Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cake Decorating - Course 1 - Weeks 1 & 2

I have wanted to take cake decorating classes for a while, so I was super excited when I finally signed up for them. I am taking them at Fischer's in Florrisant. They teach the Wilton courses and each course is 4 weeks long and I am signed up to take all 3 courses. I will post pictures of all my cakes here, hopefully you will be able to see improvement from week to week.

Week 1

Week 1 was all instructional, but I feel like I learned a lot. Here are some of the tips I learned and the recipe for buttercream icing that we use in the class.

My favorite tip or trick I have learned so far is the bake even strips. I didn't know something like this even existed, but they help your cake bake evenly and eliminates the crown that tends to form on the top of the cake. They are cloth strips coated in an oven safe material and you soak them in water and then wrap them around the cake pan and pin them in place. They are made by Wilton and you can find them at Michaels, Hobby Lobby or any cake supply store (about $9 for a set of two 8"/9").
My oven creates horrible crowns on cakes and I feel like so much of the cake is wasted when you have to level it off. This is an example of a cake without the bake even strips and then a cake with bake even strips that I made on the same day.

The round cake isn't perfectly even, but you could tell that my oven is nowhere near level because both round cakes I made came out perfectly sloped. I think once I level the oven it will work much better.

Our instructor also told us that you always grease and flour your cakes pans, never just grease them. She said you can also use Baker's Joy or Cake Release because they are the combination of greasing and flouring. I am a fan of Cake Release (just don't look at the nutrition facts!). You just squirt a little in the pan and use a pastry brush to coat the pan. You can also find this at Michaels, Hobby Lobby or any cake supply store.

We also learned how to do a fruit filling in the middle of a layered cake. I will write more on this once I get brave enough to try it.

Buttercream icing:

Buttercream icing is made in 3 different consistencies: thin, medium and stiff. Thin is always used for icing a cake and writing, medium is mainly used for the decorating and stiff is always used for flowers. The difference between the three is the amount of water you use.

This is the recipe that we use in our class (and it is very tasty):

1 cup solid white vegetable shortening
1 tsp flavoring (vanilla, almond or butter) - I use 1/2 vanilla, 1/2 almond
water - 4 tbsp for thin, 3 tbsp for medium, 2 tbsp for thin
1 lb pure can confectioners sugar (approx 4 cups)
1 tbsp meringue powder
pinch of salt (optional)

Cream shortening, flavoring, water. Add dry ingredients and mix on medium speed until all ingredients are incorporated. Blend together an additional 5-10 minutes until creamy.

*Important tips for the icing:
  • You cannot use Crisco for the shortening. They remade their formula a couple years ago and took out all the trans fat so it does not work well in the icing. Use a generic brand (and don't look at the nutrition facts!)
  • The flavoring must be clear or you will tint the color of your icing. Any cake supply store (including Michaels & Hobby Lobby) sells clear vanilla.
  • The salt cuts out some of the sweetness of the icing. If you use the salt then dissolve it in the water before you add the water to the shortening to make sure it gets fully incorporated. Otherwise the salt may leave white specks in your icing.
  • The meringue powder helps the icing dry and harden, which is especially important when doing flowers
  • You can buy store bought buttercream icing. This is usually in medium consistency and does not contain meringue powder. So you can add more water or powdered sugar and meringue powder depending on what you are using it for.
  • Buttercream icing will keep in the fridge for months
(side note: I am currently watching a cake show all about wedding cakes and they are currently making a cake that has a beer flavored buttercream icing (for a grooms cake). They made a chocolate cake and brushed the top of the cake in a dark beer and then put beer in the buttercream icing.....interesting.....)
Wilton also makes a cake icer tip which makes it really easy to ice a cake. Here is more info on that:

Remember when you ice a cake to always go in one direction. Pushing and pulling the spatula in different directions will pull crumbs into your icing.

Week 2

All those tips above make it sound like a breeze to ice a cake, but I was so frustrated while I was doing all my prep work for week 2. We had to bring a 2 layer cake that was iced and smooth along with a variety of icings. I was definitely reminded why I despise two layer cakes and very rarely make them. All of my icing turned out light and fluffy. I am not really sure what I did wrong, but I am going to keep trying it and see if I can improve. Practice makes perfect, right? If not, I have a long 10 weeks ahead of me!

In week 2 we learned the star, curving & zigzag lines, writing, dots and the first step of the rose. I am terribly frightened by the rose! We also learned how to transfer a pattern onto a cake using piping gel. If you place a piece of wax paper over a design (coloring book designs, patterns from the internet, freehand design, etc) you can trace the design with a decorator bag filled with piping gel. Once you have traced the pattern, flip the wax paper over, place it on the cake and lightly press the piping gel onto the cake. When you peel the wax paper away your design will be on the cake and you can fill it in with the desired colors. You can also color the piping gel and use it to decorate your cake. If you have a cake with a water feature, you can color it blue and it is translucent like water. Or, our instructor said she has used it to make a stained glass window on a cake before.

Here is the end product from week 2:

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