If you’re like me and love to get your hands dirty, which I’m assuming you are if you love baking, then I highly recommend taking a baking class. I can read all the blogs and books that teach how to perfectly stack and frost a cake, but until I have someone there to correct me as I’m making a mistake I will keep making that mistake over and over expecting to somehow magically make my cake look amazing. What is that called again? Insanity? So Friday I did just that – took a cake decorating class through Zingermann’s Bakehouse.
All the cake and buttercream was made before I arrived, which meant all my focus was on the actual decorating part. This class was a total of 4 hours and it flew by. The size of the class was small with only six students, so you got one on one time with the instructor. The instructor Nikki was great! She offered advice by sayings things like, “You’re doing great, but maybe try doing this instead.” – which meant what you’re doing is turning out like crap. But hey – all I heard was the “great” part, so my pride was left intact
There are 10 main things that I learned from the class that I wish I had known before all my previous cake making debacles:
- Get a cake turn table. It made frosting and cutting the cake layers in half faster. Instead of trying to saw through the entire cake layer, if you spin the cake on the turn table while sawing, you only have cut to the half way point!
- Save the bottom of the cake for the top layer. It’s perfectly smooth, which will make getting your buttercream nice and level so much easier.
- Always put a crumb coat layer on the cake. Which means getting a thin layer of buttercream on the top and sides of the cake that is relatively smooth, but doesn’t need to be perfect.
- Refrigerate. After the crumb coat, put your cake in the fridge. This lets the frosting set and locks in the crumbs, which means when you do the finish layer of buttercream it will be crumb free.
- Get an offset spatula. I remember seeing this thing in my mom’s kitchen drawer growing up and having no idea what the heck it was for. Now I know and love it! It allows you to get a level layer of buttercream on the top and sides of the cake without digging your knuckle into the frosting.
- Lay it on thick. Let the frosting from the top of the cake hang over the sides and let the frosting on the sides rise above the top of the cake a bit. This gives you enough buttercream to work with, so that you can “sculpt” the top edge of the cake more easily.
- Work on the opposite side of your dominate hand. You get a better angle at both the sides and top of the cake while frosting. So, if you pretend the top of the cake is a clock and you’re right handed like me, you hold the offset spatula pointed down at 9 o’clock against the side of the cake.
- Corners are pulled not pushed. Those perfect 90 degree corners on the top of cakes are made by holding the offset spatula at 45 degrees against the corner of the cake and pulling it towards the center. Clean the spatula off between pulls and you’re in business.
- Get a bench knife. That is how professional bakers get the sides of their cakes so smooth.
- Buttercream roses aren’t so scary. As long as you have a flower nail, which allows you to keep your piping hand in one spot while turning the rose and layering petals, you’re golden.
I’ll definitely be taking another class – and bonus you get to take the cake home. See the finished product!?
Now I just need to put this to practice in my own kitchen. Wish me luck.