Should you Frost the Cake with Buttercream or Roll Out Some Fondant?

In the old days, decorating a cake always meant using buttercream frosting.  It was used as the crumb coat and then again for frosting the cake, smoothed out for a nice finish and decorated in buttercream as well.

Smoothing the frosting was usually done with a wide rounded knife or spatula and a glass of hot water.  The knife would be dipped into the hot water and used to smooth out the frosting on the top and sides of the cake. Then it was nice and smooth and after it dried a bit, it was ready to be decorated.  

If it was a wedding cake, the sides would be adorned with things like strings piped in drapes, lattice work, swirls, ruffles, etc.  Then the edges would be covered up with a nice shell border or shell dots or a number of other choices, and then another border along the bottom edges.

These buttercream cakes can be so beautiful because of all the beautiful detailed work that the decorator can put into them.  They were and still are a work of art!

But nowadays, I see most decorators using fondant.  Not very many decorators use the regular old frosting technique anymore.

Don’t get me wrong…I’ve seen some really nice cakes made with fondant and they can be very cleverly done.  You can get bright colors with fondant for sure, but often times, these cakes look like a child could do it, you know?  I mean, it’s not as hard to cut out the shapes and stick them on the cake, as it is to pipe the decorations on.

Decorating a fondant cake starts out like the buttercream cake with the crumb icing, but then the fondant is rolled out and placed on top of the cake, smoothing it down and around to the sides, leaving a nice smooth looking finish.

Fondant is nice for decorators, with that smooth finish, and after all, it’s easier than getting a smooth finish with buttercream.  But often times, the customer doesn’t like the taste of the fondant.  It reminds me of eating hardened marshmallow creme.  It’s very sweet.  And for people eating the cake, most prefer the taste of good old buttercream frosting.

From a decorating perspective, the fondant leaves the edges at the top of the cake very rounded.  And as a result, decorators have quit adding the nice borders to on the edges.  These borders just aren’t needed with a fondant cake, since there are no edges to cover up. But they look like something is missing to me.  Don’t they?  If you like a plain looking cake, that’s okay too….it’s all a matter of personal opinion.

Buttercream decorating is done with tips and parchment paper bags, you make yourself with triangle shaped parchment paper.  You wrap the triangle paper around your hand making the “tube”, cut off the tip and insert the metal decorative tip of choice.  Then add the colored frosting and start decorating, by squeezing the frosting out through the tip and creating artistic decorations.    Before fondant, this method was done for almost all of the decorations.

Today, for a fondant cake, the decorations are usually made with fondant or modeling chocolate.  It is colored, rolled out, cut out, or molded into different shapes and sizes.  This type of decorating, doesn’t take a whole lot of skill and doesn’t create the oohs and ahs that the old fashioned decorated cakes used to get.  Sometimes they do, yes…but just don’t I don’t see it.  I mean, where is the artistic value?  Where is the respect for the decorator who had aching hands from squeezing the beautiful designs onto the cake for hours?

The fondant cake is usually very plain looking and is missing that special touch….that artistic skill that it takes to create.  I would much rather see the old fashioned method of frosting the cake with frosting, smoothing it out nicely and decorating the whole cake with tips and parchment bags, the old fashioned way….the way cakes are meant to be decorated.  And I’d rather eat the buttercream!!

I get so happy when I see a decorator who still decorates cakes the good old buttercream way.  But those that don’t offer buttercream cakes….well….it’s just sad.

So c’mon decorators…don’t let piping buttercream frosting die!!  Learn the skill along with your fondant skills and give your customers the choice!

Let us hear from you.  How do you feel about fondant cakes?  How do you feel about buttercream decorated cakes?  Don’t let them disappear America!  We’d like to hear from you!