It's true, we can't think any celebration where there's no cake. Cakes are synonamous to celebrations as flowers are to spring or fish sauce is to Vietnamese cooking – it just goes together. Making a cake from scratch and decorating it must be a truly satisfying endeavor and yet, something we've never actually accomplished. So when the opportunity to learn decorating from the best teachers of Wilton School of Decorating and Confectionary Arts, we couldn't pass it up.
We gladly traded a warm, sunny California day for an opportunity to wield piping bags of sweet butter cream and balls of fondant. Our teacher Sandy Folsom, whom we shall call "the Professor," is director of The Wilton School of Decorating and Confectionary Arts and has more than 30 years of experience teaching cake decorating. Her partner in crime, Nancy Siler, is also a pro decorator with more than 25 years of experience. Together they taught us the essentials of decorating and we gobbled it all up like eager students whose final report cards depended on it.
We were given several decorating tips to try and master and Professor Sandy came around to carefullly inspect our icing techniques. Everything was brand new to us so everything they mentioned seemed profoundly helpful. Here are some general tips we found especially useful:
- Icing Consistency: You have to make sure the consistency of your icing suits your purpose. For example, if you want to print or write, you want a thin consistency. Flowers and petals require stiffer consistency.
- Don't overfill your piping bag! You should try to have only enough for what your palm can hold.
- Be aware of the bag angle! The angle refers to the bag position and working surface. There are two basic angles, 90 and 45 degrees. Depending on the tip you use, the result may be completely different.
- Master pressure control! Light, medium, and heavy pressure determines the size and uniformity of your icing, so practice until you are consistent.
The day flew by learning one technique after the next. Before the morning ended, the bakers, food writers, food stylists, and chefs broke off into teams and competed in a decorating contest using the techniques we learned. Fortunately, we didn't have to worry about our decorations toppling over as if we were on a Food Network challenge.
Our task was limited to a two-tier cake. (We were really hoping for at least a four-tier cake.) But the energy, enthusiasm, and creativity in the room went through the roof as if $10,000 were really on the line. Look at the photo see what was accomplished in only 30 minutes! Basketweaves, petals, flowers, clamshells, stars – everyone was really impressed with what others had created.
Following the cake decorating competition, we learned about fondant. Granted there are mixed feelings about fondant – you either hate it or love it, but you have to admit, cakes decorated with fondant are absolutely gorgeous. We always marvel at how pretty fondant looks but never imagined how easy it was to work with! It was like Play-Doh, except you could eat it (if you wanted). We learned how to roll fondant and make decorative roses.
For more tips and techniques on decorating check out the very useful Bake, Decorate, and Celebrate website.
Overall our day with the Wilton School was a fantastic learning opportunity that will inspire us to bake, decorate, and celebrate more in the future.
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