Emma Chamberlain is a highly talented Cake Artist, Confectioner and qualified Chef with more than 10 years’ experience gained across the confectionery industry. For eight of those years, Emma worked for the award-winning Slattery Patissier and Chocolatiers based in Manchester, England where she was able to further develop and fine tune her confectionery skills.  Emma currently works for Renshaw in Liverpool, providing in-depth knowledge and expertise to the business, and creating cakes for tutorials and videos for the Renshaw Academy. Find more advice and inspiration from Emma on the Renshaw Academy online hub.

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