How To Make Fondant Stiffer For Modeling


Rolled fondant is a candy clay that you can roll out to cover cakes in a continuous sheet, and it can be also be used in silicone molds or for modeling figures for cake decorations.

Sometimes it can be too soft for modeling, so you’ll need to stiffen it up by adding dry ingredients to it.

There are a few ways to make fondant stiffer, but you’ll need to base it on what ingredients it was made with.


how to make fondant stiffer

What is rolled fondant made of? Understanding the ingredients.

Rolled fondant is usually made from powdered sugar, water, corn syrup, plus either gelatin or a gum for structure.

Fondant sometimes also includes some flavoring, candy clay, and glycerin as other ingredients, and those can make them softer than usual.

Recipes that don’t include gelatin tend to be less stretchy, so it’s recommended to always include gelatin if you’re making fondant to cover a cake.

For fondant that you buy at the store, they usually use some kind of gum like tylose or gum tragacanth to create the elasticity instead of the gelatin, so that’s why commercial fondants act differently than homemade fondant does. 

I’ve experimented with adding tylose to my homemade fondant, but it can make it too stiff, so I don’t add that unless I want to make it into a quick gumpaste.


rolling out fondant
Rolling out fondant

What do the different ingredients do?

Stiffeners:

Confectioner’s sugar, also referred to as powdered sugar, takes center stage in rolled fondant. It’s a finely ground blend of sugar and corn starch. The hygroscopic nature of sugar, meaning it attracts and retains moisture, makes it the backbone of fondant, offering both firmness and flexibility.

Corn starch, the unsung hero in powdered sugar, serves as a flavor-neutral base and moisture absorber. Its role as a drying agent reduces the stickiness of fondant, making it more manageable, particularly when working with silicone molds.

Gelatin is the component that provides structure and elasticity to rolled fondant. Fondant crafted without gelatin tends to be less stretchy and can dry out faster, especially when additional cornstarch is introduced. The exception lies in fondant made with candy clay, where the chocolate or candy content provides unique structural characteristics.

Tylose (CMC) and gum tragacanth are common gum ingredients used in homemade fondant and are common in commercial fondant as substitutes for gelatin. These gums also find application in gumpaste or as a quick gumpaste when combined with fondant.

When incorporated into fondant recipes, these gums contribute to the structural integrity, ensuring the fondant holds together during the rolling process.

You need to be careful with the quantity of gums added, because too much can result in stiffness.

Starting with a small amount and adjusting as necessary is your best bet when incorporating these gums into fondant.


Softeners:

Corn syrup is an invert sugar that acts as a softener because of its water content and its ability to attract moisture.

Glycerin is an ingredient that acts as a softener and something that retains moisture.

Shortening is sometimes used in fondant to add some fat to the recipe, because fat is a softener. I used to make my own fondant and I included some shortening in the recipe.


Optional ingredients and formulas:

Candy clay is an optional ingredient that’s in a lot of commercial fondants. You can mix candy clay into homemade fondant to give it a different texture and flavor, but it will make it a little more sensitive to heat because candy clay contains chocolate and corn syrup. It gives fondant a nice stretch, and it keeps it from drying out too fast, or at all.

Marshmallow fondant is a type of rolled fondant that’s made from marshmallows and powdered sugar. 

If you look at the ingredients in marshmallows, you’ll see that they’re basically sugar, water, and gelatin. So marshmallows plus powdered sugar are basically the same ingredients as a basic fondant recipe.


How to make fondant stiffer.

To make fondant stiffer, you need to add an ingredient that will dry it out based on the formula that was used to make it, and what it will be used for.

If you’re trying to stiffen the fondant to make it easier to use in silicone molds, but it will be eaten as part of the cake, you should use cornstarch because that won’t make it dry out completely and be brittle. If you’re using it to model figures that won’t be eaten, you can use a gum like tylose or gum tragacanth. 

chart of stiffening ingredients for fondant and gumpaste

Adding powdered sugar into fondant to make it less sticky and stiffer is something that doesn’t always work, because kneading powdered sugar into the fondant increases the sugar content, and sugar attracts moisture. 

Because confectioner’s sugar is made from sugar and cornstarch, you can add more cornstarch by itself to increase the dryness of the fondant without increasing the sugar. 

Increasing the proportion of cornstarch to sugar will dry out the fondant without giving it the ability to attract more moisture and soften up again. But adding too much can make the fondant TOO dry, so only add a little at a time.


corn starch
corn starch

Adding a little powdered sugar can help to make the fondant less sticky, but it won’t help to stiffen the fondant in the long run, especially in humid weather. It’s best to use it when you’re rolling fondant out and need to make it less sticky short-term, but it’s not the best choice for stiffening it a lot, or for drying it out long-term.

Cornstarch is a good choice to stiffen fondant without adding extra sugar, and it’s compatible with every rolled fondant recipe because all fondant recipes include powdered sugar. You need to be careful about how much you add, though, because too much can make the fondant start to look dry on the surface, or to form an “alligator skin” on the surface. 

