Thursday, May 10, 2012

Lessons from Cake Class

Yesterday was cake decorating class day.  A glorious day indeed.  Each week gets me all pumped up for the beautiful cakes-to-be that will one day fill my kitchen.

As I mentioned in my last post, yesterday we learned to cover a cake with fondant.  I won't go into details about this process, since, as a beginner, I'm not really qualified to be teaching others to do this.  However, my teacher, owner of Eighty Ate Cakes, offers all sorts of classes and I highly recommend taking a class with her if you are at all interested in cake decorating.

I nonetheless wanted to share a few lessons that I learned yesterday in class.

Lesson #1:  When you are crumb coating a cake, you don't necessarily want to actually add the full 4 tbsp. of milk to the Wilton buttercream icing recipe.  Mine ended up being too thin and didn't cover my cake as well as it should have.  You can see the difference between my crumb coated cake:

and this cake here.  

Furthermore, my buttercream was wet enough that it actually kind of melted off my cake after it had been taken out of the freezer.  Not an ideal base for fondant.  In fact, I learned that any imperfections in your crumb coating can be seen through the fondant.  Note to self: do a much better job at crumb coating next time 'round.

Lesson #2:  My teacher let me know that you can use half butter and half shortening in the buttercream you use to crumb coat and to pipe around the edge of the cake prior to filling.  You can also use butter only for buttercream used as a filling.  Good news, as I hate the taste (never mind the terrible health properties) of shortening.  I was afraid to do anything but follow the instructions exactly first time around, for fear that the firmness of the buttercream might not be the same.

Lesson #3:  It is not ideal to leave your crumb-coated cake in the car for 4+ hours, even in early May.  Chloé and I had mom and baby aqua fitness in the morning prior to my cake class.  By the time I got my cake to class, the layers had shifted a bit, leading it to look a bit like the leaning tower of Pisa.  I was thankfully able to somewhat fix this prior to covering it with fondant, with some skillful slight shaking.  You can nonetheless see through the fondant that the layers no longer laid flush:

Lesson #4:  Cake decorating tools actually serve a purpose and are not necessarily solely a gimmick to get you to spend money (though I'm sure some of them are!).  It turns out that it is not ideal to push your letters out of the cutter using a coffee stir stick that you just found on the counter somewhere.  It makes the letters look like hell (particularly the "b").  But again, yesterday was all about process and not outcome.

Lesson #5:  It takes a heck of a lot of time (and then some) to do the decorations for your cake.  Mine all ended up kind of sloppy, as I was in a super rush to just get them done.  To do it again, I'd have way more flowers, including some for the top.  My letters would be cut much more nicely.  And I'd spend time ensuring that the ribbon around the bottom was of equal thickness and lined up properly.  But I told myself that yesterday was more about learning the process of using fondant than having a perfect outcome.  There will be lots of time to obsess over detail for future cakes ;)

Lesson #6:  When gluing heavier decorations onto the side of your cake, it is best to listen to the teacher and put a pin underneath while they dry, even if you use royal icing to hold them in place.  

Some of these decorations on the side fell off before I even got it home.

Lesson #7:  Not only should you not leave your cake in the car half the day, you should also be super careful while transporting it.  By the time I got to Heather's to drop off half of the cake, it had all slid everywhere.  As you can see in this picture here:

Definitely a lopsided cake.  And the fondant no longer laid smoothly against the edge of the cake once it was cut.

Lesson #8:  The baking soda-less version of the chocolate sour cream cake is way too dense to be made as a layered cake.  Particularly a 3 layered cake, but I suspect even two layers is too much.  I found this cake way too rich and dense to actually eat even the thinnest of slices - and I was cutting it small enough that the cake layers couldn't actually hold together, which obviously isn't ideal when serving it to someone else.  Yes, you need a dense cake to hold fondant.  But there's dense and then there's dense...

Lesson #9:  Even a sloppily decorated cake can still taste delicious. 

Lesson #10:  Teenage boys are the best forum for getting rid of said cakes.  It just so happens that my neighbour, mom of these teenage boys, happened to be walking by when I had the cake in hand.  And there went the remainder of the cake, aside from a slice for Jérôme and myself.  And they have promised to participate in all future cake eating adventures.  Sweeeeeet!

Our upcoming projects include learning to do a gift box cake.  Stay tuned!!  I'm still hunting for inspiration, but here's one that has caught my eye.  As well as this one here.

I promise to bring my camera next time to get pictures of everyone's cakes, as there were some absolutely stunning cakes already this week.

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