Cake Decorating 101 (Soft vs. Stiff)

Last Monday was the first of the Wilton Basic Cake Decorating classes that I had signed up for this month at our local Michaels store. One can only watch so many cake shows until the longing comes for a live, hands-on tutorial. There's 15 of us in the class, but I think one person was absent when our names were called. There was a pregnant lady in maternity clothing next to the instructor; there were moms and grandmoms. There's only one other Filipina in the group: a tall, long-haired lady whose name is as quintessentially Filipina as they come: "Laarnie."

The first question we were asked by the instructor was: "Is there anyone in here who hasn't tried baking?"

Nobody raised her hand. Everyone looked at each other. I think you have to at least baked once to prepare yourself for a course like this. After all, our cakes/cookies are our canvas for all this icing art we're about to learn.

"Good! So that means I can skip that page on the lesson!"

On my left was this young, teenage-looking girl who slouched in her seat, hugging her cake equipment container while the class went on. Every five minutes or so, her father would come up behind her to hand her some materials bought last-minute, then a notebook, then a water bottle. It looked like she bought everything in the syllabus, including the "optional" ones. I only brought the essential items. I decided not to bring icing coloring yet as it was "optional." Working with white icing was fine for now. I had brought the cheap food coloring in liquid form, thinking it was a suitable substitute. I found out later on in the class that it wasn't, because liquid food coloring affected the consistency of the icing, ruining its stiffness, so the cheap alternative stayed hidden in my backpack.

This teenager was too busy fussing with her tools while the instructor was talking that she didn't hear how the icing bags were supposed to be assembled. She turned to me for help and I did. The instructor cheerfully promised us that by the end of the course, we could decorate cakes as gorgeous as the ones pictured on the course booklet. The woman at the end of the table mumbled rather grimly, "Uh-huh, good luck to me." The other lady near her chuckled," Think positive!"

The first lesson involved making buttercream icing from scratch. That's actually a misnomer because it doesn't really contain butter. It was a revelation for me to know the difference between frosting (the ones readily available at groceries) and icing (the one bakers use to decorate cakes). The latter is stiffer because it has meringue powder! That's the magical ingredient! And that's something that's not readily available at groceries.  Each time she adjusted the consistency of the icing, she passed the bowl around so we can plunge the spatula into it to feel it.

"And remember, once it becomes soft, you can never go back to stiff," the instructor said. Somehow that came off differently at the back of my mind.

I was a little lost when she explained the measurements because I hate math, but everything's on the booklet anyway.

Our first decorating technique was using the star tip on cookies. The mom on my right brought her own baked sugar cookies which were shaped like flowers. Mine were store-bought, artificially-flavored orange cookies. Holding the bag properly meant making sure the tip does not touch the cookie's surface, and then you give the bag a firm squeeze, then lift.

I'm glad I've had some practice with that particular icing tip with my giant heart-shaped sugar cookie, only my first attempts there looked like tiny Hershey's Kisses with a swirly body. The perfect star has to be shorter. When making them side-by-side, there shouldn't be any holes in between.

That was easy for the first technique! For our next class next week, we have to bring an 8-inch cake to be decorated with icing we've created ourselves. Thank God for 50%-off coupons that let me buy the pricey can of meringue powder!

6 vandalized my wall:

Photo Cache said...

oh i didn't realize michaels has cake decorating classes. i was eyeing the quilting class.

Kayni said...

sounds fun :) the last time i decorated a cupcake it was all mush...lol.

Anonymous said...


Sidney said...

Sounds like fun... a cake decorating class.
I even did not know you have classes for this !

Aer Conditionat said...

I would love to be taking this class. I love baking cakes, cookies, whatever, but I’m not that good at decorating them. I really hope you have a great time and learn from the best.

kg said...

inggit ako! i would love to take baking classes!

i've made some icings in the past. pero di ko alam kung ok sila o hindi. although my family and friends tell me masarap, i'd love to know the opinion of someone who's not biased. :)

i've never seen an icing recipe that has meringue powder for its ingredient. share mo naman recipe! :)

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