The Oxford Companion to Food (New York, Oxford University Press Inc, 2nd ed. 2006) calls fondant "a relatively recent development in confectionary" and states that "it appears to have originated in the middle of the 19th century, probably in France, although the historian Mary Isin (2003) suggests that it might first have come from Ottoman Turkey."
It's hard to imagine nowadays, but sugar used to be a luxury product that came from afar. That's why sugar candies were mainly eaten during important festivities like weddings and on important holidays, such as Sinterklaas and Christmas. Borstplaat is still popular in the Netherlands today and makes a fun culinary gift that can easily be customized for various occasions. Make discs of vanilla-, chocolate- or mocha flavored borstplaat, pink hearts for Valentine's Day or red stars for Christmas.
To make the candy at home, try this basic recipe for borstplaat.