by Sharon Wee

I wrote a blog post a couple of months ago about why fondant gets sticky or sweaty. In the process of doing that I realised I also get many people who struggle with the total opposite, fondant that cracks. I see these issues with cake decorating classes that I teach all the time.

First of all if you have not read the original blog post about why fondant sweats, let me repeat the most basic part.

What is fondant? What is fondant made from?

Fondant (or “ready to roll” icing) is a sugar-based dough used in cake decorating. The single biggest ingredient in fondant is sugar which helps it set firmly and seals in the cake underneath.

Why does my fondant crack or have elephant skin?

Aside from sugar, there are other ingredients that make up fondant. This can vary from brand to brand, but it usually will consist of water, glucose, gum and/or gelatine. There needs to be the right ratio of wet to dry ingredients in order for you to end up with a nice pliable dough. Too much liquid and you will get a fondant that is very soft right out of the package. Too much gum or dry ingredients and you will get a fondant that is dry, crumbly, or rubbery.

Ideally, with a good brand of fondant, you want it to be a nice pliable dough. Not too soft, not too rubbery, but just right.

What is “elephant skin” fondant?

Elephant skin is when your fondant appears to look like elephant skin – cracked and wrinkly. Elephant skin is usually an indication that your climate is way too dry or that you are not working quickly enough. This is caused by the top layer of fondant drying and forming a skin (like a crust) and then you trying to move it. Moving it will cause that top layer to stretch and crack or wrinkle.

Your fondant should not look like this!

Your fondant can be cracking or have elephant skin for various reasons:

Cause Solution
The Brand of Fondant Every brand of fondant is different and every person has their own opinion. Some bigger brands include Bakels Pettinice, Satin Ice and Massa Ticino. Just remember that price is not an indication of quality. It is important to find a brand of fondant that suits you. Certain brands are formulated for particular climates and might not suit your climate. If in doubt, try a small pack first. Knead it, roll it out and move it around to see if it is a good match for you.
Old Fondant If your fondant used to be fine and you only recently noticed that it is dry and cracking, it could be that the fondant is old and has been exposed too much. Try to purchase small packs or wrap any unused fondant in cling wrap and then a zip lock bag. If it’s not too dry, you can try kneading in a bit of Crisco or modelling chocolate to bring it back to working consistency.
Climate If you live in a dry climate, you will struggle with the lack of humidity. In this case, you might need to consider a humidifier OR learn to work a little faster to prevent the fondant from drying out so quickly. You can try kneading in a bit of Crisco or modelling chocolate to give you a bit more working time.
Timing If you take too long to work with or roll out the fondant, this can cause it to start drying out and cracking when you move it. Learn to work a little faster! Or you can try kneading in a bit of Crisco or modelling chocolate to give you a bit more working time.
Too much added icing sugar or cornflour By far the most common thing I see is people using a lot of icing sugar or cornflour when kneading out the fondant. Kneading in large amounts of dry ingredients will change the consistency of the fondant and dry it out. Resist the urge to use icing sugar or cornflour when kneading or colouring your fondant. Work quickly and if the fondant gets a little soft, just let it ‘rest’ for 10 minutes before using it.
Whenever possible you want to notice your fondant is dry before it goes on the cake

But my fondant is already on my cake and it’s got cracks and elephant skin! What do I do?

In this case, you have 2 options:

  1. Take it off – If it’s really bad and you don’t have any decorations to cover it, your best option might just be to peel it all off the cake and start again.
  2. Patch it up – If the cracks are minor, either place some decorations on the area, or create a sloppy paste by mixing the fondant with water until it becomes a paste. Apply the paste over the cracked areas. Then dampen your finger and use it to wipe over the area to blend it in. This will work like grout and fill in all the cracked areas.

I hope you have found that useful. Don’t forget to read Part 1: Help! Why is my fondant sweating?

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