As the name of this post suggests, today’s blog entry is going to be a little bit different from the “norm” that has been established up to this point in the life of this small plot of virtual space. But a little change in routine every now and again is good – habits can lead to complacency, which can solidify into ruts, which can feed stagnancy – which can actually result in illness, even death. (Just visit a pond that has no fresh water flowing in to it – it’s a mucky, yucky mess of green goop.) So while ‘different’ can sometimes feel uncomfortable, it can also be quite positive. Now, if this is totally pushing your buttons, please don’t fret too much – next week I’ll resume the familiar format and savory focus. However, I do hope you enjoy this week’s deviation at least a little bit; I certainly had fun writing it, and living it. :)
Okay, on with the post.
For the past four weeks, I have been attending a cake decorating class. Now, I didn’t have any particular burning desire to learn how to create fancy cakes, but my sister wanted both my mom and I to attend this class so that the three of us could make something special over the holidays. Since I love my sister, and since I want to do what I can to support shared interests between all of us family members, I agreed to spend four Sunday afternoons making, mixing, coloring, and applying frosting to various sweet treats.
At the first Sunday class, I learned a lot of the technical mechanics of decorating: how to make frosting of various thicknesses, how to use and hold piping bags and decorating tips, how to avoid getting crumbs all over the place, etc. This first class was more talk than action, and as a result my end-of-class ‘product’ was quite modest: applying basic icing stars to pre-packaged cookies.
However, the second Sunday class was much more hands-on than the first; in this class, I learned how to torte a cake, how to apply filling between layers, and how to make some dimensional shapes (like dots and lines). This may sound a bit boring, but quite a lot can be done with basic dots and lines, actually; in my case, I made a zucchini-spice cake filed with vanilla frosting, and topped with a zucchini image:
Now, when a cake is prepared for ‘fancy decorating’, the rounded top of each section of cake is cut off, so that each cake layer is level, and so that the top of the cake is a nice flat surface to work on. What that means is that for each layer of cake that is made, a small ‘cake top’ section is removed and set to the side.
I have problems with unnecessary waste: I think people are much too eager to buy/acquire too much crap, and then hastily/mindlessly throw away perfectly good, useful items – and it literally pains me a bit to engage in that type of behavior. So when the instructor said I could just toss the cake tops that we wouldn’t be using into the trash can, I visibly balked. Just reject perfectly edible food because it doesn’t look ‘pretty’? Absolutely not. Instead, I put the two cake tops together (with a thin layer of frosting between them), and made a zucchini cake ‘whoopee pie’ type of deal:
I took both of the cakes into my workplace (as my husband and I simply cannot [will not] consume two entire cakes by ourselves), and my colleagues truly *loved* both of the cakes. Interestingly, a few different people within my large work area approached me individually, and asked me if I would be willing to make a cake for them in the future. Hmm…. let me think about that one….
The focus of the third Sunday class was cupcakes. Specifically, I learned how to fill a cupcake, as well as how to do more ‘advanced’ frosting shapes like rosettes, shells, leaves, small flowers, and a few different types of bigger flowers.
The project I completed during this session was filling yellow cupcakes with chocolate pudding, then topping the cupcakes with a variety of shell/leaf/flower decorations. Yes, these cupcakes are small sugar bombs – but they were undeniably tasty. ;)
The final class taught one more decorating skill (making roses), then asked me to bring all of my knowledge together into designing and executing a ‘final project’. For my last cake, I decided to make a dark chocolate cake, torte it into four layers, put raspberry filling between each layer, frost the whole deal in white buttercream, and then apply small flowers all over the place. I was trying to semi-recreate my wedding cake; and while the colors of the flowers didn’t turn out exactly as I had hoped (it was my first time using the red food coloring – it’s powerful stuff!), I think overall I did a pretty decent job for my first solo “fancy” cake. Here’s the visual progression:
I also made a mini-cake from the residual cake tops. It had the same dark chocolate cake base (obviously), and I went ahead and put raspberry filling in it, too, and then topped it off with buttercream.
Through these past four weeks, I discovered that making and decorating cakes (and cupcakes) is actually quite a lot of fun. It’s also quite a lot of work, and takes quite a lot of time – but I absolutely adore watching people genuinely appreciate both the effort and the taste of a really nice cake.
As for the people who asked me if I would ever make a cake for them…Yes, I would. If you are one of those people (or if you are one of them now that you’ve read this – wink), check out my cake order form.
So, there you have it – a month of cakes. And perhaps a future hobby as well…