Two Sundays ago I went to a cake decorating class at the charming Sugar Flower Cake Shop. I got the class as a Groupon and was very excited - though I consider myself a pretty good amateur baker, my decorating skills leave something to be desired. As I learned in the class' introductory speech from our instructor, Amy, Sugar Flower Cake Shop is all about local organic blah blah di blah blah. I kind of tuned it out because who in New York isn't into local and organic these days. But what I appreciated most was that apparently they only use buttercream, never fondant, because fondant tastes terrible. So we were off to a good start.
The lovely Sugar Flower Cake Shop
Amy and her assistants handed out squares of cake to everyone in the class. It was a vanilla cake with caramel filling, and the frosting was vanilla as well. I was lucky enough to be the only person at my table of six to get a perfectly rectangular piece (everyone else had one that had been cut from the side of the cake). Amy showed us how to hold our offset spatulas like a spoon, and instructed us to wipe the excess frosting off into a tub after every slather of frosting. This seemed excessively fastidious for me (after all, it's called a crumb coat - can't it have some crumbs in it?) but I guess it's a good habit to get in to for later, non-crumb coats. Once we had a good layer of frosting on our cakes, they put them in the fridge, and it was time to learn how to decorate!
Amy taught us the correct angles for piping stars (large and small), shells, dots, filigree, writing, and so on. I found shells to be the most challenging. You have to hold your bag at a 45-degree angle, squirt, and then quickly move the tip to the right in order to make a thin tail. (This is assuming you're a righty, going left to right.) But it was a lot of fun to try. I was especially grateful for the tip that I should not fill my piping bag with more than a little frosting - I always overfill, and I never even realized it until now. It's a lot easier to control in small amounts, even if it's annoying to have to constantly refill it. The other major annoyance was that the frosting pretty much melted as the class went on, and became close to unusable towards the end. But Amy was adamant that buttercream should not go in the fridge, and I trust her - she's the expert!
After that, it was time for our cakes to come out of the fridge, so we could put on the final coating of frosting. This was the part I found the most challenging. Despite having the easiest piece of cake to deal with, mine took the longest to frost. I couldn't get the damned corners. Luckily, Amy was very helpful. "You can never have too much buttercream," she said, which is a fine motto for all areas of life, don't you think? Anyway, with sufficient slathering, I got the corners (mostly) covered, and got to decorating! You can see the fruits of my labor above. After we finished decorating, everyone got a box in which to take their cake home. Let's just say that my cake didn't last 24 hours in my apartment!
I would recommend this class to any beginning cake decorator. It was totally full and so I didn't get all the personal attention I would have liked, but hey, it's a Groupon, what do you want. I feel like I learned a lot; plus, they sent all the people in the class a practice sheet for piping, so I can continue my cake-decorating education in the comfort of my own home.