Sunday, February 3, 2008

Cake Decorating Course: The Basics

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!

36 comments:

ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

WOW! That clown is so cute, as is the pink rose (I don't know why you say the frosting was the wrong consistency, because it looks amazing to me!). And your cake is just the cutest cake in the world! If that doesn't get people to eat their veggies, I don't know what will!

aTxVegn said...

Excellent work, you and your mom! That's the first cake decorated with veggies I've seen and I love it.

Anke said...

wow. I mean WOWWWWW. this looks absolutely awesome... seriously, this is amazing. you are really talented.

Anke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jenny said...

Nice work! I will look forward to seeing more of your creations on your blog! :)

Tracy said...

Your cakes are beautiful! The course sounds like a lot of fun. I'd love tips for preventing hand cramping while icing gingerbread cookies - ambidextrous talent is something I lack.

Leigh said...

Wow, I'm so jealous! I wish I could spread frosting so smooth like that. What a fun class that must have been.

Cody said...

Sounds fun. I love the veggie cake.

I've been wanting to take a cake decorating course, but all I can find around here are Wilton-sponsored classes at craft stores... in which you have to spend a ridiculous amount of money on Wilton 'required' supplies.

Heather said...

Love the step by step photographs of your cake. Good for you! Your cake looks so fun too. How did it taste? I purchased Joy of Vegan Baking over Christmas and while I read it often, I have only made the ginger bread cookies from it (I did veganize the Quaker oatmeal cookie recipe from the lid using Earth Balance sticks). I will have to make the chocolate cake for my lactose intolerant husband.

Thanks for sharing,
Heather

julie hasson said...

I love your veggie cake! You might just have to open a vegan bakery when you're done.

VeggieGirl said...

Amanda, I am positively in awe of your craftsmanship!! That class sounds just too fun and amazing!! Your veggie-cake is of COURSE my favorite of the bunch :0)

still having issues with google analytics - guess it's not meant for me to have it, haha.

Holler said...

That is just so cool and a lovely way to spend time with your mum! I know what she meant about clowns, they can be a bit freaky, but yours is cute! I look forward to seeing more of your cakes! I just wouldn't have the patience, so I am full of admiration!

Ruthie said...

VN~

So cute! Thinking of your new years resolutions... do you think opening a vegan bakery might be something you would like to do as a new job? :-) I would totally go there and eat everything you made. Plus, Houston is like eatery capitol of the south, so... :)

PS I am dreaming of your 70 degree weather during this snow storm. :-)

Ruthie

the pleasantly plump vegan said...

you are amazing girl! that looks like soooo much fun. beautiful X's 100!

Ruby Red Vegan said...

I love your veggie cake! It looks like you've been having so much fun. I think your rose looks excellent, and I cannot wait for future cake decorating posts! Yay!

I used to be scared of clowns (including Chuck E. Cheese), but thank goodness that your clown looks nice and friendly!

Traci Anne said...

Oh my goodness, your cake is FABULOUS!

Romina said...

OH MY GOODNESS!! You are a cake decorating goddess. Wow wowowowow!! Looks delicious and so good. You've got a gift.

Melody Polakow said...

Wow, you guys did a great job! I'm so impressed with people who can do this.. I have such trouble decorating cakes... maybe I should take a class.. it looks like so much fun

Brandie said...

Hi! Thanks for stopping by my blog! Love the comments - I am so jealous of your cake decorating class! I used to decorate for the bakery at Alberstons, and LOVE it, I wish I could do it again.. maybe with some time off for baby I'll take some classes :) In baby news, yes! There is movement! Every day now, just a little bundle of energy I guess and it's so cool! Have a great day and keep up the good recipes, etc! I'm envious I haven't the time to experiment much :) Livin vicariously through blog buddies! :)

bazu said...

That sounds like a great class! Having tried to decorate a few cakes in my day, I appreciate how difficult and intricate it is! I usually make frosting with 1/2 earth balance, 1/2 shortening, but maybe I'll try upping the shortening level. I love your veggie decorations! Heck, your rose isn't so bad, either!

Vegyogini said...

That looks like a lot of fun and a lot of hard work. Your cake is so pretty!

If you decide to try faux lunch meats, Tofurky brand is pretty good.

Ashasarala said...

This is so awesome. I can't tell you how jealous I am reading this. I have a real urge to learn how to make cakes and cupcakes and any pastry, really, look just as pleasing as it tastes. I looked around but I couldn't find any classes. :(

Well, there are always books to buy, I guess. The true question is whether or not I'll have the patience to read 'em!

Your decorations and your cake all look fantastic! And you are definitely down-playing yourself; that rose looks great!

Liz² said...

haha, I love the veggie cake! who wouldn't want a piece of cake with broccoli on it? XD (seriously, though, your icing control on all those fiddly bits is really impressive)

what an exciting course!

Emilie said...

super cute! Love the veggie cake! Awesome work.

Happy Herbivore said...

you. are. gifted.

braceyourself said...

I'll be home on Feb 29... I'm expecting an awesome cake...jk. Those all look great.

bittersweetblog said...

I LOVE your final cake!! If only I had skills like that... Perhaps I should look into cake decorating classes as well!

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

How cool! I've been meaning to take a cake decorating class as well, but decided to wait until I return from Europe. Your final cake is AWESOME!

urban vegan said...

What a great cake!

I always wanted to learn to do this...I have a book, but it's just not the same as having someone teach you. (If you saw my cakes, you'd know what I meant!)

ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

Hey girl :o)

In answer to your comment on my blog, I got to live in China (and all over the world) because my dad works in international insurance... but yes, I did go to an American school-- I *tried* to learn Chinese, but I'm still not very good. It's so hard!

Amanda said...

Hi Amanda!
Now I absolutely HAVE to take a class too! I love baking, but my frosting always leaves a little to be desired....

I'd assumed that all classes would force you to use non-vegan ingredients but it seems like that might not be the case! Congratulations on some really nice looking work there!!!

- Amanda

vani said...

very nice cake. looks yummy. will defenetly try it out. can u pls tell what are the ingredients used in frosting and decorating also.

please help me.

Veggie Cookster said...

So awesome! I took cake decorating classes when I was in college, and even worked one summer in the bakery dept. of my local Super Kmart where I learned a lot of great tips and techniques, like decorating via airbrush. :) I haven't decorated in a long time, but your post brought back a lot of great memories. :) Good luck with the level 2 class... you're doing great so far! ;-D

jd said...

Oh my goodness! This has to be one of my most favorite posts ever!

You are SO talented! Thanks for showing off for us a bit :)

Love it!

Vicki's Vegan Vice said...

beautiful cakes!!! and thanks for sharing the "tips" here.

Liz said...

i have been looking for vegan icing recipes and i found this website! can you tell me the recipe for the icing so that i can decorate the cake? my son has allergies to milk, nuts and eggs and cant use any of these things.
thanks!