Fondant vs. Gum Paste: Understanding the Key Differences

Fondant vs. Gum Paste: Understanding the Key Differences

Written by: Dennis Reinhardt

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Time to read 4 min

Fondant and gum paste are two important materials in the fascinating world of cake making that cake decorators often get mixed up. At first glance, these two sweet pastes may look alike, but they are not the same and are used for different things. It's important to know the differences between fondant and gum paste if you want to get good results when you bake and decorate.

Fondant: The Smooth and Versatile Choice

Cake artists love fondant as an icing because it is smooth and can be used in a lot of different ways. Fondant has a soft, dough-like texture and is mostly made up of icing sugar, fat, water, and edible gums. This makes it perfect for covering cakes, giving them a smooth, shiny finish that's great for wedding cakes, birthday cakes, and patterns with lots of small details.

One great thing about fondant is that it can be rolled out very thinly and draped over cakes. This method makes it possible to get a smooth, porcelain-like look that can be improved by painting, texturing, or adding other artistic elements. Because fondant is soft and easy to work with, it can also be shaped, molded, and cut into different patterns, like simple flowers, ribbons, and textural accents, to make cakes and cupcakes look better.

However, fondant's ability to bend and stretch makes it less useful for creating complex, three-dimensional shapes and figures. Even though fondant can be shaped and molded, it might not be stable enough for ornaments with a lot of details or that stand alone.

Gum Paste: The Rigid and Detailed Medium

Gum paste, which is also called sugar paste or flower paste, is harder and dries faster than fondant. Composed of a blend of ingredients including powdered sugar, gelatin, water, and gums like tragacanth or tylose powder. It doesn't have any fat in it like fondant does. Because it doesn't have any fat, gum paste dries quickly and stays in its shape very well.

Because it lasts a long time, gum paste is the best material for making very complicated and detailed cake designs. Because it can be rolled out into thin sheets, it can be used to make sugar flowers, lace, ribbons, and other fine filigree elements. Decorations and centerpieces made of gum paste can look amazingly real, like they are made of porcelain even though they are made of gum paste.

Gum paste is also great for building architectural features like buildings, fences, and columns on cakes because it doesn't break easily. These decorations can be very light while still being very strong. This makes them perfect for cakes that need to be shipped over long distances without losing their pattern.

The time it takes for them to dry is a big difference between fondant and gum paste. Fondant stays soft and bendable, but gum paste dries quickly and turns into a hard, candy-like substance. Because gum paste dries quickly, decorations made with it can keep their complicated forms without the need for internal support structures that are needed with fondant.

When to Use Fondant and When to Use Gum Paste

Use Fondant When:

  • Covering cakes for a smooth, polished finish

  • Creating small, flat decorations for cupcakes and cakes

  • Designing decorations that don't require a high level of stability or intricate details

Use Gum Paste When:

  • Crafting sugar flowers, bows, and other delicate, lifelike decorations

  • Constructing three-dimensional figures, architectural elements, or other structural cake toppers

  • Requiring a medium that can hold its shape and be rolled into thin, detailed layers

The Best of Both Worlds: Combining Fondant and Gum Paste

Both fondant and gum paste have their own benefits, but bakers and artists have found that mixing them together can make the best of both worlds. If you mix fondant and gum paste 50/50, you can get the smooth finish and flexibility of fondant as well as the strength and stability of gum paste.

This mixed method lets you make complicated, three-dimensional decorations that keep their shape and features while still being flexible enough to cover the cake smoothly and blend in with it perfectly. This method is commonly used to make figures. The gum paste gives the figurines their shape, and the fondant gives it the softness and malleability that the maker wants.

How to Keep Fondant and Gum Paste Fresh

Fondant and gum paste will last longer and be easier to work with if they are stored and cared for properly. To keep them from drying out or hardening, both should be tightly wrapped in plastic or put in a container that won't let air in. Most of the time, you can keep fondant and gum paste at room temperature for up to two weeks or in the fridge for longer.

To keep these sweet pastes from drying out, it's important to cover them when you're not using them. Spreading a little veggie shortening on fondant will make it softer, and adding a little water to gum paste if it gets too dry might help it too.

Getting Used to the Differences: Decorating Cakes with Fondant vs. Gum Paste

When it comes to the fun world of cake making, fondant and gum paste are each best used for different things. Fondant is the best choice for making a smooth, polished cake finish because it is smooth and flexible. On the other hand, gum paste is rigid and dries quickly, which makes it great for making detailed, lifelike decorations.

By knowing what makes these two mediums different, bakers and artists can choose which one to use for their project. If you can successfully combine fondant and gum paste, you can take your cake designing skills to a whole new level, whether you want to make a simple, elegant cake or a three-dimensional work of art that will steal the show.

Accept their differences, play around with their unique features, and get the most out of these important cake making tools. Not only will your cakes look beautiful, they will also make an effect on your guests that they will never forget.