In the culinary arts, the word fondant can refer to one of two types of sugar-based pastes used in preparing and decorating cakes, pastries, and confections.
What Is Fondant Icing?
Poured fondant is a sweet, creamy paste that can be used as a filling or icing for pastries such as éclairs and Napoleons. Poured fondant can be made from nothing but sugar, shortening, and water. High-ratio shortening imparts extra creaminess.
Sometimes corn syrup or glucose is used, too.
How Fondant Is Made
First, the shortening is melted, which can be done in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl, along with any desired flavoring ingredients. Then confectioners sugar is stirred in, followed by however much water is needed to get the right consistency. Then it's merely a matter of heating it and stirring it repeatedly until it's neither too runny nor too lumpy. Additional sugar can help thicken it, and water can help thin it until it's pourable.
Once cooked, cooled and stirred, fondant can be used for making candies, or it can be thinned out and either poured over cookies and other baked items, or the items may be dipped into the fondant.
What Is Rolled Fondant?
Rolled fondant is almost like a very sweet dough. Like poured fondant, rolled fondant is made from confectioners sugar, corn syrup, and water, to which is also added glycerin, shortening, and some sort of gelatin.
The gelatin is melted over a double-boiler and the corn syrup and glycerin are stirred in. If coloring is being added, it goes in here as well. The liquid ingredients are then stirred into the confectioner's sugar, in much the same way that eggs are added to flour to make fresh pasta.
Once incorporated, the fondant is kneaded like bread dough and then rolled out flat into sheets which can then be colored and used to decorate cakes.
Rolled fondant is not cooked, and in general is less palatable than poured fondant, although it does give cakes a nice, smooth look.