Sunday, May 27, 2012

Buttercream or Fondant? Which is Best For A Summer Wedding?

Buttercream icing

When I started making cakes back in the late 1980's, fondant was rarely spoken of. It was primarily used in England, or British influenced countries, to cover fruitcake as a wedding cake. It was not until Martha Stewart fell in love with the the smooth porcelain look of fondant did it become a regular thing here. Cakes with fondant appeared in the pages of Weddings and not soon after onto the cake tables at weddings across our land.

Up until that point we mostly decorated with buttercream, or when pressed, whipped cream. It was the type of frosting that kids like me grew up with, and it was the only thing we equated icing to. There are several different types of buttercream, and not all are that gritty, "hurt your teeth" variety that you get from the corner bakery. In fact, our buttercream is as light as a whipped cream, but holds up far better.

Somewhere along the line someone suggested that Fondant is a better answer for a warm summer wedding, due to it's inability to melt compared to it's buttery cousin. Immediately this set me into a tailspin for two very good reasons.

The first reason is that I come from a "food eating", rather than a "food looking at", background. As pretty as fondant is- and I admit I do love the look of it- dense sugar paste does not make my belly sing. It's super sweet and dense, and most people don't care to eat it.

The second reason is the better reason.

When it comes to the durability of a wedding cake, the ambient temperature of the environment is indeed important. A room that is kept at a typical temperature, say, 70˚-75˚ makes for a very comfortable place for the cake too. And that's exactly how it is. If the room is comfortable for you, it's comfortable for the cake. If you're having a garden wedding in July and the temperature reaches the upper 90's, well darlin', you've got bigger problems than just the cake! Unless you plan on making your guests melt into puddles, you would be offering air conditioning.

Fondant icing

Now... let me also say this. Say you are having a wedding in a warm environment and decide to have fondant to stave off any concerns- let me tell you how fondant really behaves. First off, it's not impenetrable. Fondant is sugar, and sugar is extremely hydrophyllic- this means that it attracts moisture. How that effects the cake is that on a hot and humid summer evening your fondant can get nice and sticky. It also does not protect the insides from the effects of warm weather either. I've heard disaster stories of fondant cakes that bulge and sag from the insides of the cake melting and losing structure on a languid and beastly hot day. (NOT our cakes mind you!)

So again- you would need to keep the cake in a comfortable environment- and if you're going to do that? Then why not use buttercream? It's far more delicious, and in many cases, just as beautiful. We make a meringue based buttercream with real butter, that is divine. It enables us to make an elegant, off white color cake that can stand up to higher temperatures very well. At 80-85˚ it's not at it's best, but it will not collapse, and it will be deeelish.

Of course, there are instances where fondant is necessary. Certain designs such as our Quilted design require fondant, and if you prefer the look, by all means- I agree, it's beautiful, but if you're choosing one over the other because of the season- forget it.

I promise, it will be fine.

And if it is overly warm? Then simply keep the cake in the fridge until about 2 hrs before serving. You can have them place the cake just before your guests sit for dinner and it will be perfect by the time you cut it.

buttercream icing with fresh flowers


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