As much as I love playing in the kitchen, I’m a less-than-stellar baker. My cakes sometimes fall, my pie crusts often shrivel, and there’s usually at least one tray of cookies that burn. What I am good at coming up with solutions, so each “disaster” is most often edible–and even enjoyable–in the end.
Today, though, I had to get it right. I signed on to take Cake Decorating 101 (I need help, remember?) from a local community ed program. Beki of Beki Cook’s Cakes sent out an email yesterday reminding students to bring an 8-inch cake to frost. (I’d spaced that critical piece of information, so was glad for the reminder.) Today was the day to bake my cake, and it had to be perfect–no tears, no crumbling. It would have to come out of the pan perfectly, something my cakes don’t always do.
A few days back, I had read an intriguing article about making homemade cake mixes, so found a recipe online. I followed the recipe to the letter. (Well, almost. I did sub 1/2 cup buttermilk powder for the nonfat dried milk due to pantry inventory issues.) I also greased my cake pan and lined it with wax paper sprayed with cooking spray. No messing around–this needed to go well. Fortunately, it did. The cake baked up and browned nicely. After cooling, it was time to take it to Frosting Class.
I was excited to see what tips and tricks Beki would have; she did not disappoint. She walked us through coating (use lots of frosting), smoothing (first with a light touch and a spatula), drying (10 minutes stand time gives the frosted cake a nice “crust”), another round of smoothing (pressing oh-so-lightly with a non-embossed paper towel), and finally decorating with pastry bag and tips.
Beki seemed a bottomless source of easy-to-follow practical decorating tips. For crumb-free frosting, always leave a layer of frosting between the spatula and cake, never letting the spatula touch the cake itself. When coloring frosting, use less icing gel (never liquid drops) than you think you’d need for pastels and more than you think you’d need for the deeper, darker colors.
With only two hours of instruction, I was able to frost and decorate a great-looking cake–a personal best. For sure there are those of you (I’m talking to you, baking bloggers:-)), who can decorate far better than I, but I’m simply ecstatic that I could turn out such a pretty cake. I go back to Beki next week for the second half of the class. She showed me that decorating cakes well, with the right tips and tools, is accessible to anyone–even a non-artist and less-than-perfect baker such as myself.