Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Cake Decorating Class

When I was at cooking school, I learned something very valuable: I'm a lousy cake decorator. When I did my externship at the Deer Valley bakeries, I learned this lesson time and time again. Fortunately, there was so much talent present in the other bakers there that it all came out in the end. But I'm not content with being a lousy cake decorater. Fortunately, there is a company called Wilton that offers cake decorating classes.

Now, for those of you not in the know, Wilton is the company who believes they own the cake decorating market. Even if they don't, the majority of home cake decorators do seem to believe it. And why not? I don't believe it's possible for one to enter a cake decorating store or area of a store and not find Wilton products. In fact, the majority of the cake decorating products you will see will be by Wilton. Now, I'm not going to slam on Wilton here. They're a good company and they make a good product. I have several of their products at home, and will likely buy several more in the future. But they're not the only company out there, and they certainly don't dominate my equipment drawers and shelves.

What's important is that they teach classes. In fact, they have an established curriculum. In speaking with the teacher, I found that there is a process to becoming a Wilton instructor. You have to have taken all the classes yourself, of course. Then you have to apply. Then they run checks on you to see how good you are, and decide from the available applicants who they want to teach. And when someplace wants to offer a Wilton class, they call them up and Wilton assigns them an instructor. It was actually pretty cool.

When it comes down to cake decorating, there are two, well, three things that one needs to do. First, they need to bake the cake, of course. This is touched on in the class, but not really covered (at least not so far). Then you need to fill and ice the cake. This is something I've never been good at. Filling isn't a problem, but getting that icing on the cake to look smooth and perfect can be tricky. The instructor demoed this, and I was relieved to see that I'm actually a little better than her. Or at least better than her demo. But once the cake is iced, step three is to decorate. This is everything from piping to, well, actually piping is most of it. And that's where I really need the help. And that seems to be the focus in this class.

Last night was the first of four classes. We, as students, didn't decorate yet. It was mostly a demo session. Next week we have to bring a cake, already iced, and various consistencies of buttercream. Wilton's buttercream recipe is vastly different from the one I'm used to. For instance, they don't actually use butter; they use shortening. Also, rather than pouring hot sugar into whipped egg whites, they just add powdered sugar and meringue powder. In fact, the whole recipe seemed to be formulated for ease of prep by the home cook. I doubt flavor was a huge factor in the recipe design. That's okay. When the class is over, I'm not likely to use the Wilton recipe anyway. My recipe is a little closer to Alton Brown's.

It is an interesting class. I'll let you know next week how it's been going.

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