From flowers to frills to the alphabet and more, there are tons of fondant and gum paste cutters on the market. So how do we use them to decorate cakes and how do we know which ones to use?
The first big question I hear people ask is, "Can I use cookie cutters to cut out fondant?"
Of course you can! Fondant cutters are very similar to cookie cutters with only a few differences. Fondant cutters sometimes have added details that work beautifully with fondant and gum paste, but that wouldn't show up well on cookies. In addition, cookie cutters are sometimes more flimsy and harder to use on fondant.
There are many different varieties of fondant cutters, but the technique for cutting out fondant is pretty much the same for all of them. As I see it, there are three categories of cutters you should know about: regular fondant cutters, plunger cutters and ribbon cutters.
First, you will want to warm up your fondant by kneading it well. This activates the gums in the fondant and makes it smooth and workable. If your fondant seems dry, add a tiny bit of shortening to help soften it.
I find that when working with small cutters, it is best to use a small mat. This is because your fondant can get very thin or fragile which makes it difficult to transfer onto the cake. This problem can easily be solved by placing the mat in the refrigerator for 3 - 4 minutes to let the fondant firm up. Once it is cool, it will transfer more easily without breakage, stretching or cracking!
So, roll out your fondant, so that it's very thin, almost see through. If you have a fondant sheeter or a pasta machine, now is a great time to use it. Fondant always looks best when it is very fine and not big and bulky on your cake.
There are regular cutters in all shapes and sizes. You can find many sold individually or as sets in craft stores and online. So let's start with how to use those.
Once your fondant is rolled out, choose your cutter and place it on your fondant. Push down firmly, and then move it back a forth just a tiny bit. You do not want to distort the image, but this will help remove the frayed edges off the fondant shape. Once you have your shape cut, you can then pick it up and place it on your cake.
Again, if your fondant cut out is too fragile and you are scared to pick it up, take your whole mat and place it in the refrigerator for 3 - 4 minutes. This will harden the fondant, so the fondant cut out can be transferred more easily! Marina Sousa demonstrates this technique expertly in her Advanced Fondant Techniques class.
Plunger cutters work in a similar way to regular cutters, except that they have a nifty little plunger that can emboss the fondant with a design and push out your fondant shape, so you do not need to use your fingers to dig out your fondant from the cutter. It is a good idea though to use a little bit of powdered sugar to help the fondant release from the plunger.
Press down firmly first without pushing the plunger. Move it gently back and forth to remove the frayed edge.
While the plunger is still on the mat, gently press down on the plunger to add the detail from the plunger. If you do not want the pattern or details, simply lift up the cutter and press the plunger to release the fondant.
You now have a beautiful cut out that can enhance any cake!
Cut outs with fondant cutters do not just need to lay flat on your cake. There are many ways to help bring movement to your cakes, like flowers and other details.
When cutting leaves, I like to take tinfoil and crumple it up, then spread it out so I can lay leaves on top and it gives them dimension and movement. Flowers can be dried in clean egg cartons, sprinkled with powdered sugar, or in plastic paint pallets. Butterflies can be dried over a square cake dummy.
There are many ways to dry fondant cut outs that can bring beautiful details to your cake. Whether you are looking for fondant frills or a fashion inspired look, you can design a beautiful cake to wow your friends, family and clients!
Let's move on to one more type of fondant cutter: a ribbon cutter. These little cutters are great! The cutter on the left changes sizes depending on the width you need simply by adjusting the middle. The cutter on the right is actually an herb cutter I picked up at a grocery store, but it makes great thin ribbons. I have found though that these ribbon cutters also leave a lot of fraying on the edges.
Below is the frayed edge I keep mentioning. It is just not clean and is easily removed, so take a few extra moments and you will love the results!
I have found it very useful to start by cutting out my ribbon with my ribbon cutter, so I have nice parallel lines. And then without moving my fondant, I use my paring knife or X-Acto knife to go back over the edge to cut off all the frayed fondant. This helps to give me a nice clean edge to work with.
With fondant cutters you can let your imagination soar! There are no limits to the possibilities. You can use parts of cutters and combine them with others, you can layer them, emboss them, soften the edges, add extra details and turn your cake into a work of art!