Monday, December 2, 2013

A master of decorating

As an employee of Wilton, I had the incredible opportunity this year to take the 40-hour Master Course at The Wilton School of Cake Decorating and Confectionery Art. This is a professional-level course, but it is designed to cover everything from the basics of making icing all the way through to flower-making and an introduction to basic stringwork. It's appropriate for decorators of all levels - even those who have never held or decorated with a piping bag before!

As the Director of Consumer Insights at Wilton, I had professional reasons for taking the course - one of my many areas of focus is our education offerings at Michaels, Jo-Ann Fabrics, and AC Moore, so it is important for me to understand how the experience varies at The Wilton School. But, as a decorator, I also had ulterior motives, and that was just to get a lot better at cake decorating!

In 40 hours of instruction, it was amazing how much we were able to cover. I was able to build on skills I already had experience with, in addition to learning a LOT of completely new-to-me techniques. As part of the course, we decorated an 8" real cake with many of the techniques we had already learned.

Then, for our graduation cake, we decorated a three-tiered dummy cake - the beauty of decorating on a dummy cake is you use royal icing and get to keep and display the cake forever, because there is nothing perishable. I decided to keep it simple with a clean color palette, and used the cake to show off some scroll work, drop strings, bead borders, e-motion borders, chandelier borders, and flower work:
Final cake!
The REALLY cool thing about working at Wilton, though, was that I was able to convince our Creative Department to stage and photograph the cake - I know it's not perfect, but I LOVE this photo so much. It looks like it belongs in a magazine. It's amazing what proper staging can do for a cake!

Glamour shot
Taking the Wilton Master Course was an INCREDIBLE experience, and I'm so thankful to have had this amazing opportunity. I know I will carry the lessons learned with me forever!


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A beautiful day for a beautiful wedding

Making cakes for my friends' weddings is such an honor. I am not a professional baker, so I'm always in awe that someone I love would trust me to be such a big part of such an important day. This month, I was able to do just that, making the cake for my friend Valerie's wedding.

Despite having a relatively small wedding, Valerie really wanted a large and impactful cake! So, we went with a three-tiered cake - one 10" tier, one 8" tier, and one 6" tier. The other fun thing about tiered cakes is the opportunity to have a lot of different flavors. For the largest tier, we went with a vanilla buttermilk cake with a raspberry filling. The middle tier was a chocolate buttermilk cake with a chocolate ganache filling, and the top and smallest tier was the most creative (and therefore least broad appeal) - an apple spice cake with a stewed apple filling. I loved all the flavors, but the apple cake might have been my favorite! All of this was topped with a vanilla swiss meringue buttercream.

The challenge with this cake was that the wedding was in North Carolina! As a reminder... I no longer live in North Carolina. So, my parents generously allowed me to take over their kitchen for a day and a half. I traveled with all my decorating supplies (apart from the cake pans, which I ordered and had shipped to their house) from Chicago to NC, did all my grocery shopping locally, and then got to baking. It was stressful getting used to a new-to-me oven, and my mom's KitchenAid doesn't have nearly the horsepower mine does, so there was brief 20 minutes of sheer panic when it looked like the icing wasn't going to come together. But, all worked out, and the cake turned out beautifully!

Valerie chose a rustic textured icing with no additional piping or decorating, which definitely cut down on my stress, decorating in a new environment, and transporting the cake 45 min in the back of a friend's car. The design went perfectly with her rustic and simple wedding design.

Do you see the cake to the right of the wedding cake that says "YAY"? I also made that! That was a lemon pound cake with a lemon glaze, and I used fondant to make the letters and bake them into the cake. It was a fun effect, but it was a LOT of work, and the fondant took up so much of the cake that it really impacted the taste and texture (in a not so positive way). I wouldn't necessarily recommend this approach, though I do think I will try it in the future using cake inside cake versus fondant inside cake. That's a very big thing these days and I haven't tried it yet.

Full dessert table
Cakes, like people, always look better
when photographed professionally
Thank you, Valerie, for inviting me to be part of your special day!


Monday, April 8, 2013

Cakecatular (cookietacular???) now ready to accept cookie orders!!!

I've been making cookies for various friends' events over the years, but have never really sat down to think about my pricing for various designs, shapes, and sizes of cookies. Finally, I have a cookie pricing sheet and look forward to making cookies for all of your upcoming special events!

Click here for more details!

And a big thank you to The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle for the pricing guidance!!!

Happy eating!