I hate fondant. Or, rather, I hated fondant. Until I made my own. And yes, I think that's crazy, just like you do. But a fondant cake was non-negotiable, and a good tasting cake was non-negotiable. Fondant is basically just a sugar dough, so I knew there must have been a version out there that tasted good. I went to research.
There are two main types of homemade fondant. The first is 100% from scratch, and it involves having glycerin and corn syrup and all sorts of other things. I was not into that. I mean, I'm making my own wedding cake--I ain't got time for extra complication. So, I went for the easier (and, from what I hear, tastier) "semi-homemade" version: marshmallow fondant.
And that word, "marshmallow" is the key to why it's actually delicious. The fondant is honestly just marshmallows and powdered sugar, and as Ina Garten says, "What could be wrong with that?" But making it takes a bit of practice and a bit of guesswork. So let's go through it a bit.
The first thing that could trip you up is simply melting the marshmallows: don't burn them. I use the microwave because I'm efficient (or lazy), so just throw it on in 30-second spurts, stirring in between. Obviously, this is some sticky business, but water is an easy solution to that. A tablespoon of water poured down the side of the bowl easily separates the sticky melted mess. And then it's time for the mixer.
The key in this next step is to keep the mixer on low. Unless you like wearing powdered sugar. Personally, I find it inconvenient. But, to each his own. Also, quick note: for my black version, I used onyx, or black, cocoa powder, to give my fondant a head start on its darkness.
This is where a lot of the art comes in. Like bread, you need to look more for texture and monitor the behavior of the dough to know when it's done. Keep adding powdered sugar until it gets more tacky than sticky, mostly pulling away from the side of the bowl, but still a little sticky (you can add more powdered sugar when finishing it off by hand.
This is where the particular recipe I found differs from what I tried in the past: fake fondant! The first fondant recipe I had was 100% marshmallows, shortening, and powdered sugar, and when I went to cover my test cake, it wouldn't stretch. It was difficult to roll out, and it tore all over my cake. By adding in pre-made fondant, it gives it that easy workability you'll only find in something fake. But it's not enough fake to A) affect the taste, or B) creep me out.
After you knead in the fake stuff, start to work the dough by grabbing a hunk and pulling and stretching it, then folding it back in on itself. If you've ever seen anybody make taffy (say, on a beach boardwalk somewhere), then just follow their lead. I have a feeling that does something like activate some sort of elasticity of some compound in the marshmallow/sugar combination, but I have no evidence to prove that. Just trust me.
When it's sufficiently stretch, not sticky, and it's smooth, it gets a coating of shortening and thrown in plastic wrap. The cool thing about fondant is it's shelf-stable for a year (or more!), so do it in advance and just let it hang out -- always have some fondant on hand.
makes 40 ounces
1 pound MINI MARSHMALLOWS (use the store brand)
2 pounds POWDERED SUGAR
2 tablespoons WATER
1/2 cup SHORTENING
1 1/4 pounds PRE-MADE FONDANT (I use Wilton Decorator Preferred)
FOOD COLORING (optional)
1. Pour MARSHMALLOWS into a microwaveable bowl (plastic is best) and melt in microwave in 30-second spurts, stirring in between spurts
2. Spoon the WATER into the bowl to easily remove the melted marshmallows, and transfer to a mixing bowl fitted with a dough hook -- add FOOD COLORING at this stage, if using
3. Add the SHORTENING to the mixing bowl and turn it on low
4. Add half the POWDERED SUGAR, one cup a time, until the mixture is smooth and no lumps of sugar are visible; continue adding the rest until the fondant starts to release from the sides, but is still tacky
5. Microwave your PRE-MADE FONDANT for about 30 seconds until it's soft and pliable
6. Grease your hands and pull the fondant off the hook, then knead in the pre-made fondant
7. When combined, pull and stretch the fondant until it's soft and pliable, but still holds a shape (add more sugar if needed)
8. Roll the dough into a ball, lightly coat in shortening, wrap in plastic wrap, and store at room temperature in a Ziploc bag