When a food critic turns the poison pen on herself

Flirting With Disaster May 17, 2008

Filed under: Wedding cakes — crummb @ 10:32 am
Tags: ,

LET it be put on record that my very first wedding cake was a disaster of volcanic, Mount-Pinatubo proportions.

G was getting married, and he was very brave to let me – a complete novice – bake his wedding cake. How hard could it be? I have a great recipe for a butter sponge, so I’d use that. I also have a dead-delicious recipe for mousseline buttercream, so I’d use that too. I’d just wing the decoration.

It wasn’t until G told me he wanted a three-tier cake covered in fondant sugarpaste and pink polka dots – no doubt to befit his funky, set-the-dancefloor-on-fire reputation as a partying king – that reality set in. I’ve never handled fondant before. It might be tricky.

So a week before the big day, I set about making a full-dress-rehearsal cake. The three tiers of buttery sponge cake were done without too much fuss. But the fondant.

First, the packet of ready-made fondant I bought required lots of kneading. Then, when I rolled it out, it stuck to the table. Then, when I re-rolled it, it was too thin. Finally, when I’ve covered all three tiers of the cake with it and stuck on the polka dots, the nightmare truly began.

The fondant surface started taking on this eerie sheen, like my face on a hot day. Slowly, it started sliding down, and down, and down, until it gathered like a skirt at the ankles of a randy schoolgirl. The polka dots, too, gave way to gravity and became forlorn, lifeless blobs of oval.

The only thing that kept me from descending into a, well, meltdown was the number of this bakery owner I know. I had written plenty of articles about his cakes before. He should be able to make me a wedding cake on short notice.

What followed over the next few days was a flurry of SOS e-mails to pastry chefs, food writers, even my baker Ah Yee back in Sabah, on how to fix that friggin’ fondant. Advice included adding more icing sugar, rolling it out thick, and chilling the cake overnight in an air-conditioned room to harden the fondant. But out of all this came the best tip that I was to go on to heed: Make your own (Thanks, Chris!).

I followed a recipe by Rose Levy Beranbaum, which required even more kneading. Huffing and puffing, I thought to myself, who needs the gym? Making fondant is as much a work-out as jogging. In fact, like jogging, you’d need to wear a support bra too. Same same.

Beranbaum’s fondant is easier to handle, and – best of all – it tasted way better than store-bought versions. Despite the yucky additions of gelatin and glucose, it tasted somewhat like the white filling in Oreo cookies.

But not that I was expecting people to eat it. Fondant, to most bakers, is just a decorative medium. It’s 95% sugar, so it’d be far too sweet to eat it along with the cake and filling underneath. So imagine my surprise – and slight horror – when I spotted a few guests peeling it off and chomping on it at the wedding. Man, they’d better brush their teeth that night.

The cake, by the way, turned out really well. The fondant held up beautifully and I’ve since declared Rose Levy Beranbaum as my new best friend. If there are lessons learnt from this foray into fondant, it is this: Roll it out thick (at 5mm), and blast the air-con.


18 Responses to “Flirting With Disaster”

  1. ms Says:

    NICE! 🙂

  2. Chris Says:

    Yay! Cake looks great! And I concur, I do my best to avoid making fondant because of the whole support bra thing.

  3. this sexy mama can knead my dough anytime!

  4. wordsmith Says:

    can one have more than a wedding cake at the wedding? *idea idea*

  5. zann Says:

    i actually ate the fondant on the cake you baked me! is that a fox pass? and didn’t brush my teeth after that! horrors!

    just out of interest: are we supposed to just leave blobs of the fondant by the sides of our plates? it seems so…i dunno…unsightly.

  6. Ah Pei Says:

    Wow ! REally nice cake you have made ! Way to go !!

  7. rachescakes Says:

    Your cake turned out really pretty, especially for a first attempt! If you are willing to share the fondant recipe, I would LOVE to have it, rachescakes at gmail dot com.

  8. crummb Says:

    Thanks, everyone!

    zann: My lurve, it is a bigger fox pass to not finish my cake!

    rachescakes: Hello! Actually, you can find the recipe on Just do a search for “beranbaum” and “rolled fondant”. This saves me from typing it all out for you 🙂

  9. Hoi Says:

    bellisimo bellisimo! now u make me want to get married just to get one of those beauties!

  10. skipdaddyG Says:

    I didn’t know you went to all that trouble just to make us a wedding cake! It’s G btw and my heartfelt gratitude goes out to you. The cake was lovely and my wife and I chomped through the whole thing…fondant, yummy butter insides and everything on our wedding night…YUM! No wonder I stacked on 10 lbs overnight! Nevermind, it was worth it. Thanks times 10!


  11. crummb Says:

    Kudos to you for letting me make my first real wedding cake! No way I’m ever gonna forget this one 🙂

  12. Cookie Says:

    My wilton fondant also develop the sheen within an hour… I thought fondant supposed to harden when exposed to air? Strange agh.

    • crummb Says:

      it would harden in temperate countries where the air is drier. but in singapore – especially where i live where there’s a lot of green and it’s SUPER humid – the sugar in the fondant absorbs moisture from the air and becomes sticky. but i’ve sorted out this problem with fondant. buy pre-made!! Massa Ticino is really amazing. won’t melt and super elastic 🙂

  13. jeanie Says:

    Oh can you please help me??

    My sister’s getting married in the first week of Jan, and I’m supposed to make her wedding cake. I’ve been trying to make the fondants, but they always melt 😦

    Do you happen to have the contact no. or the full address of the Massa Ticino distributor at Defu Lane? I’ve been googling it, and can’t find anything 😦

    • crummb Says:

      hi jeanie, you’ve come to the right place! the distributor is:
      Focus Network Agencies
      87 Defu Lane 10
      #02-03 MEC Technocentre
      Tel: 6858-1800 (best to call beforehand to order – a 7kg tub costs $63)

      hope the wedding cake goes well. send some pics! i wanna see! 🙂

  14. Andrea Says:

    Your write up on Flirting With Disaster | Crummb is good as well as well thought out.

    I definitely will be back to read through your posts.

  15. I am regular reader, how are you everybody?
    This article posted at this web site is truly

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