It’s true, we can’t think any celebration where there’s no cake. Cakes are synonamous to celebrations as flowers are to spring or fish sauce is to Vietnamese cooking–it just goes together. Making a cake from scratch and decorating it must be a truly satisfying endeavor and yet, something we’ve never actually accomplished. So when the opportunity to learn to decoraring from the best teachers of Wilton School of Decorating and Confectionary Arts, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
We gladly traded the warm sunny California day for an opportunity to wield piping bags of sweet butter cream and balls of fondant. Our teacher Sandy Folsom (top left), who we shall call the Professor, is director of The Wilton School of Decorating and Confectionary Arts and has over 30 yrs of experience teaching cake decorating. Her partner in crime, Nancy Siler is also a pro decorator with over 25 years of experience but handles more of the consumer affairs and public relations. Together they taught us the essentials of decorating and we gobbled it all up like eager students whose final report cards depended on it.
We were given several decorating tips to try and master and Professor Sandy came around to carefullly inspect our icing techniques. Here she is criticing Chef Jamie Gwen’s technique. Everything was brand new to us so everyrthing they mentioned seemed profoundly helpful but here were some general tips we found especially helpful:
- Icing Consistency: you have to make sure the consistency of your icing suits your purpose. For example, if you want to print or write, you want a thin consistency. Flowers and petals require stiffer consistency.
- Don’t overfill your piping bag! You should try to have only enough for what your palm can hold.
- Be aware of the bag angle! The angle refers to the bag position and working surface. There are two basic angles, 90 and 45 degrees. Depending on the tip you use, the result may be completely different!
- Master pressure control! Light, medium, and heavy pressure determines the size and uniformity of your icing, so practice until you are consistent.
The day flew by learning one technique after the next. Before the morning ended, the bakers, food writers, food stylists, and chefs broke off into teams and competed in a decorating contest using the techniques we learned. Luckily we didn’t have to worry about our decorations toppling over as if we were on a Food Network challenge as we were limited by mere two tier cakes. We were really hoping for at least 4. But the energy, enthusiasm, and creativity was through the roof as if $10,000 were really on the line. Look at what was accomplished in only 30 minutes! Basketweaves, petals, flowers, clamshells, stars–everyone really impressed.
Following the cake decorating wars, we learned about fondant. Granted there are mixed feelings about fondant–you either hate it or love it, but you have to admit, cakes decorated with fondant are absolutely gorgeous. We always marvel at how pretty fondant looks but never imagined how easy it was to work with! It was like play doh, except you could eat it (if you wanted). We learned how to roll fondant and make decorative roses such as this one, curtesy of Marni of Happy Go Marni.
For more tips and techniques on decorating check out the very useful Bake, Decorate, and Celebrate site. Overall it was a fantastic learning opportunity that will inspire us to bake, decorate, and celebrate more in the future.