Cake decorating class helps create beautiful, edible memories (video)
Sue Steltz puts the finishing touches on her cake as the other students continue to work on their cakes March 26, 2012 at a cake decorating class at the Cake Decorator Shoppe in Yakima….
Cake decorating class helps create beautiful, edible memories (video)
YAKIMA, Wash. — Pictures of birthday parties with fancy cakes fill the baby books of my two older brothers: Trains, teddy bears, cars. Lovingly crafted by our mother in her Wilton pans, filled in with frosting stars. Even a cousin got a doll cake on her birthday.
My first birthday cake is a shape pan, too, sort of: It’s a rectangle. I’m crying in the picture as my dad holds the unadorned cake before me. It doesn’t even have my name on it, just a lonely candle.
There aren’t pictures of my birthday cakes again until I’m 5, when I had a “Little Mermaid”-themed party. The cake was store-bought, with a little plastic Ariel on top.
Flipping through the photo albums, I lamented to my mother, “How come you never made me shape cakes?”
“I was tired by the time you came along.” she said. “And you liked store-bought cakes.”
I decided it was time to learn the art of cake decorating, in case my future children decide they don’t like store-bought cake.
To accomplish this feat, I turned to The Cake Decorator Shoppe. Owned by Brian and Susie Schlepp, the shop has been open at 5609 Summitview Ave. since September 2009. Alena Kissel has been teaching Wilton Method cake decorating classes at the shop since about January 2010, said Brian Schlepp.
Kissel has been teaching the Wilton Method for about nine years and recently opened her own business, Cake Kiss. She started decorating cakes in her early teens and it has grown into a lifelong passion.
“All of my nephews and nieces and my kids remember their birthdays by their cake,” Kissel told the group of students who signed up for the Decorating Basics class at the shop in March.
Seven students — including myself — completed the first of the four-course Wilton curriculum in March. Students ranged from 12-year-old Ashley Dalton, who hopes someday to run her own bakery, and her mother, Christine, to grandmothers and sisters Sue Steltz and Deb Keeling, both of Selah.
On the first night of class, students gathered with sugar cookies to learn the basics of icing and decorating tips.
Frosting “consistency is probably the hardest part of the class itself — that and actually icing the cake,” Kissel warned.
“What else is there?” wondered a fellow student.
Plenty. Through the four-week course, Kissel guided students on how to bake a good cake, make perfect buttercream icing (Hint: It doesn’t actually contain butter), create a smooth icing surface and master decorations, including ribbon roses, shaggy mums, shell borders and writing.
“We went from nothing to doing this in four classes,” exclaimed Keeling on the final night, admiring her completed cake.
“We’ve come a long way from where we started with our cookies,” Steltz said.
The techniques learned in less than 12 hours of instruction are impressive. Susie Schlepp said any student who has completed Course 1 has the skills to make most cakes available in a grocery store bakery. Kissel said many of her students who complete all four classes have hopes of starting their own cake businesses.
Being able to use her skills as a decorator is one of the reasons she started her own business last year, she said.
That and it’s really fun.
“This is my way of playing with my food,” she said. “And class has allowed me to play with other adults.”
Alicia Farina of Yakima signed up for the course in order to perfect her frosting techniques.
“My cupcakes looked like a warm day,” she said. The frosting would sort of melt off. “I just didn’t know what I was doing wrong.”
Now she does.
Beyond learning a new skill, the course is just a lot of fun, with students sharing supplies, support and encouragement.
“My favorite part was visiting with everybody and having a relaxing evening,” said Dianna Warren of Yakima.
By the end of the course, most students were plotting their next cakes. Ashley Dalton said she’s already had lots of requests for her new skills. She’s planning a cat-shaped cake for a relative’s birthday.
My husband has requested a Superman cake. I offered to make a special cake for my mom when she came to visit last week.
“No, that’s OK,” she said. “I don’t really like cake.”
1 cup solid white vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon Wilton flavoring (Vanilla, Almond or Butter)
7 to 8 teaspoons water
1 pound powdered sugar
1 tablespoon meringue powder
Pinch of salt (optional)
For stiff consistency icing (use for flowers with upright petals, like roses): Cream together shortening, flavoring and water until well combined and fluffy. Add dry ingredients and mix on medium speed until thoroughly combined. Blend an additional minute or so, until creamy.
For medium consistency (used for decorating): Add 21/2 teaspoons of water to the above recipe.
For thin icing (used for writing, leaves and icing the cake): Add 5 teaspoons of water for the full recipe.
Tips: Kissel recommends adding the right amount of water for the consistency you need in the beginning of the recipe, rather than trying to water it down later. Meringue powder may be eliminated if you have egg allergies. Adding a pinch of salt may help cut back on the sweetness of the icing.
For chocolate buttercream icing: Add 3/4 cocoa and an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons of water.
* Savannah Tranchell can be reached at 509-577-7752 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Wilton Method
The Wilton Method of Cake Decorating began in 1929 by Dewey McKinley Wilton in Chicago as a small cake and candy school. Its first book, “Wilton’s Encyclopedia of Modern Cake Decorating,” was published in 1954 and the family began one of the first mail-order decorating supply businesses in 1959.
There are four levels of Wilton Method classes offered at The Cake Decorator Shoppe, 5609 Summitview Ave., Yakima. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Each class costs $45 plus $34.95 for a course kit, plus any other supplies.
Decorating Basics: Learn the basics of buttercream icing, cake baking, flowers and dimensional decorating. The next course will be held Mondays, April 30 through May 21 at 6:30 p.m.
Flowers and Cake Design: Instruction includes royal icing, making the Wilton Rose and other flowers. The next course is Tuesdays, May 1 through 22 at 6:30 p.m.
Gum Paste and Fondant: Using and tinting gum paste and fondant, lilies, bows and loops. Will be offered Mondays, June 4 through 25 at 6:30 p.m.
Advance Gum Paste Flowers: Learn to make blossoms, daisies, sweet peas, ivy leaves, briar rose and assemble bouquets. No course currently scheduled.
For more information or to sign up, call the shop at 509-494-0975 or go to thecakedecoratorshoppe.com
To find other locations to take Wilton classes, go to www.wilton.com.