Why Is Fondant So Polarizing?

Even Duff Goldman hates fondant. The affable Food Network star who parlayed his Baltimore bakery, Charm City Cakes, into a decades-spanning career including 10 seasons of the hit series "Ace of Cakes," declared in 2012, "I hate fondant. I don't like eating it," while likening the clay-like cake icing to banana peels, "They look nice. They don't taste good. Same thing with fondant. It's there to look pretty" (via Eater). Ironically, the fondant Duffman professes to hate is the same substance that made him a household name on "Ace of Cakes." It's a dicey love-hate relationship, and he's not alone.

As Food & Wine observed, prior to the rise of television food programming, especially reality competition shows, the very idea of fondant icing hadn't even made a dent in the collective consciousness of mainstream bakers. At-home bakers were perfectly happy with buttercream frosting and maybe an occasional ganache before Goldman and his ilk showed us what they could do with fondant. Consider Goldman's intricate made-from-cake depiction of R2-D2, the lovable robot from the "Stars Wars" franchise (via Mashed) or the cake replica of the DeLorean from the "Back to the Future" movies he created for the "Ace of Cakes" series finale (via Eater). All of sudden, even a three-tier almond layer cake with raspberry filling and buttercream frosting is looking simple by comparison, but we bet it tastes better than the DeLorean.

It's a love-hate kind of thing

The divide is real. There's even a 230,000-member strong Reddit community for "people fighting against the fad of beautiful cakes that taste awful." Their mission? To call out playdough-like fondant while promoting traditional cake icings. According to Food & Wine, the group is particularly incensed by the use of fondant to create stunning renderings regardless of taste. And they're particularly opposed to pre-made fondant — sugar, water, oil, and stabilizers — used by some commercial bakeries.

Even Brides has an opinion, or at least advice, for engaged couples who may be swept away by the level of perfection fondant icing lends to intricately decorated wedding cakes. The legacy guide to wedding planning turned to Melanie Moss, co-founder of Brooklyn-based bakery Mini Melanie for expert advice. Moss, who described fondant icing as "super sweet with a pretty good bite to it," told Brides the upside to choosing a fondant-iced cake is the malleability it gives bakers to create the lacy ruffles and intricate designs that give wedding cakes a wow factor. The downside is its clay-like texture and the sugar-forward zing that can be off-putting. Interestingly, Moss told Brides some wedding cake designers advise removing the fondant before serving the cake.

Hmmm. That brings us full circle to the love-hate relationship fondant icing triggers among cake bakers and cake eaters. It may look great, but it doesn't taste great — and we want a gorgeous cake that tastes like heaven on earth.