Saturday, March 14, 2009

Cake Decorating I: the Rest of the Week

My course is done! The last class was on Friday, and my finished cake made it home on the bus with minimal bumps and bruises. So, I had meant to write up the course as 5 posts over 5 days, but sometimes things just don't work out that way. But, at least I remembered to take pictures, so here it is. I'm going to give it to you all at once - Cake Decorating Level I Day 2-5 with Toba Garrett.

Day Two:
We started off with making a decorator's buttercream icing, which contains a small portion of solid hi-ratio vegetable shortening to give the icing more structure and stability. A lot of people poopoo the idea of adding shortening to their icing, claiming all sorts of 'ew! that's disgusting, it's fake' and whatnot...but they have probably never had to produce a cake that must be stable enough to withstand very warm weather or make decorations that require more structure. Pure buttercream icing on a hot day? You'll get a melting, drooping cake in no time.

Tastewise, if you use only a small quantity, and if you can get a hi-ratio shortening (apparently Crisco leaves a greasy taste on your palate), your buttercream will still taste great. Remember, you're adding flavourings too. This type of icing is great for small cakes and cupcakes where your want the extra sweetness - children's birthday cakes, etc.

We spent the day practicing learning and practicing basic borders and decorations that should be in every decorator's repertoire: the reverse shell border, ropes, fleur de lys, rosebuds, half-open rose, and garlands.

I was the worst at these...they were surprisingly hard to do

Day 3:
Again, the day started with making another icing: Decorator's buttercream for roses, a stiff consistency icing used to make decorations that require more structure.

The teacher's roses...

We learned to pipe a full blown rose in traditional way, which is much harder than it looks...

Piped roses are certainly 'old school', but when done well, are actually really beautiful! Sadly, buttercream roses have been reduced to a lower status over the past decade - the poor workmanship and horrible colouring seen at supermarket bakeries have made them unpopular and a symbol of tackiness. I'm not sure how often I'll be piping these, but at least now I know how...

In the afternoon, we practice swags, ruffles, bows and basketweave. Truthfully, I'm not a big fan of the bows and basketweave, but I think you can probably find a way to give these decorations a more contemporary look. By now my hands are sore from all the squeezing.

Day 4:
We made marzipan (a mouldable almost paste with corn syrup and other flavourings) and modeling chocolate/chocolate plastic (just dark chocolate and corn syrup!). The chocolate plastic has to age for 24 hours, so we made it for the final day's class.

Tinting and working with marzipan was so much fun!! We made the cutest little fruits and vegetables...all afternoon there was endless gushing over how adorable these things were. Check them out:

Pre-petal dusting

We survived the bus ride home!

They were painted with petal dust to give a more realistic look to them, and the stems were fashioned out of clove studs and stems. Somehow I ended up showing a bunch of strangers at the bus station my marzipan fruit, which drew a little crowd of 'oohs' and 'ahhs'. I felt like a marzipan superstar. My banana was the only thing I didn't finish properly because it required water and gel food colour, which I thought would probably stain all my other little fruits on the way home, so I left it plain. You're actually supposed to paint the ends brown, and add the tiniest amount of green and draw it up the seams with a wet paintbrush. Too cute.

Day 5:
The entire morning was spent learning the chocolate rose, bows, and leaves using our modeling chocolate. Who knew you could knead and mould chocolate like playdoh? It was awesome. If you have any aptitude for making little figurines from clay or playdoh, you'd love making these - and they're edible!

We used this cool silicone mould to make the leaves - so lifelike! Mine are a little dull-looking because my chocolate was rolled too thick, but when done properly they are shiny and amazingly delicate. Toba pays attention to every possible detail - the thinness of the petals and the way they ruffle out, the direction the petals overlap...I felt like I'd never seen a rose after how she described it...something I've seen dozens of times but never really paid close attention to.

Finally, we each got to split, fill and decorate an 8" take to take home - yellow cake with amaretto mocha swiss buttercream. Soooo delicious! Smoothing the icing was so easy with her technique, which involved dipping the spatula in hot water and drying it off - somehow the heat helps to draw all the little bubbles closed and even everything out. It was nearing the end of class and I wanted to catch the early bus home, so I rushed and didn't ice my cake as carefully as everyone else. Still, I think it turned out just fine...and tasty...I'm bringing this to a dinner party tonight!

If you have any interest in cake decorating, this course is worth taking. Toba's enthusiasm and knowledge is just incredible and takes your appreciation for cake artistry to a new level. If there's anything that was really emphasized in the class, it was that your decorations should taste as amazing as they look, which means using the best quality ingrediants you can afford, and not taking short cuts - when you're putting in the time and effort of hand making a cake, you don't want it to be anything like something you could buy from the grocery store. You really do learn a lot, including some great industry tricks that make you feel like you're all that. I can't wait to take Level II and III!


Lorah said...

This entry was an awesome read! I just LOVE your marzipan fruits and veggies (the apple was my fav) and your chocolate work from day 5. Just amazing!! You are turning into quite the pro - good job!

Susan said...

WOW!! WOW!! Everything is realy stunning!!! I love the chocolate rose it looks real... well if roses came in chocolate it would be as real as it gets... I am in awe!! A+++ i would say...