FONDANT vs. BUTTERCREAM vs. ROYAL ICING: The clash of the pastry titans!

Fondant, buttercream, royal icing… Which is your favorite to decorate your cake? When it comes to decorating, there are clear benefits to everyone. Some love the moldable and malleable nature of the fondant. Others don’t like the taste, and others love the lush taste and texture of buttercream, but consider it a nuisance to work and carry.

Here you will find a brief review of them three so, if you are struggling on which one to use for your next cake, doubts will be clarified.


What is Fondant?

Fondant is a flexible sugar dough made mainly from powdered sugar, corn syrup, and water. The ingredients melt together and then form into a paste, which is somewhat clay-like in consistency. Recipes vary, sometimes including a fat, sometimes using gelatin or melted marshmallows for their unique consistency.


Advantages of working with Fondant

Its main feature, its flexibility, makes the fondant suitable for a variety of decorating techniques. It can be rolled up and used to easily cover a cake and achieve a smooth and polished appearance, creating flat, smooth surfaces. It can also be used to create volume figures and characters that manage to add a high level of customization to a cake. The fondant is ideal for die cutting using steel or plastic cutters, it is easy to use with silicone
molds to make various figures and shapes, allowing us to have a high range of designs and perfect finishes. It is also easy to combine with other materials such as glass or royal icing, sugar lace, dragees, chocolate, achieving different types of finishes, textures and attractive designs.

What you should know about the Fondant

  • Fondant is not suitable for working in a pastry bag.
  • This flexible dough has the property that you can dye it giving it the colors you need to do your job.
  • While it is not extremely difficult to make fondant, it takes much more time and effort than preparing Buttercream, for example.
  • Something very important to keep in mind when working with Fondant is that it can dry out quite easily, causing cracks or tears in the finished product. So it must be stored properly, or it will harden and can no longer be reused.
  • Another advantage is its duration, in general the shelf life of the product exceeds one year, unlike buttercream, which should be spent as soon as possible once it is done.
  • In terms of flavor, many people do not like the taste of fondant. Placing the fondant over a layer of buttercream (a common method of attaching it to a cake) can give the fondant a more pleasant flavor.


What is Buttercream?

Buttercream is a mix consisting primarily of butter and powdered sugar, which come together to form a smooth, creamy consistency. Some recipes include egg whites, it can be flavored and dyed in many different ways, and can be used as both a cake filling and topping.


Advantages of working with Buttercream

Its softer texture makes it easy to use in a pastry bag. This means that buttercream is an excellent way to decorate edges and even make flowers on cakes. It is also very suitable for writing names. Buttercream is made with much more fat than fondant, this can give the fondant a more
exuberant and richer flavor than many prefer.

The formula for making buttercream is very forgiving. If you add too much sugar and the mixture is stiff, you can slim it down with a little milk, cream, or water. If it’s too thin, just add more sugar. It is easy to adjust the buttercream until it has reached the desired consistency.

Buttercream’s rich flavor and texture make it suitable for a variety of flavorings, as varied as fruit puree or peanut butter. This makes it a tasty addition to the top or filling of a cake.

What you should know when working with Buttercream

Due to its softer texture, buttercream may be more susceptible to the elements, such as heat and humidity. Making a crusted buttercream (one that hardens) can help make the buttercream stronger, but it’s still more delicate than fondant. This can also make it stressful and very delicate for transportation.

Even the smoothest, most perfect buttercream will never spread as flat and smooth as a layer of fondant. For some, this makes buttercream the least appropriate cake topping.

Buttercream’s smooth texture also makes it unsuitable for sculpting and crafting consistent decorating figures. It lasts less than the fondant, so it is recommended to do it when filling or decorating the cake. If you have surpluses, it is recommended to store it in an airtight container in the fridge, away from strong odors that can alter the flavor of the buttercream.


What is Royal Icing?

It is a shiny frosting made mainly from egg whites and powdered sugar. It starts soft, but gets hard to the touch.

royal icing

Advantages of working with Royal Icing

You can make decorations in advance that will dry and last a long time. Woven flowers or even homemade splashes can be made ahead of time and used whenever you want. The firm and dry texture makes the royal frosting well suited for decorating cookies and is easy to transport.

What you should know when working with Royal Icing

  • The actual frosting can break. This makes it unsuitable for covering large surfaces (for example, an entire cake) or curved surfaces.
  • Royal frosting is seldom the most nuanced of flavors, with a somewhat mild (but sweet) flavor. It is more thought to make decorations than as a filling or topping, it is ideal for decorating cookies, and to complement decorations on fondant or buttercream.

Do you have a favorite? If you know me, then you’ll know mine is buttercream 🙂 Let me know your questions and comments!

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