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Cake Frosting: Fondant or Buttercream?

Photo by Gallery 9 North

Your guests enter your reception ballroom and their eyes land on your beautiful wedding cake situated underneath a beam of angelic light. They ooh and they ahh but what are they seeing? A cake frosted with fondant or one with buttercream?

Some details in wedding planning are easy to decide on and some are, well, not so much. When it comes to choosing your cake you have several choices to make – round, square or abstract? Chocolate, vanilla or red velvet? Mousse filling or fruit filling? And what the heck is the difference between fondant and buttercream frosting?? Now I can’t help you tell you what flavors taste best (well I can but your taste buds should probably make that decision for you) but I can help you decipher the ins and outs of your two frosting options.

All four of the photos above are cakes that have been made with buttercream frosting. Buttercream is the frosting most commonly used in wedding cakes and is the one that most resembles the frosting you get on birthday cakes, cupcakes, and most frosted items at your local bakery. Buttercream can be dyed to match any color and can take design elements on it such as swirls, dots, etc. Usually buttercream frosting is included in the cost of your cake and not something you have to pay extra for. The downside to buttercream? It is applied to the cake with a pastry knife and therefor can show any flaw or imperfection. If you have seen a perfectly smooth frosting on a cake before it probably wasn’t buttercream. Now I’m not saying that buttercream will give you a messy look (these cakes above look nothing close to messy) but you can’t get the shine and complete flawless smoothness with this type of frosting.

Now these four cakes have been made with a fondant icing on them. Fondant is almost like a sugary play dough, and it’s rolled out in sheets and laid down on top of the cake layers. It can’t stick to the cake itself so a thin layer of frosting, most often a buttercream, is applied to the cake layers prior to the fondant begin laid on. Because this frosting is applied as one whole sheet and not by knife or bakery tool it maintains a completely uniform smooth look, as seen in the examples above. Fondant can be made in any color and can have decorative icing details applied to it. The downside of fondant? Most people aren’t crazy about the way it tastes. It is much more of a paste like layer than a fluffy frosting so the texture and taste are different than what most people are used to. Also fondant is almost always an upcharge so a cake with fondant frosting costs more than one with buttercream.

So there you have the ins and outs of cake frosting. Now go brush your teeth!

Photography credit for the eight cake images above:
Photo 1 – Tracey Buyce
Photo 2 – Out of the Ordinary Photography
Photo 3 – Belathee Photography
Photo 4 – Jessica Patch
Photo 5 – John Seakwood
Photo 6 – Tracey Buyce
Photo 7 – Bob Donlon
Photo 8 – Jessica Painter

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