Buttercream vs. Fondant cake

Buttercream cakes

Buttercream is one of the most common icings and frostings for cakes and cupcakes. Some buttercreams like Italian, Swiss, or French are meringue (egg) based, while American buttercream is essentially whipped sugar and butter (or shortening, in which case I would suggest you reconsider your choice of bakery, unless for dietary restrictions).

Meringue based buttercreams offer a silky smooth mouthfeel; the buttercream will melt in your mouth. American buttercream may have a coarser texture and depending on whether shortening was used or not may leave a residual film that will linger in your mouth.

But what about the look?

Having a cake that is all covered in buttercream has advantages and disadvantages. Based on my experience and knowledge here is a short list of pros and cons:

PROS:

  • Silky soft texture on the exterior of your cake. Some textured looks are possible only with buttercream, like a smeared look or swirled, or even marble look, as long as the color of your cake allows for it.
  • Melt in your mouth feel and no gummy, chewy texture. If you or your guests have previously tried and aren’t particularly fond of the chewy texture of fondant, then buttercream is the way to go.
  • Affordability. Compared to fondant cakes, making a buttercream cake requires less hours and less labour, so they cost less than an equal size fondant cake.

CONS:

  • Exposure to elements. Heat, moisture, or even people can easily damage the appearance of your cake. A slightest touch on the cake will leave a mark.
  • Colour. Flavoured buttercreams are naturally a colour that may be different from what you want. If you want a chocolate cake, you will not get a white cake! (or any other colour you may want). There are ways around it of course, but that will depend on your bakery, and it may also cost you more.
  • Style. Buttercream cakes tend to look more rustic. Depending on your event it may not be a suitable look for you. If you have a luxurious & elegant wedding, buttercream may not be a good option.

Fondant cakes

Fondant is one of the most used icings for decorated cakes. Depending on your bakery, the fondant may be made from scratch or bought, which is what most professional cake decorators do. There are many brands of fondant; therefore different tastes and textures. Some are very aromatic and soft while some are gummier and don’t smell so good.

If you are ordering a cake from a professional bakery or cake artist, chances are they use a high quality fondant that tastes and smells amazing. Even our fake cakes smell delicious because of the fondant we use; believe me, we get a lot of compliments.

But what about the look?

Having a cake covered in fondant has advantages and disadvantages. As a professional baker, I believe the pros far outweigh the cons, but here is a short list for you to consider:

PROS:

  • Look. The smooth and clean look of fondant offers a blank canvas that can be decorated anyway you want. It is the perfect backdrop for sugar flowers, ruffles, sequins, and many other decorative items.
  • Protection. Fondant offers a seal on your cake, so your cake is safe and can sit out for longer periods of time. Specially for weddings and events where the cake is used as a showpiece fondant is the best option.
  • Colour. Unlike buttercream cakes, you can have any flavour and colour of cake on the inside, but have any other colour for the exterior of your cake. Want a chocolate cake but want it white? Not a problem.

CONS:

  • Flavour and/or texture. Some brands of fondant can have a less pleasant taste or texture, and even with tastier fondants you may not like the chewy texture of it. Remember though after cutting the cake, only a small piece of fondant will be on each portion, that an easily be peeled off, so it shouldn’t be too much of a concern. Plus there is still buttercream underneath.
  • Cost. All fondant cakes are first thoroughly covered with buttercream and adding fondant on top is an extra step. It required more labour and also more ingredients so fondant cakes cost more than buttercream cakes.
  • There is no more cons!!!