Ask the Chef with Chef Dana: Buttercream or Fondant?

It's that time again Munaluchibrides! Chef Dana is back this month with another installment of "Ask the Chef."  This month, he's exploring Buttercream and Fondant. Which do you like best?  Which should you choose for your wedding cake? Read below and tune in to the video to get his top tips.

Buttercream versus Fondant

As a Cake designer and Pastry Chef, I get asked all the time.  What's better?  Fondant or Buttercream?  This is perhaps one of the toughest questions we face in a cake consultation.   Buttercream versus fondant is like David versus Goliath.  On one hand I can show you a fondant cake that will blow buttercream cake out the water.  Yet then again I can show you beautiful buttercream piping and detailing that smoke a fondant cake.  To better understand which medium is better, we have to start with the make up of each one.

Buttercream is one of the oldest types of icing for cakes.   It's been made all sorts of ways, but the common ingredients are butter, sugar, and vanilla.   The American version typically uses shortening instead of butter.  It's characterized in other countries as grease cream.   Swiss Buttercream has a meringue in it.  The egg whites and sugar are warmed and the whipped.   Italian Buttercream uses a meringue and the sugar has been cooked to 256 degrees.    My preference is the Italian Meringue buttercream as it melts nicer on the tongue.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Buttercream
The main advantage is better flavor.  A we done buttercream tasted better than fondant.  The texture is softer and its pipe able.  The disadvantages of buttercream is that it is more susceptible to the heat and extreme temperature.  It also a fat based covering so it will absorb any Flavors it comes in close proximity to.

Fondant has greatly increased in popularity over the last 10 years.  Largely due to its extensive artistic abilities and vivid colors, fondant has revitalized and changed wedding cakes forever.  Fondant is made of water, gelatin, confectionery sugar, and a few other ingredients depending upon the brand.  There are many brands out there however there are only a few with superior elasticity and flavor.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Fondant
The advantage of fondant is that it starts out as a buttercream cake.  All fondant cakes should be buttercream cakes with layer of fondant over it.  Anything less is not a quality fondant covered cake.  Fondant is moldable.  It can be shaped, smoothed, texturized and imprinted.  It also accepts color very well. The disadvantage of fondant is that all brands of fondant age not created equal.  Off brands crack easily due to poor elasticity or dry very hard.  Off brands may also not have the best flavors.  Excellent fondant should have a buttery vanilla flavor.  It should have great elasticity without tearing and accept color very well.

My personal recommendation are fondant cakes.  They are the best of both worlds.  They are delicious buttercream cakes covered in a beautiful artistic medium and they photograph exceptionally well.  The next time you visit your favorite baker, check out the buttercream and fondant and you be the judge .


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