Cornstarch is a good option to use when you’re trying to stiffen fondant that you’re using in silicone molds. It will make it firmer so that it can hold the details from the molds, but it won’t dry it out so much that it dries rock hard. 

That can happen if too much stiffener is kneaded into the fondant because it can take a while for the full effect of the stiffening to be felt.


What to do for the best results.

The key to adding any type of drying agent to rolled fondant is to knead it in to the point where it feels like it’s not QUITE ready, then stop and let it sit for a while. 

Adding a drying ingredient can make the fondant stiffen up a lot when it sits after the kneading-in is done, so it can feel too soft, but it will actually get harder as it sits out. 

Knead the cornstarch in bit by bit, then wrap the fondant in plastic wrap and let it sit for a couple of hours. The fondant will firm up as it sits and the cornstarch absorbs into the fondant.

If the firmness isn’t critical, like for items that are going to be placed on cupcakes or cakes, you don’t need to wait. 

Just knead the cornstarch into the fondant, mold your items in the silicone molds, then place them on a cookie sheet and let them dry. If they harden up as they dry they’ll still be edible, because the cornstarch won’t make them dry really hard. 

When adding any kind of gum to the fondant, you need to be VERY careful about starting with a small amount and letting the fondant rest. Gums will make the fondant firm up a lot harder than you expect, and a little gum goes a long way. Start with a half teaspoon per pound of fondant and let it sit for a few hours to test it before adding more.


gumpaste
Fondant made into a quick gumpaste by adding tylose.

If you add too much gum to the fondant, you can accidentally end up with what’s referred to as a “quick gumpaste.” 

Gumpaste is a sugar clay that dries a lot harder than fondant, and is used to make sugar flowers with thin petals. You don’t want to use it to cover a cake or to make anything that’s going to be eaten, though. 

In addition, if you’re using a commercial fondant, it might already have gums in it instead of gelatin. 

If you add more gum to it, you’ll be doubling up on it and can end up with a very dry, unworkable fondant. 

If this does happen by accident, I would suggest using the too-stiff fondant for making molded flowers or other decorations that can be used on cakes before it hardens up and becomes unworkable.


3D molded fondant teapot
3d molded teapot

Adding a gum to the fondant is best for times when you’ll be modeling figures or using 3D molded shapes that need to dry very hard or that won’t be eaten. 

Adding a gum to fondant will help it to dry faster and maintain its shape when making figures and pieces that need to stand up, or that have individual sections like flower petals. 

It’s a little bit of overkill, though, if all you need to do is to keep your fondant from sticking to your silicone molds. 

It’s also important to pay attention to what the ingredients are in the original fondant before you start adding things to it. 

If you’re making your own fondant you can control what the proportions of each ingredient are, but when you’re using a commercial fondant you don’t know what the recipe was, so you have to be more careful. 


Watch out for special fondant formulas.

I mentioned not adding too much extra gum to fondant that already has gum in it, but you also have to be careful if a fondant has candy clay in it, like Fondarific. 

Candy clay is temperature-sensitive, so you might need to put the fondant in the refrigerator to stiffen it up if it gets soft because it’s too warm. 

You should also be careful to not overwork the fondant because the heat from your hands can warm it up and soften it. 

Adding cornstarch to this type of fondant will dry it out, but the candy clay in it will still make it feel soft if it’s warm, so it can be deceptive. 

Make sure to let any fondant with candy clay in it rest in a cool place to harden up before assuming you have to add more gums or cornstarch to it. 

You can tell if a fondant has candy clay in it by checking for ingredients like hydrogenated oils, milk proteins, or soy lecithin. Those types of fondants will usually also have gums in them, so adding more gum will make them stiffer, and the candy clay component will resist overhardening. 

Before adding the gum, though, try cooling candy clay fondants, since that might be all it takes to make the fondant stiffer.

Another type of fondant is marshmallow fondant, which I mentioned above. It’s basically made from marshmallows that are melted with a liquid and mixed with powdered sugar to form a sugar clay. 

The thing you need to be careful with if you’re using marshmallow fondant is that you don’t have any idea about the amount of gelatin that was used in the marshmallows to begin with. 

This leaves a question about how stiff it will be when it cools off, so when you’re making it you’ll definitely have to wait to see if it needs to be stiffened with additional cornstarch or not.


What to do if your fondant is too stiff.

If you make a mistake and add too much of a stiffener, you might be able to soften the fondant by kneading some shortening into it.

This will make the fondant a little softer, and you’ll have a little more working time with it before it hardens. It will eventually harden up, so work efficiently! 

Working with fondant in silicone molds and for modeling is a balance of having it be stiff enough to hold the shape of the mold, but not so soft that it sticks to the molds. 

Adding a stiffener or a softener can make the fondant workable for your purposes, and help you to make decorations that hold their shape but are still edible if you want people to be able to eat them.


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