Everyone's Facebook feed right now is a combination of the same 15 Tiger King memes, a steady stream of coronavirus-related conspiracy theories written by the dumbest guy in your high school, and 10-item lists of people's unpopular opinions. The 'Unpopular Opinion Game,' as some posts call it, is an opportunity for people to share their true feelings about a lot of low stakes subjects, by finally revealing that they don't care for contemporary architecture, children's soccer games, or ketamine.
Thanks to my own unyielding anxiety and nonstop middle-of-the-night scrolling, I've seen literally all of those posts. Everyone's 'unpopular' opinions have been surprisingly uncontroversial, but maybe we're all trying not to actively make things worse. Regardless, I was surprised that no one mentioned either hating fondant icing or loving it— and the latter might be the less-popular option.
Rolled fondant seems to have become a requirement for every single cake that has been baked within the past decade, possibly because of all of the cable-channel shows and TV food competitions that focused on elaborately decorated specialty desserts. "Definitely after Cake Boss became popular, there was a surge in interest," LaDawn Stuben, the executive pastry chef at Liberty Market in Gilbert, Arizona, said. "I also think the cake decorators on Instagram have influenced consumer choices in the direction of over-the-top cakes."
But as great (???) as a fondant-smothered Christian Louboutin shoe cake looks on Pinterest, part of the problem with that particular icing is that it's only slightly more edible than one of the actual shoes. "I think the texture is disgusting," Stuben said. "It has so much gelatin in it, it kind of coats your whole mouth. It feels like something you shouldn't swallow, like chewing gum."
The disconnect between the way rolled fondant looks and the way it tastes has prompted some social media backlash, especially on Reddit. There have been r/OutOfTheLoop and r/AskReddit threads that ask why Redditors hate fondant so much, and there's an entire 130,000 member subreddit dedicated to loathing it. r/FondantHate was established because of an increasing dissatisfaction with other baking communities that seemed to focus on cakes that photographed well instead of the ones that, you know, were actually enjoyable to eat.
"Yes, we know it looks great, but it tastes like bland, sugary Play-Doh, and that's just not OK by us," r/FondantHate's wiki explains. "We love delicious cake, hence why fondant angers us so MUCH! We believe the primary focus should always be TASTE with extra respect being given if one manages to make it beautiful as well. Fondant draws you in with its beauty, only to feed you LIES!"
As a result, the sub features a combination of fondant cakes that are derided for their lack of flavor, and pictures of baked goods that were decorated with alternative icings, like buttercream. Despite being repulsed by the idea of eating fondant, a lot of posts on the sub do begrudgingly acknowledge the cakemakers' skill—the site describes those creations as "the literal ATBGE," an abbreviation for Awful Taste But Good Execution—and its rules forbid any personal attacks on the bakers themselves. Yes, perhaps rolled fondant tastes like a melted spatula, but bakers don't use it because of its flavor profile.
"I don’t find that taste is the most critical aspect of a fondant cake," Anne Lanute, the Senior Lead Chef Instructor at the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts said. "For me, texture and consistency in fondant is king. Fondant, while it is edible, was intended to be peeled off the cake before eating anyhow. If the cake has ample alternating layers of cake and filling, then you are not sacrificing taste for aesthetics."
Lanute compared fondant to the "fuzz on a kiwi fruit," because although it can technically be eaten, most people choose not to. And, for that reason alone, it shouldn't be compared to other kinds of icing. "I do think that some people assume that fondant is a stand-in for buttercream, when it is not," she said. "It’s not that they are in competition, either. They serve very different purposes! Fondant is not used to enhance or compliment the flavor of a cake. Fondant is there to provide a particular aesthetic, while also serving to protect and preserve the cake and filling."
As long as Instagram and Pinterest exist, though, we probably won't be spared the pictures of cakes that look like muddy monster trucks or unintentionally coked-out Pokemon. And in the internet's version of a self-fulfilling prophecy, all of those viral pics will continue to translate into real-life demand for desserts that are less delicious than they could be.
"People are also very impressed with you if you can decorate with fondant," Stuben said, adding that she prefers to use buttercream, chocolate, fruit or edible flowers on her own creations. "I think it sets an expectation in people's minds. Cakes are for special occasions, and do you even love your kid if their cake doesn't have a fondant unicorn horn on it? Get ready to pay for that kid's therapy!"
Now I lowkey want a fondant unicorn on my birthday cake this year. Is that an unpopular opinion? I honestly can't tell anymore.