For the past four weeks I have been taking an introductory cake decorating class. My motivation for this came from numerous disappointments of attempts to add some fancy frosting to my vegan cakes and cupcakes. I love making desserts and impressing friends and family, epecially when it comes to showing off vegan baked goods. So I decided an 8 hour time commitment (although now I'm hooked and want to take course 2 and 3) was well worth it.
The class was taught at a local-owned store called Cake Craft Shoppe, rather fittingly located in Sugarland, Texas. The owner, Sheila, taught our course and gave us so many wonderful tips that only a professional could offer. With only six people in the class, not only was plenty of attention given to each student, but it was also a relaxed, cozy atmosphere. And I have to really thank my mom for taking the course with me. I think my favorite part was getting to spend time with her every weekend (and also learning just how much hard work she put into making all of our birthday cakes when we were young....wow!).
The first class involved going over basic things like how to make frosting (I had no idea consistency was so important), cake pans, spatulas, food coloring, decorating bags (I like the reusable kind since they are environmentally friendly), and other tricks of the trade. One of my favorite parts of the class was that, starting the second week, we got to bring in our own frosting to practice and ending with a final cak decorating project. This meant that I could ensure that everything I used was vegan.
So what did I learn? We began by making simple stars and seashells (tip #16, 20). Then moved on to dots (more complicated than you may think, 2, 3, 12), writing(3), drop flowers (2D), and the always-useful tight zig zag. We practice on cake boards that are coated in plastic so they can be washed an re-used.
Some of the more complicated designs were leaves (67), sweet peas, bows, and the very tricky rose (104). My frosting wasn't quite the right consistency to get the rose, but it's something I plan on practicing (maybe for v-day). I learned that I am quite ampidexterous with the decorating bag, often switching between my two hands when one got tired (I feel like I should have been a lefty, I mouse with my left and wear my watch on the right, but that's another story).
Beware those that are afraid of clowns! Don't scroll below! My instructor actually asked first before showing us how to make these if anyone had a clown phobia (she had a previous experience in another class with that). Cute for a kid's birthday cake. Or maybe cupcakes to bring to a circus protest! She also showed us that with just a few basic tips, you can make almost any kind of animal or character, faces, bears, turtles, frogs, tigers, horses, etc.
The final class involved bringing in our own cake and usng all of our newly acquired skills to decorate in any way we wanted. I chose to make the chocolate cake from Joy of Vegan Baking, the chocolate buttercream frosting (also JOVB) to ice the cake, and the frosting recipe for the root beer cupcakes in My Sweet Vegan. As I mentioned, consistency of frosting is important, especially when making roses or anything that needs a stiffer icing. Although I prefer the flavor of non-dairy butter in my frostings, it tends to just melt in my hands when I'm decorating. So this required using shortening for the frosting to decorate with (but I used butter for just the cake frosting).
We first learned to level our cakes (more in another post on what to do with the leftover tops!), anchor them, apply a barrier for the filling, and then get the smoothest looking frosting I have ever managed to put on a cake. A cake-turner came in rather handy. The final smooth look was achieved by letting the frosting crust over (about 10 minutes) and taking a patternless paper towel and a fondant smoother and essentially "ironing" our cake smooth.
My mom was a good student and planned her cake ahead of time, making it especially for her Valentine's couple bunco event that night. Her design involved pink hearts filled with stars, dice, shells on the top border, and flowers with leaves on the base border. She even made vegan icing too so we could share colors!
I decided to free-form the cake and just do what came to mind, of course knowing that I wanted some kind of veg theme. With all the colors I had I went with "Eat Veggies" and decorated with an assortment of mostly fruits and some veggies (dang I wish I'd made an orange for carrots). I used stars for the base border and shells for the top. In case you can't guess what they are, from the top going clockwise there are gree onions, broccoli, strawberry, grapes, lettuce, banana, and a mouth with a tongue hanging out! I wish I could invite all of you over to share a piece because I don't know what to do with this cake. I think it will end up in our coffee/breakroom at work on Monday.
I came away from this course learning many new decorating techniques, added confidence in my decorating ability, a bunch of handy tips and tricks, and the motivation to continue my learning! I'll have a bit of a break before the next class, which doesn't begin till late April, but I'm planning to take Course 2 (fancier flowers and borders, plus basketweave). But that will give me plenty of time to perfect the skills I have learned up until now, because goodness knows my roses need some work!