When I was on maternity leave and not making cakes, I thought I’d write a series of blog posts about some of the equipment and gadgets I can’t live without and write some reviews on new items I’ve tried recently. First review I decided to write was on The Mat which I bought just before I went on maternity leave. Here is my first impressions review which I wrote after the first time I used it, and then a more current update after several months of use.
The Mat is made by a cake decorating company called Sweet Wise in Nashville. They market it as “The Ultimate Fondant Application System”. The Mat consists of two 30″ x 30″ sheets of food safe vinyl made in the US. Basically the way it works is you roll out the fondant in between these two vinyl mats then peel off the top layer and flip the bottom layer with the fondant stuck to it onto your cake to cover it.
I bought The Mat because I was having trouble rolling out fondant for my larger cakes. My rolling out board just wasn’t big enough now that I had made the adjustment to 4″ high cakes instead of 3″ high cakes (see blog post Sydney Style vs London Style of Cake Decorating). I couldn’t find a board any bigger than the one I have, but after some Googling I came across forum mentions of The Mat.
What intrigued me about The Mat is that it works in a similar way to a silicone pastry mat, but has an additional top layer. This prevents dust and little fibres from getting into your fondant and also stops it from drying out. When rolling out a big piece of fondant I often have trouble with it drying out as it takes so long to roll it. Plus, with a baby pending, it’s nice to know you can stop in the middle of rolling out, walk away to attend to your child, then come back without having to worry about your fondant drying out. Sweet Wise also claimed that keeping the fondant fresh and moist would help stop tearing and ripping, which is another problem I’ve been having recently along the top edge of my fondant. After watching the tutorial video online, I decided to buy The Mat and give it a go.
Straight out of the tube, The Mat must be seasoned with Crisco or similar. That was done easily enough by wiping down the insides of the vinyl sheets with a small amount of Crisco and a paper towel. I did that and was ready to cover a cake.
I kneaded some fondant till it was nice and soft then flattened it slightly and put it in between the 2 vinyl mats. Sweet Wise recommend using a rotating rolling pin so I used that and tried their “starburst” pattern of rolling. This is where you just use the last quarter of the pin to roll outwards from the centre in a starburst shape rather than up and down. It did work reasonably well, but I felt it was a lot harder to get an even thickness this way. So I switched it out for my 20″ non-stick acrylic rolling pin using the up-and-down rolling method, which is how I usually roll out fondant. But it felt a lot harder than usual to roll out this way using The Mat. Then I discovered I could hold the pin still and just push it up and down rather than roll it, and this seemed to work a lot better for me. Though I got a lot of static shocks from the vinyl which was annoying. I didn’t take any photos during my first use of The Mat, so I have added some photos of a recent small cake I covered.
After rolling out the fondant I peeled the top vinyl mat off and flipped the fondant onto the cake using the bottom mat.
Peeling the mat off the fondant was surprisingly straight forward and it came off very easily.
I then secured the top by rubbing it with my hand, then started to rub the edges down starting from the top as per the tutorial video.
However, I found that I still had problems with tearing on the top edge of my fondant. I also noticed that there were a lot of little holes (pock marks) and creases in the fondant. I hadn’t seen this as the side that goes face up on the cake is the bottom of what you were rolling out and I hadn’t checked it. I was very disappointed but decided to persevere and try again for the next cake.
I found this time I didn’t have quite enough fondant, but adding extra was so easy because of the moist freshness of the fondant in between the vinyl sheets. The extra lump of fondant I added to the middle blended in without any lines or creases. I also flipped the mat over this time after rolling out to the required size and gave it a bit of a going over, then peeled this side off so the side I had spent most of my time smoothing was now going to be face up on the cake. This worked a lot better, and it was a near perfect finish! I also rolled it out slightly thicker and this time there was no tearing.
Sweet Wise promises that The Mat gets better once it’s broken in after a fair amount of use. I have now been using it for a few months. At times I felt like giving up on it because I kept getting pock marks and creases, but I persevered. I’m glad I did! I got better at using The Mat each time, and it definitely makes a difference after many uses. It starts to become softer and more broken in so it’s easier to roll up to store in the tube without getting any creases in it. I now use it for covering all my cakes. It’s been great since having the baby to be able to leave it in the middle of rolling out when I need to see to my child.
There are still occasional pock marks, I have to be very careful of this and sometimes peel the top mat off and roll straight on the fondant with the rolling pin to get the creases and holes out. And there is still some tearing of the top edge of the fondant which is very disappointing as I like to roll my fondant out nice and thin. I can only avoid this by rolling a bit thicker than I like to. The static shocks however did go away after about 10 uses. I do find it easier to use a rotating rolling pin with The Mat so for smaller cakes I use that instead of my acrylic pin.
If you are interested in The Mat, you can check out the excellent tutorial video and purchase it from the Sweet Wise website here: