As a reward to myself for meeting my exercise goal for the month, I signed up for two cake decorating classes on Craftsy. I know cake decorating and exercising sound like two diametrically opposed endeavors, but I was able to justify it to myself by maintaining that the cake decorating class would give me something to blog about. As long as I can keep myself from piping frosting directly into my mouth (a real struggle for someone like me), I should be able to maintain my fitness progress and learn to make some fancy cakes at the same time.
The first course, The Wilton Method: Buttercream Skills, covers the use of couplers and pastry bags, star and round tip techniques, basic stringwork, borders, flowers, and writing, and also provides several examples to experiment with (while also taking every opportunity to hawk all the Wilton products under the sun). I used this class in addition to the Wilton Method of Cake Decorating Course 1 book and kit, which contains the necessary supplies to practice the techniques presented in the class.
I would like to note at this point that, while it may seem like I am a paid shill for Wilton, I do not receive any compensation or free products from them, and I have no affiliation with the company. I simply find their products easy to find and relatively affordable. They provide the amateur home baker with the opportunity to step up their baking skills without having to go to a specialty store (I buy most of my Wilton products at Michael’s or on Amazon).
I decided to do festive takes on Wilton’s “World of Swirls” and “Chocolate Celebration” cakes in honor of Memorial Day, and also as practice for my grandmother-in-law’s birthday on Independence Day. Since this time it was more about the decorating than the baking, I chose to use my old birthday cake favorite, white cake from a box. I split the batter in thirds and tinted one part red and another part blue to give the cakes a fun surprise inside.
I decided to use mini cake pans so that I could get more practice in on less cake, and just used smaller tips to get the same effect as larger tips would make on full-sized cakes. It occurred to me after the fact that this would have been an excellent opportunity to make a Captain America’s shield cake. Next time, perhaps.
While the cakes were cooling, I made my favorite vanilla frosting. Unfortunately, I didn’t plan ahead too well and ran out of powdered sugar partway through, so it turned out more buttery than I’m used to. It still tasted good, but kept me worrying that all of my decorations were just going to slide right off the cake.
I also ran out of gel food coloring (this was not a good weekend for remembering to stock up on ingredients or planning ahead in general). To illustrate the difference gel food coloring makes, check out these two pictures:
The frosting on the left is made with gel coloring, and the one on the right is made with liquid food coloring. The gel coloring leaves a smoother color, while the liquid makes your frosting look slightly speckled. It’s not terrible, but it does distract a bit from your decorations.
Once the mini cakes were fully cooled, I leveled and torted them (which is the fancy way to say I cut each cake into thinner layers) with a serrated sandwich knife. They didn’t come out quite even, but I made up for that by cleverly stacking them so that the thicker part of one layer sat on top of the thinner part of the layer beneath.
One note that I’d like to pass on from my course materials is not to let your spatula touch the cake while you’re frosting between layers. This is easier said than done because the frosting wants to cling more to the spatula than the cake, leaving little cake crumbs on top. To avoid this, put a big glob of frosting onto the middle of the cake and push it toward the edges gently. When your surface is covered, scrape off the excess.
Here’s my attempt at the World of Swirls cake:
This was all done using two different-sized star tips. It is hard to tell from this angle, but the blobs on top are supposed to look like roses, and they do, for the most part, when you view it at the correct angle.
Here’s my festive take on the Chocolate Celebration Cake:
Again, I did all of this with star tips. The cake off of which I based this made more use of stringwork with a round tip, but given the greasiness of my frosting, I was apprehensive to try it. I think it worked out pretty well, with the draped parts looking like bunting and crepe paper.
These cakes only showcase a few of the techniques covered in the Craftsy class. Stay tuned for more!