Two Sundays ago, while the local news outlets tracked the route of the approaching Tropical Storm Irene, I was at a cake decorating workshop with a few girlfriends. My husband stayed home, prepared the house for the storm and cooked while I got to play. He got to keep the camera – excuse the iPhone quality pictures this time around.
I might be able to put a meal together, but making pretty things is not my thing. I barely remember to garnish my meals, and when I do, it hardly looks effortless. I still went along, thinking of how I could apply some of that new knowledge into my every day cooking and food styling. At the end of the day – nope – that did not happen. But lessons were learned indeed! Newfound admiration flourished for the likes of CakeWhiz and Buttercream Blondie!
Affinity and Beau, a husband-and-wife team, have been baking and decorating cakes for a few years now and in addition to selling their creations, they also give lessons on how to make and decorate cakes, cake pops, cookies, etc. They have become incredibly popular through social media outlets, and that’s how my friend Rebeca found out about their workshops. I signed up for the basic cake decorating seminar. Through this workshop, we learned:
- How to make shortening-based icing (grasilla)
- Basic piping skills
- How to make fondant from scratch
- How to frost the cake with the grasilla
- How to adhere the fondant to the cake
- How to cut out fondant forms to decorate the cake
I did my homework and read a bit about decorating cakes before arriving last Sunday. My biggest surprise was that real buttercream icing melts under the temperatures in Puerto Rico. That’s why most professional bakers make the grasilla using emulsified shortening sold at specialty stores. Emulsified shortening (also known as cake, icing or high ratio shortening), can absorb more sugar and liquid than regular shortening and can stand up to our weather. That means sacrificing the taste of butter. Almond extract is almost always used to infuse flavor into the frosting.
We got to decorate two six-inch cakes and a small novelty one. I took the fondant covered cake to work the following day, ate the novelty one by myself, and the other six-inch is in our freezer (because these are definitely treats and not everyday food!). The only caveat regarding this type of cooking/decorating is that it requires supplies from specialty baking stores in order to make the frosting and the fondant from scratch (if not purchasing the ready-made variety).
Although I am still not overly confident about my piping skills, I had a lot of fun and am sure I will be putting to use my new tools and knowledge with a few family birthdays coming up soon. That might be a good time to call the girls and have them practice what we learned with me. Let’s see how that turns out!
Disclaimer: I paid for the Melting Pot’s basic cake decorating seminar. The opinions highlighted here are my own.