Using Rolled Fondant
Rolled fondant, also known as sugarpaste or pettinice, describes a pliable sheet of icing that can be treated much like unbaked pastry dough. It can be rolled, shaped, and draped over a cake. If a stiffening agent is added to the fondant, it becomes gum paste or flower paste, which can be molded into flowers and other 3D decorations.
Rolled fondant makes a desirable cake coating because when applied with the proper techniques, it gives you a flawless, smooth covering which can then be used as the perfect canvas for your cake decorations. It is tricky to master the technique of applying fondant and even the experts may not get a perfect coating, but in theory, rolled fondant should give you a coating that has no seams, cracks, or lines. Of course, as always, the experts well know how to cover up imperfections with decorations and the like.
To apply a smooth fondant coating, the surface of the cake must be well-prepared, since any imperfections will show beneath the surface of the fondant, ruining the perfection of the final product. Start by leveling the cake. Then glaze with simple syrup or melted jelly and allow to dry until tacky. Next, the cake is prepped with a thin, 1/4 inch layer of buttercream frosting. This coating should be as smooth as possible, fill in any nooks and crannies, and level out any small bumps. When the cake is as smooth as you can possibly make it, allow this smooth crumb coating to dry and harden. At last, your cake is ready to be blanketed with fondant.
Pliable And Smooth
Dust a large work surface with confectioner's sugar. Take a quantity of fondant large enough to be rolled out to cover your cake. Knead this piece of fondant until it is smooth and pliable.
Measure the top and sides of your cake, add the two measurements together, and then add an inch and roll out the fondant to just this diameter. For example, an 8"x4" round cake will require that you roll your fondant out to a diameter of 17" (8" across, 4" up one side, 4" down the other side, plus 1")
Use a regular rolling pin to roll out your fondant. Use your hands to lift and move the fondant as you roll until you have a piece of fondant that is rolled to a uniform 1/8" thickness. Sift on more confectioner's sugar as needed to prevent the fondant from sticking. If the fondant begins to dry out, knead in water, one drop at a time, just until the fondant is once again pliable. The finished sheet of fondant should not be sticky or dry and should be a breeze to lift and manipulate without fear of cracking or tearing. All rolling pin marks should be smoothed out.
Carefully lift the fondant and drape it over your rolling pin. Some prefer to lift the rolled fondant with two hands. Drape it loosely over the cake.
Begin to smooth the fondant from the top, moving outward and down the cake's sides, taking care not to fold or crease the fondant. Your efforts should shape the fondant to the surface of the cake. Long fingernails are a danger to the surface and any marks made can be difficult to smooth. Tuck or trim away excess fondant with a pizza wheel or very sharp knife and let dry before decorating. Imperfections can be hidden with decorative piping or edges.