How to Choose Between Fondant and Buttercream for Your Wedding Cake

It all depends on the look you're going for.

minimalist white two tier cake with small swivel sprig
Photo: 2Brides Photography

There's just something special about the wedding cake. It's the center of attention (when guests aren't looking at the bride and groom, of course!), something guests look forward to all day long, and always a work of art. But choosing a wedding cake isn't always so simple; in fact, there are a number of choices to be made, from cake flavor to filling to design, but none seem to confuse a couple more than the classic question: "Fondant or buttercream?"

Not sure which route to go? Fear not. We asked two experts to share everything you need to know.

What's the Difference?

Buttercream is, quite literally, butter and powdered sugar that has been mixed together to form a creamy substance. A basic buttercream has only vanilla flavoring; some bakers like to add shortening in addition to butter to give the frosting a stiffer texture. Fondant, on the other hand, is a thick, dough-like product that is rolled thinly and placed over a cake; it provides a smooth surface for decorating and is made of sugar, water, and corn syrup, and occasionally marshmallow. The end result is a texture close to taffy.

What's Ideal?

Both buttercream and fondant have their specific uses, though a good number of bakers have the ability to use them interchangeably. If you're looking for a more simple, understated design, buttercream is your best choice. Amie Pagan of It's a Sweet Life Bakery says, "A more rustic cake with textured finishes can be done with buttercream." She also recommends buttercream if you desire the look of fresh flowers and not a lot of detail. Jennifer Punch, owner of Confection Perfection, also says texture should be a deciding factor when considering buttercream or fondant. "Textured cakes are really popular right now," she said. "The brides aren't looking for the really smooth look. Therefore, they are choosing buttercream so they can get that textured look."

Many couples, however, want a very detailed cake. It's almost impossible to do intricate designs or fancy stacked cakes with buttercream. So, if a large, stacked cake is what you're after, Pagan and Punch agree that fondant is the better choice. "I do have a personal preference for the look of fondant, because it does allow you to be more detailed in your finishes and design," Pagan says. "It has an overall cleaner look and lends to a stunning cake."

Punch adds, "Fondant is best for cakes that are larger and stacked on top of each other. It adds lots of stability for stacking multiple tiers on top of each other."

What About the Taste?

"Most of my brides come in a little leery over using fondant because they fear their guests will not enjoy it," says Pagan. This is a common fear, but if you choose a great baker who has experience working with fondant, this fear should be unfounded. Fondant is usually rolled very, very thinly and placed over a layer of not only cake but also buttercream or ganache. That way, guests get the best of both worlds: They get to look at a beautiful design but also enjoy a traditional creamy texture. Some bakeries use buttercream-flavored fondant, while others use fondant accents instead of covering the entire cake.

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