Serving beautifully decorated cakes indoors requires some work and planning, but once the cake is safely transported to its destination your work is largely finished. Outdoor events can be more stressful, because conventional buttercream icing is easily affected by heat and sunshine. If a cake will spend time outside, especially for a lengthy event such as a wedding and reception, rolled fondant is a better option.
Fondant is made by cooking sugar and then kneading it as it cools to a specific temperature. This forces the sugar to form very fine, pliable crystals, and the result is a sort of dough-like icing that's as easily manipulated as modeling clay. It lacks the rich flavor of buttercream icing, but cake decorators cherish fondant for the beautifully smooth, perfect surface it gives a cake. It's rolled like pie crust, except with powdered sugar sprinkled over the work surface to prevent sticking rather than flour. Professional decorators use special silicone rolling pins with an extra-smooth surface for fondant.
Fondant offers several advantages for cake decorators. It seals cakes as capably as plastic wrap, keeping them fresh for days. Its pure white tone is attractive on its own, and also accepts colors beautifully. However, for outdoor use, its durability can be the major benefit. Unlike conventional buttercream icing, fondant contains no fat. That means it isn't prone to melting and losing its shape on hot days, as buttercream sometimes can. This can be a significant factor over a period of hours. A fondant-covered cake can ordinarily last all day at an outdoor function, until it is cut. After that, the cut surfaces should be covered to keep the cake from drying out.
Fondant's stability doesn't mean that a fondant-covered cake requires no care when it's displayed outside. Fondant is heavy, so the cake requires a stable base, and it should be placed on a table that's both level and completely steady. If wasps and other sugar-loving insects are plentiful in your area, keep the cake in a screened-in gazebo. Fondant is also very susceptible to humidity. In humid conditions, a fondant-covered cake will become sticky. If you're in a hot and humid area, keep the cake shaded as much as possible or keep a fan nearby, and avoid touching it unnecessarily until it's cut. If rain is a possibility, shelter the cake under a portable gazebo or other cover.
Cakes with creamy or custard-based fillings are always popular, but avoid perishable fillings if you're keeping your cake outside for most of the day. Like any other perishable food, perishable fillings are only safe for up to two hours out of the refrigerator. If you're making your cake ahead of time and you live in a hot and humid area, you might need to keep your cake in the refrigerator to prevent the fondant from becoming sticky. Condensation will form on the cold cake when you take it out, so place the cake in front of a fan or air conditioner as it warms up. This will help keep it dry until your event begins.
- The Professional Pastry Chef; Bo Friberg
- Baking 911: Types - Frosting or Icing, Fillings and Glazes
- Photo Credit George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images