a foodie's chronicles about the plated pleasures of life :)
yipppeee!!!! i have successfully completed the wilton’s basic cake decorating course 1 :) i must admit i had serious doubts as to whether i could complete the requirements for the final class – which includes decorating a frosted cake with borders, atleast five buttercream roses and some other design as seen fit. but i have come through it – yay! :) the truth is, the cake for my last class was a slight mess as i frosted it in haste at home and didn’t give it sufficient time to set. furthermore, i nearly tripped over some steps while running up to class thereby denting one side of the cake slightly. but the gods must have taken some pity on me, and despite everything, i managed to get a decent cake done
having completed the course, i felt that it might be useful to share some notes from my experience for those who are planning to take it up in the future. if you are interested in taking up the wilton class or want some notes on what to expect, i would recommend that you read the very detailed, informative posts about the classes and cake decorating put up by Madhuram of Eggless Cooking (one of my favourite bloggers), Tracy of Puffy’s (one of my wonderful classmates) and Champa of Versatile Vegetarian Kitchen (one more person on my favourite bloggers list). i have tried to keep away from repeating the information in the above-mentioned posts, so that it can complement the information provided therein.
- classes in singapore: i did the course at Bake It Yourself - a store cum class centre that sells all things related to baking and offers the wilton cake decorating courses and other decorating courses. all details about the different courses, entry requirements, cost and timings are given in their website. i do know that there are several places that offer decorating workshops and courses, but i don’t know of any others who offer the wilton decorating courses. classes fill up fast, so do be sure to check their schedule and register early if you are sure that you want to take the course.
- on the classes itself: the classes teach you everything from scratch - from how to handle your piping bag, using a coupler and fixing on tips, etc. so, if you are a beginner, this is very good – i had never used a featherweight bag or couplers before, so it was good to learn about the different tools available. as the different patterns and flowers are being taught, there are some that might look easy, but take a fair bit of practice to master. the classes were great fun and we oftentimes felt like little kids in a kindergarten playing with coloured icing! and like school, there is homework to do in terms of prepping your icings at home or baking and frosting a cake, as per the class – do factor in the time taken for all this especially if you are working and/or handling a family. i have had enough experience with rushing to know that this stuff needs sufficient time to prepare – no shortcuts possible.
- on the buttercream recipe: the basic buttercream icing recipe (which is ironically so named, since it uses veg shortening like crisco) recommends adding in meringue powder (dried egg-white powder) to get a good consistency and to help set the frosting. i don’t take eggs and was not willing to add in meringue powder. luckily, i had read madhuram’s post on how she did not use meringue powder as well, but was able to get a good frosting consistency, so i did not have to deal with the challenge. when i mentioned this to my instructor, she went one step ahead and actually researched and emailed me tips on what to do. she recommended two options – 1.) add a little cornstarch to your buttercream (about 1 to 1-1/2 tbsp per 1 recipe); and 2.) add 1/3 cup cake/pastry flour per 1 buttercream recipe. i tried out the cornstarch method and it worked out wonderfully well for me. i have not tried the pastry flour tip, so no comments from me on that one.
- on the cake to be baked for class: it can be any cake and in any flavour, but one thing we were told was that it has to be a dense cake, like a butter cake. sponge cakes are said to be too light and run the risk of collapsing under the icing. you can bake your own cake or buy a plain cake from the bakery and frost it (especially if you are very short of time), but be sure to check about the diameter and height of the cake needed for the class from your instructor.
- on extra stuff needed: the basic kit provided when you join the course includes the piping tips, 2 featherweight bags and couplers, 1 disposable plastic piping bag and 1 disposable paper piping bag. do be sure to stock up on extra disposable bags. when you are practising with different coloured icings of different consistencies, you need all the disposable bags you can get. also be sure to bring along a roll of disposable kitchen towels to wipe your messy fingers and the table you will also need piping gel (a must), colours, a cake board and box for your cakes. things like clown-heads and flower-lifters are recommended as well, but may be out of stock sometimes, in which case you could do what i did – borrow from your friendly classmates when in doubt, its best to check with your instructor as to what is absolutely essential and what can be done without – you dont want to burn a hole in your pocket from excessive shopping
- on make-up classes: skipping classes is discouraged, except in extreme circumstances like having to go overseas or falling terribly sick, etc. if you can’t make it for any of the classes, you can request the instructor to do a make-up lesson for you – but it will be for only one hour and has to be fixed at a time that is suitable to the instructor. in other words, just because you attend the saturday class does not mean that you can get a make-up on saturday – it could be on a monday or any other day of the week, and at any time. and you cant join any of the other sessions. as Kathryn (our instructor) explained, it is better to come for the scheduled classes, as you get more time to learn and practise with her standing by to help you get it right. another reason to make sure your attendance is 100% is that the wilton certificate of completion is given only if you attend all the clases - and your instructor needs to see you decorate the cake in the final class (no room for doing at home and bringing it in).
a caveat: while the courses are interesting, fun and equip you with tools and knowledge, they are not the last word on the subject. in other words, they don’t teach you everything there is to know about baking and cake decorating. there is always more to be discovered from practice and experience. and food bloggers lend a helping hand along the way by sharing their experiences, tips and tricks – so do be sure to look out for their posts.
that’s all i can think of for sharing at the moment. if i do think of any other significant information to share, i will update this post. if you have any questions, please feel free to email me or leave a comment
P.S. ever since my laptop crashed, i have started to feel that i might lose touch with blogging if i don’t keep it going. my friendly neighbourhood library’s computers have given me a way out so, yes, i am back on track with blogging – all ready to face 2010!
*Photography by Tracy Chua