If you’re making small figures or molding decorations for gingerbread houses, you have a lot of options as far as edible clays go.
Two of my favorite types of clays to work with are candy clay (like Tootsie Rolls) and fondant, and you can even mix them together to get a hybrid that has different properties.
These are the basic differences between candy clay and fondant:
Candy clay (also called modeling chocolate or chocolate plastic) is made from corn syrup and either chocolate or candy melts. It’s pliable but not stretchy, gets softer as it’s kneaded, and it doesn’t really dries out since it can be re-kneaded to reconstitute it. Fondant is made from powdered sugar, gelatin or gums, and corn syrup. It’s less heat-sensitive and sweeter because of the high sugar content, it stretches and drapes, and it dries out when you leave it uncovered.
Both types of edible clays have limitations, and they’re best for different things. They can also be combined to make a clay that does dry out but not completely.
|Made from chocolate and corn syrup.||Made from confectioner’s sugar and other ingredients.|
|Tastes better than fondant because of the chocolate content.||Sweeter than candy clay, a lot of people don’t like the flavor.|
|It can be kneaded to make it pliable, but too much heat can make it melt.||Kneading makes it pliable, not as affected by heat as candy clay is.|
|Never really dries out, but it can get dry with time.||Dries out and forms a hard surface if left out in the air over time.|
|Gets stiffer as it cools off and softer as it heats up.||Texture isn’t affected with temperature changes.|
|Good for making flowers and small figures, but heat can make them melt.||Okay for making flowers, but you can’t get it as thin as gumpaste, another type of edible clay.|
|Good for paneling on large areas.||Difficult to roll out large pieces and move into place.|
|Good for modeling because of the oil content, and it can be smoothed out with the heat from your fingers.||Not as good for modeling, usually needs an added gum to make it stiffer, and it can lose the shape before the figure sets up if the fondant is soft.|
|Not as good for draping unless the sheet is warm and pliable.||Better for draping, but it can stretch out of shape.|
What is candy clay used for?
Candy clay can be used for modeling figures, making flowers with individual petals or with molds, or for covering large areas. Since candy clay is oil-based and is made mostly of chocolate or candy melts, it’s sensitive to heat, and can be manipulated and smoothed out with the heat from your fingers or hands.
I used to use candy clay whenever I needed to make figures, because it’s easier to model and manipulate because of the chocolate in it.
I also made flowers with candy clay if the weather was going to be mild or cold, because heat will soften it. If it’s too hot, and the petals are too soft, the flowers can basically melt.
You can use candy clay to make patterned sheets to drape over things in a gingerbread house. This wedding cake has a tartan drape on it that was made with candy clay stripes applied to a larger piece.
Candy clay is good for this kind of thing because it won’t stretch while you’re positioning it, but it also needs to be warm enough to bend. If it’s cooled off and too cold when you try to drape it, it can crack instead of draping.
Candy clay can also be used to roll out large pieces to cover a roof or a wall, and since it won’t dry out like fondant, you can let it cool off then pick up the whole piece and put it on the gingerbread house.
Candy clay can still dry out and get grainy if you leave it to cool off and then try to bend it, so you’ll need to heat it up to soften it before trying to bend or form it over a shape.
When modeling chocolate cools off, it can have a leather-like appearance, so it’s good to use for specific things that need that smooth look.
I made this dog cake using candy clay for the shirt and the fur, and you can see how it looks like a shinier surface than fondant usually does. The fur was made with a garlic press by pressing the candy clay through it to make short length that I pressed onto the cake with a clay tool.
Candy clay is oily, so it’s easier to stick to itself by smoothing it together, but it also has a stiffness that keeps its shape. It works well in silicone molds because it holds the shape and details well.
(To shop for silicone fondant molds, visit my website here: A Cake To Remember)
You can also paint it with luster dusts, and the oils in it will grab the dust and give you a good shine.
The biggest benefits of candy clay are that it’s more malleable, you can smooth it out onto itself, you can dust it for a good shine, and it works well to cover large areas without stretching while it’s being moved into place.
The drawbacks are that it doesn’t have the stretch that fondant does, and it needs to be warm enough to bend without cracking if you try to drape it.
What is fondant used for?
Fondant is mostly used for covering large areas with a continuous sheet of icing, draping pieces that look like fabric, and molding pieces to make details to add designs to the house. Fondant is made from confectioner’s sugar and either gelatin or a gum, and that gives it a stretchiness that makes it good for manipulating pieces into place.
Fondant can be used for modeling figures, but unless you add an extra amount of gum to it like tylose or gum tragacanth, it might be too soft to hold the shape of the pieces.
You also can’t smooth fondant out with your fingers the same way that you can with candy clay. Pressing on fondant will create dips in the surface that can ruin the smooth look.
Molding fondant can work, but since it’s stretchy if it’s soft you might have to add a little tylose to it to stiffen it up so that it will hold the shape of the mold. If it’s too soft it can lose the details of the mold.
You can use silicone molds to design your gingerbread house, like this one with the details around the roof.
The downside of using fondant is that it’s soft, and it can stretch as you’re trying to position it in place.
The other side of the stretchiness is that you can manipulate the fondant into place if you have to by stretching it a little to cover the surface.
Another downside is that fondant is really sweet because it’s mainly powdered sugar, and a lot of people don’t like the way it tastes. That’s not a big deal if it’s not on a house that’s going to be eaten, though!
To get the best of both types of edible clays, you can combine them in equal parts, or use a little less of the candy clay than the fondant, to get a stiffer clay that still has some stretch to it.
What can you use a combination of candy clay and fondant for?
You can mix candy clay and fondant together by kneading to make a stretchier, better-tasting version of fondant. It will have more of a stretch than candy clay by itself, but it will also be a little more “plastic” and will be more smoothable by hand.
I loved using a combination of candy clay and fondant when I did cakes because you could easily cover a cake with it, but you could also use clay tools to model textures and smooth out seams.
The half-and-half can also be painted with luster dust and the shine will be better because of the higher oil content in the candy clay.
I used a mixture of candy clay and fondant on this stack of books cake to get the look of leather-bound books, and to give me a surface that could be dusted with the gold for metallic details.
There are commercial fondants that have some candy clay in them to give them a little extra stiffness. Some of these are Choco Pan and Fondarific. Both of them are good options for using a fondant but also having the benefits of the candy clay.
To make your own candy clay/fondant mixture, just knead equal amounts together until they’re incorporated smoothly.
You can also start out with a smaller amount of candy clay and increase it until you get to the texture you want. Remember that as the mixture cools off, it will get stiffer, so don’t overdo it at first!
The more fondant, the softer and stretchier it will be. The more candy clay, the stiffer it will be, and the thinner you’ll be able to roll it out.
How to color a mixture of candy clay and fondant.
Since fondant is mostly oil-free (some recipes have some shortening in them), and candy clay is oil-based, different types of coloring will work better for one or the other.
Sometimes oil-based food colorings will work better for the combination of candy clay and fondant, but you can also use powdered food coloring or a regular water-based food coloring.
If you color the corn syrup before you make the candy clay, you can use water-based food coloring, but if you wait to color it until afterward you might have to use candy colors that are oil-based.
Mixing candy clay and fondant can also help you to manage what colors you have because you can start with a colored version of either and combine them to get close to the color you want.
It’s basically good to have a few options on hand because sometimes one kind of color won’t disperse correctly in whatever the mixture is, so you might need to try a different one to get a smooth color.
Candy clay and fondant can both be used for similar purposes, but they do have different properties. If you know the differences you’ll be able to choose the right one for the type of decoration that you need, so that it will come out the way you’re imagining it will.
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