A while back, I bought a Scoopon for a cake decorating class with the Whimsical Cakehouse. The Whimsical Cakehouse is based in Sydney but does periodically run courses in Melbourne. This one was just a two hour class, with a Marie Antoinette theme, and of course with my feelings about bling on cakes, it was pretty much irresistible.
It was really fun. We arrived, and were each presented with six vanilla cupcakes, and an array of tools and other bits and pieces. The instructor stood up the front and showed us how to slice off the tops of our cakes, and level the cake, then create a bit of a reservoir for the white chocolate ganache.
I must admit, I was deeply distressed by this beginning – the crusty top of a cupcake is the best bit! How can you just throw it away? – but was much mollified when we were then instructed to spread the off-cuts with any extra ganache we had to make a nice little cake sandwich snack. Clearly, these were people who understood about cake after all!
(and just in passing, the vanilla cake was a proper, home-made tasting cupcake, much to my relief – an awful lot of shop cupcakes taste like nothing in particular and have no texture to speak of, but these were lovely)
We then learned how to spread the ganache to make it flat. In theory. It turns out that I’m not very good at this (no surprise – I already knew that part), but I did at least pick up a few tips to increase my chances of not ending up with a dog’s breakfast. I also enquired about their lovely, very spready, ganache, and learned that they use a ratio of three parts white chocolate to one part cream. I will remember this for future reference.
Then we got to play with fondant! This was definitely fun. We were given four pre-rolled pieces of fondant for four of the cakes, but the other two we got to roll and imprint ourselves.
To do this, one first makes sure there is plenty of cornflour on the benchtop. Really, really, one does. Because otherwise one gets very sad because the beautifully stencilled fondant sticks to the bench and has to be re-rolled. One then rolls out the fondant with a normal rolling pin, which is about as entertaining as you might think, and then one gets to play with a much more amusing series of rolling pins, each carved with various designs – flowers, butterflies, snowflakes etc. If you roll these across your fondant, and you don’t press so hard that it rolls up and don’t press so faintly that you make no impression, you get a gorgeous pattern in relief on the fondant.
And relief is the operative word, especially if you stuck your first attempt to the benchtop in your impatience to get at the exciting rolling pin.
Anyway, the next part of the course was where we got to play with fascinating little fondant molds shaped like bows, buttons, cameos, flowers, and many other rococo things. This is simultaneously easier and harder than it looks. On the one hand, one is not trying to create those insanely elaborate designs with one’s own fair hands. On the other, getting the fragile designs out of molds without bending or damaging them is not easy, at least for a learner.
(on the third hand, I need, need, need a button fondant mold! Because fondant buttons are the bomb!)
We were then introduced to two kinds of gilding – a very bright, non-toxic brassy finish that one is not supposed to eat, and an edible gold lustre powder, which was far less bright but far more edible. I opted for edible, since looks aren’t everything, even in a cake decorating class. We were shown how to apply them in ways that would not squash or obscure our carefully molded fondant pieces, and then we were shown how to stick the fondant pieces to the flat fondant tops.
And then we were shown how to pipe little dots and gild them, and turned loose to get artistic on our cakes.
And we did.
Oh, and my favourite technique I learned right at the end, when it really was nearly too late, because I’d started putting dots on everything because I was running out of room on my cupcakes for anything else – you can paint your finger with gold and rub it gently over your raised fondant designs, and it’s just gorgeous.
It was a fascinating class for me, because I’ve done a fair bit of cake decorating, one way or another, but never this very classical, fondant-based style, with so much preparation behind it. I’ve never done the sort of decorating that makes it reasonable to spend an hour and a half decorating six cupcakes (with the exception of the croquembouche cake toppers I put on wedding cupcake towers, but they are more pièces montées than decorated cupcakes, really). I wouldn’t have thought I’d have the patience, to be honest. I’m still not sure I would – I can’t see myself decorating 150 cupcakes in this way for a wedding cake, but I could certainly enjoy doing one level of them with gorgeous, gilded rococo decorations, even with all the preparation required.
Altogether, it was a really fun way to spend an afternoon. I definitely learned some new techniques, and I fear that fondant molds and those nifty little carved rolling pins may well be in my future. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more of these classes in Melbourne – I really enjoyed doing something so different, decorating-wise.
(But mostly I enjoyed covering cakes with little gold buttons.)
This time last year…