A tale of two Fondants

By Abhijit Menon-Sen <>

We thought we had plenty of baking powder, but two months of quarantine brownies left us with an empty container. Worse still, I couldn't find any at the only two likely shops within a 20km radius.

I felt sure my fledgling baking career could not survive the prospect of baking nothing but cookies (with the baking soda I still had) for the next several months — but my serene French colleague, who started baking when she was a little girl, was quite unruffled. “Fondant”, she said.

I didn't really know what fondant was, but I had a vague idea that it was used to decorate cakes. But the French fondant is a gooey, delicious, rich chocolate cake that contains no leavening agents. The perfect reward for my poor inventory management.

The starter fondant

Here's the first Fondant recipe I found. The process seemed perfectly straightforward:

So we did it. It was simple. The results were delicious.

The decadent French version

Later, I found a different recipe in French. Both the proportions and the process were different. The same amount of chocolate and butter, but a lot more sugar and a little less flour. The process:

The mixing took a little longer, but the results were out of this world. The cake was beautifully fondant (“melting”) in the centre, and just barely set around the sides. It was delicious the day it was baked, and tasted even better the next morning.

Perhaps it was the altered proportions that made the real difference, but I would like to think the process also helped. If nothing else, starting out by mixing butter and sugar felt more like baking a cake.

Whatever the reason, had I not made the simplified fondant first, I would not have been able to truly appreciate the second version.

As for baking powder, I don't know when we'll be able to buy some again, but for brownies and pancakes, making up the same volume with a third of baking soda and two-thirds white vinegar is a workable substitute.