I've never claimed to be a writer, but it's nice to have a place to put my thoughts down once in a while.


My First Cake

For the past year and a half or more I've been working with my sister decorating cakes. Jenni bakes and ices the cakes. Once that's done, I add fondant and/or gumpaste decorations. This is something that I never thought I'd be doing. It's strange how that happens. I've always been interested in crafty, creative and artistic things. I just never thought about using edible mediums. I must say, I'm really enjoying myself. It's especially rewarding to see the faces of the recipients of our cakes. There's nothing better than seeing the joy, surprise, and amazement in their expressions. I usually don't get that kind of reaction when I design a brochure or logo.

So, not having a cooking/baking background, I really have no interest in that end of the cake making. But, I believe to do something well, you need to understand each step in the process. I've been in the printing industry for a very long time now. I know what happens from the moment a customer walks in the door until the final product is in their hands. From discerning what the customer needs and/or wants, to quoting, designing, pre-preduction, presswork, bindery and finally to delivery. I may not be skilled in every area, but I know the process and what it takes to get from one step to the next. And so I feel the same with cake decorating. So I signed up to take the first Wilton cake decorating course. I don't expect to be an expert, but I hope to gain a better understanding of what it takes to get the cakes from raw ingredients to an iced cake sitting in front of me.

The first class we went over how to bake a cake and how to make icing. We also learned how to make a simple star with buttercream icing. Our homework: bake a cake and make buttercream icing. I reconfirmed that I have no interest whatsoever in cooking beyond the necessities. However, I had an expert holding my hand (figuratively) during the whole process. Jenni stood by and showed/told me what to do. (She occasionally gave an extra stir here and there). Honestly, I did the work, and I understand better what it takes to bake a cake. But I feel that Jenni really baked that cake. But, the purpose was served and that step is over. She also helped me make the icing. She actually helped a little bit more with this, but as I understand it, buttercream icing can be tricky so I'm fine with that. Again, I know better now what is needed.

So the second class we learned the next step: Leveling and torting then icing and decorating the cakes we baked. For anyone reading that is unfamiliar with those terms, I'll explain. When cakes come out of the oven, they are usually slightly rounded on top. Some more so than others. But, if you've ever noticed in bakeries, cakes are almost always flat on top. So before the cake is iced, the top is "leveled". The rounded part is shaved off to make a flat top. Torting (which, imo, is a fun word to say), means to slice the cake in half horizontally, so you have two shorter cakes. Then you layer them with a filling like a fruit jam/jelly, a mousse or icing between them.

So in class, I finally got the leveling and torting done and it was time to ice my first cake. If you've never iced a cake (I don't mean slapping some canned icing on the 9x13 cake in the pan, anyone can do that), then you can never fully appreciate what it takes to get the icing smooth. There are a myriad of tricks out there to get a cake iced smoothly. I won't share what Jenni does. She'd disown me. It's one of her trade secrets. What I've discovered about this process is that it takes lots of practice and even more patience.

I finally got the cake iced (by that I mean there is icing on the cake, I do not claim, however, that it is smooth). Now it was time for decorating. We had a specific design we were to use and so, the decorating commenced. I didn't get finished in class (it's only 2 hours) so I went home and finished at my own pace. I decided, since this was a practice cake, that it didn't have to be the prettiest so I used it to practice the piping methods we had learned so far. (Piping is using a decorating bag and tip to "pipe" icing in to designs on a cake.)

Since my dad's birthday is in a day or two, I decided to make the cake for him. So, below is my finished cake. My very first cake, I baked, iced and decorated by myself. For my dad. I hope he likes it. What do you think?