When To Use Gumpaste Vs. Fondant On Your Gingerbread House

Using gumpaste and fondant on gingerbread houses can be a quick way to cover large areas with a sheet of rolled icing, and can also give you a lot of options when you’re creating smaller decor items. Deciding between fondant and gumpaste isn’t too difficult if you know which each one is used for.

Rolled fondant is an icing that is used to cover cakes with a continuous sheet of smooth icing, and it can also be used to model larger pieces. Gumpaste is a similar recipe to fondant, but it contains fewer softeners and more gums to make it dry harder. It can be rolled out thinner than fondant, and can be used to make smaller, more detailed items.

When you’re choosing between the two, remember that fondant is generally softer and takes longer to dry, while gumpaste is stiffer, dries quickly, and is harder than fondant.


What’s the difference between fondant and gumpaste?

As a general rule, the difference between fondant and gumpaste lies mainly in how much gum is in the recipe. Both types of sugar clay can have ingredients that give them stretch like glycerin and gelatin, and others that give it strength like the gums. The proportions in each formula are what create the different workability of each type of clay.

This fondant has candy clay in it so it will stay soft!
This fondant has candy clay in it so it will stay soft!

Fondant is softer than gumpaste.

Since fondant doesn’t dry out very quickly, it will stay soft enough to cut through when the cake is cut. It’s traditionally used to cover cakes because it gives you a smooth surface to decorate and can still be cut days later.

Fondant usually doesn’t have any gums in it, but some vegan varieties rely on gums to give them some stretch since gelatin is usually what does that.

Fondant that has gums in it is usually a little stiffer than fondant with only gelatin. Adding gums like gumtex or gum tragacanth into fondant will make it into a gumpaste substitute that cake decorators refer to as a “quick gumpaste.”

A lot of store-bought fondant uses gums instead of gelatin, so they have a different pliability than homemade fondant.

There’s also a variety of fondant that you can make or buy that has some candy clay in it, so it’s pliable but also soft. This kind of fondant can’t really be made into a quick gumpaste by adding a gum to it because the candy clay won’t let it set up and dry the same way as regular fondant.

Any time that you add a gum to fondant, it will be stiffer and it will dry harder. So experimenting with different combinations of fondant and gumpaste until you find one that you like working with is a good idea.


For another article about how to use fondant on a gingerbread house, click here.


Gumpaste can be rolled out thinner than fondant.

Real gumpaste can be made with different proportions of ingredients to give it different workability qualities, but it relies mostly on whatever type of gum is in it to make it workable.

Since the gums are what give the sugar clay strength, gumpaste can be rolled out a lot thinner than fondant without tearing.

It can also be used to make more precisely detailed items because it will hold its shape and won’t soften and settle when it’s drying.

Gumpaste flowers

In cake decorating, gumpaste is used to make decorations like flowers that need to have thin petals that dry hard and keep their shape. Fondant is used to cover cakes to create a smooth surface to decorate, because you usually can’t make it as thin as gumpaste for making flower petals.

You can use fondant for making flowers, but it just won’t look as delicate as gumpaste because you generally can’t get it as thin.

If you try to cut gumpaste, it will shatter because it dries really hard, and you can’t cut through it without breaking it.


When to use rolled fondant on a gingerbread house.

Rolled fondant can be used on gingerbread houses to cover large areas with a continuous sheet of icing. This works well on the roof to create a snow-covered appearance, or on the board that the house sits on to make grass or snow.

You can also use fondant to make small molded or hand-modeled decorations like bushes or stone walkways.

Fondant tends to be on the soft side depending on what recipe you use, or whether you buy it pre-made. (For an article with four of the fondant recipes that I used when I was a professional cake decorator, check out my cake website here: How To Make Fondant: Four Recipes From A Pro)

Since fondant has more softening agents in it than gumpaste does, it usually takes longer to dry out, and it can slump as it’s drying if it’s not supported.

If you want to make delicate or thinner pieces, or things that need to dry quickly, gumpaste might be the better choice.


Tylose is a gum that can be added to fondant, or used to make gumpaste.
Tylose is a gum that can be added to fondant, or used to make gumpaste.

When to use gumpaste on a gingerbread house.

Gumpaste can be used on a gingerbread house when you want to make decorations that are smaller or that need to be three-dimensional and stand up off of the house. Because gumpaste dries hard and dries quickly, you can use it to make details like window curtains, flowers, and architectural details that extend off of the house.

Gumpaste can also be rolled out very thinly and cut into shapes like bricks or paver stones.

Because gumpaste can be rolled out a lot thinner than fondant without tearing, you can use it to make details that look like fabric, or cut out thin strips to use for things like the slats on window shutters.

Fondant can be used for these things too, but it’s harder to roll it out really thinly without stretching it when you try to move it if it isn’t dry.

Gumpaste doesn’t stretch as much when you move it around if it’s still wet, and it holds together without tearing when it’s thinned out better than fondant does.


What to use for different gingerbread house decorations.

FondantGumpaste
Large areas of solid color (roof or lawn)Small molded items
Molded items like flowers3D elements that need to extend from the house (decorative trim, railings, shutters)
Items that need to have texture applied or cut into them (bushes, trees)Fabric-effect items like curtains, tablecloths, or blankets
Flat coverings for pieces like doors or walls that need to have bricks or board patterns imprinted onto them.Items that need to be thinner and more delicate
Stones and rocks in the yardThings that need to dry hard
Things like shingles that need to be thin and stiffer than fondant when it dries
Elements like window sashes and doorframes

Kara

Kara is a former wedding cake decorator who has won numerous awards for her cake designs and gingerbread houses. She currently owns a cake decorating supply business at acaketoremember.com

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