This ultimate guide to covering a cake with fondant icing from Geraldine Arnold will help make sure your cakes look as gorgeous as they taste.

The recipe below makes a perfect Victoria sponge cake with exactly the right amount of buttercream to cover it. It's a great recipe to have in your repertoire but the method of covering the cake will work for any cake of your choosing.

Geraldine gets inspiration for her designs from books, magazines, cartoons and pictures sent in from clients – the more creative you are in the planning, the more unique your cake will end up.

Ingredients

For the Victoria Sponge:

  • 175g butter, at room temperature
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 175g self-raising flour, sifted

For the buttercream:

  • 120g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 180g sieved icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or to taste

Method

  1. Heat an oven to 180 ̊C/gas mark 4 (fan oven). Lightly grease two 20cm sandwich tins and line the bottoms with greaseproof or silicone paper.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric whisk or wooden spoon until light and fluffy. Add the beaten eggs gradually. Gently fold in the flour with a metal spoon.
  3. Spread the mixture between two sandwich tins. Bake in the centre of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cake springs back when lightly pressed.
  4. Alternatively, if you want to use a deeper 40cm cake tin, pour the mixture into the prepared lined cake tin. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. 
  5. Turn the cake out of the tins and cool on a wire rack. If using deeper 40cm tins, once the cake has cooled, carefully slice it across the equator into two and then continue on with the steps below.
  6. While the cakes cool, make the buttercream by beating the unsalted butter for a full 20 minutes with an electric whisk.
  7. Add sieved icing sugar gradually while mixing slowly. Add vanilla extract to flavour. (Add lemon juice, coffee or cocoa powder instead of vanilla to create different flavours.) Chill for 20 minutes before use.
  8. When the cakes are completely cool, spread one cake with your buttercream and sandwich the other cake on top.
Image: Harry Weir.

Image: Harry Weir.

To cover your cake in fondant

You will need buttercream, sugar paste/fondant, icing sugar and a cake finished as above

  1. Cover your entire sandwiched cake the same buttercream and refrigerate overnight to harden. Because certain cakes can take multiple days to decorate, fresh cream would spoil and should therefore not be used in or on the cake. Buttercream icing will last, and acts as a crumb hold, protecting the cake from the sugar paste and keeping it moist.
  2. The next step is to cover the cake with the sugar paste. Dust a countertop with icing sugar, then flatten a ball (about two handfuls) of sugar paste your hands on a countertop. You can buy pre-coloured icing or colour it by adding a few dots of gel food colouring to the icing with a cocktail stick. Always start with a little, and add more later if you need to darken the colour. Knead the sugar paste to incorporate the colour throughout, making sure to not overwork the paste or else it will get gritty.
  3. Roll the coloured sugar paste out into a thin layer with a floured rolling pin. Keep turning the sheet, in order to create a round layer that will lay over the cake.
  4. Remove the iced cake from the fridge and smooth out the buttercream with a hot knife to make sure any imperfections will show through. Drape the sugar paste over the cake and flatten on the top, without allowing any bubbles to form. Rub a little icing sugar on the top of the cake – its gritty texture works like sandpaper and smooths the sugar paste. Make sure not to press too hard, but firmly work the sugar into the paste.
  5. To get rid of the fold, work your way from the top of the cake down. Run the flat of your hand along the perimeter, and slowly and firmly smooth the sugarpaste into the cake. The sugarpaste will lay flat, just make sure not to press too hard. Work around and down a little at a time easing the folds out. To remove the excess sugarpaste from the base of the cake, use a pizza wheel to cut the overhang.
  6. Depending on what kind of cake you are decorating, you may want to have a different coloured cake board base. Cover a cake board with a thin layer of sugar paste in the same way you would the cake, and feel free to use textured rolling pins to roll out the paste to create further detail. You will need to brush the board lightly with cooled boiled water before you cover it with the fondant in order to help it stick.
  7. Leave the cake to dry overnight before decorating further. Never put sugar paste in the fridge, as it becomes overly moist and the colours will run. An airtight container will have the same effect, so leave it out in the open or in a loosely sealed cardboard box.

How to roll out and cover a cake with fondant. Image: Harry Weir.

How to roll out and cover a cake with fondant. Image: Harry Weir.

How to trim and press the fondant on a cake. Image: Harry Weir.

How to trim and press the fondant on a cake. Image: Harry Weir.