Monday, May 30, 2011

Session 2: Real cake!

Cupcake on top of my first cake
Right away the second week we were to bake a cake and bring it to class to level, split, fill, ice and decorate. This was all very intimidating to me especially after the day I'd had. I had been in Des Moines for my nephew's baptism so Monday morning I had to get up and drive almost three and a half hours back home. Then start laundry, run to the grocery store, and come home and bake a cake. Oh...and last but not least whip up my first double batch of Wilton buttercream frosting...phew! By the time class rolled around I was pretty pooped already. Now I had to try my hand at icing and decorating in not only a room full of strangers, but a whole store! We took the classes at Jo-Ann Fabrics in Apple Valley which apparently doesn't have a separate room for classes, so we were out in the middle of everything. We had more than a few wandering onlookers each week.

This week we got a few more tips and bags dirty.  The first tip we were supposed to use was 18, which in the craziness of my day I managed to leave in the little cubby of my dish drying rack but thankfully my friend let me borrow her tip 16 which is pretty close.  We practiced curving lines, zig zags, dots and "dimensional decorating".  I have to admit - the practice board that comes with the kit is the best invention ever.  I had seen it many times in the store before and thought it was silly, but I was completely wrong!  You can screw up as many times as you need to until you get the hang of it.  Just wipe the board clean and try again!  Definitely better than messing up a cake because you have no idea what you're doing. Speaking of messing things up because I thought I'd try something on my own...

...yeah, my border didn't turn out so hot.  I thought the one in the picture looked sweet so I tried it out.  (Hint: theirs does not look anything like that.)  For decorations that night we had our choice of the cupcake, a fish or a hamburger.  My nephew told me to do the cupcake so that's the one I went for.  I really dug the idea of the gel piping transfer.  If you have a basic outline of the shape/design you want to do, just print it out and flip it over.  Then take some piping gel and trace the outline on the back.  Then flip it back right side up and gently set it down in the middle of your cake.  Run your finger over the paper and your design is now on your cake ready to be filled in!  Pretty neat.  For the inside of the cake, the first week our instructor used one pudding Snack Pack.  Since I already had enough to worry about with baking the cake and making the frosting, I thought this sounded like a grand idea.  Unfortunately it turns out one pack really isn't enough...I could hardly tell there was anything in there.  If I decide to do that again I will definitely use two!

Oh and yes I did bake the cake from scratch and even though I made not have done a perfect job decorating it still tasted great!  Recipe to follow in another entry...stay tuned :)

Wilton Decorating Basics - Class 1: Cookies

Practicing my stars on my star cookie for Course 1
A few years ago I watched every cake decorating, designing, battling show that the Food Network aired. I thought Duff Goldman was the coolest, funniest guy on television. He made it all look so easy. Just roll out the fondant, plop it on the cake, make some things out of modeling chocolate and BAM - awesome-out-of-this-world cake that didn't even look like a cake. I thought to myself...I can do that. If the girls on Ace of Cakes can do that, why can't this computer nerd who had only ever made like one cake from scratch in her life (up until that point anyway). So off to the craft stores I went, coupons in hand, and bought everything I thought I needed. And I just went for it. Turns out it's kinda hard. I really had no idea what i was doing. And the store bought fondant is not good. Who am I's downright disgusting. Alas, my passion for baking and this blog was born. I no longer watch any of the crazy cake challenges or even the Ace himself, but when a friend asked if I wanted to take the Wilton cake classes with her, I was in. I thought maybe with a little guidance and some practice I may be able to produce something a little more photogenic than those first two attempts years ago.

For the first class we were supposed to bring the Course 1 Kit, 6 "round" cookies, Ready-To-Use White Decorator Icing, and lots of other stuff we didn't really need for night one.  It was more lecture and learning than hands-on that night.  Our instructor showed us how to whip up the Wilton recipe for buttercream, how to level and split a cake, and then how to add filling between the layers. We got to see and feel the difference between different icing consistencies - stiff, medium, and thin - and which applications each one is for.  She "torted" her cake for us which I guess just means cut it into layers, although after doing some googling this does not seem to be the proper definition of torte.  Torte is a specific kind of cake, no where can I find an official definition of it as a verb...oh well...moving on...

So as you can see, right off the bat I didn't exactly follow instructions.  Plain round cookies sounded boring to me, and if I was going to get everything dirty cutting out cookies I was going to have fun with it!  Turns out I only have a bin of holiday cookie cutters, so from that I pulled out the star shape.  I also had some small flowers that were officially fondant cutters, but the biggest one worked pretty well for a small cookie flower.  Unfortunately this proved more challenging when it came to decorating.  We only learned how to pipe stars in the first class (best seen in the first two photos) which I had troubles translating to the star and flower.  By the end of class, my creative juices were gone.

Tuesday night my creativity came back a little when I went to decorate the rest of the batch and use up more of the store bought buttercream (the rest I ended up throwing away...I realize now it probably would've kept in the fridge forever, sigh).  I did a lot of random patterns and then realized that weekend was Mother's Day!  So as you can see I attempted "MOM" but it didn't turn out so well.  I was starting to dread the night we had to do writing, it's a lot harder than it looks!