In January of 2009, I took a beginners’ cake decorating course at Michael’s Craft Store. I highly recommend it and in my experience, you really only need to take the first course. Any new techniques after that can easily be self-taught. You can use these techniques to decorate cookies and cupcakes too. Class was only once a week for a month but there was surprisingly a lot of homework. I [half] joked every week about being really stressed out about my cake decorating class. 🙂 Each week you had to go to class with a cake and batches of differently textured and coloured icing. So I took this opportunity to test 3 different yellow cake recipes. The link to the yellow cake recipe that I liked the most is here. Note that the Wilton buttercream frosting recipe does not taste good, because it was designed for the purpose of practicing techniques in any climate (ie. to hold up in humidity).
I was totally the kid that sniffed glue in that class. I was never fully prepared for class, so I would colour batches of icing in the middle of lessons, clearly not paying attention to the instructor. The funny part is, I wasn’t even in a rush to join the class; I just took my time colouring batch after batch, looking over at the demonstration every now and then and not showing any indication of panic when everyone else had moved on from one technique to another. I didn’t want to rip pages out of the lesson book, so I didn’t practice on the cake board like we were supposed to – even though everyone else did – and I didn’t even attempt the clown technique for which we were given practice time. You see, I hadn’t bothered to buy the plastic clown head that we were supposed to. Would you believe I have a Masters in Science? 🙂 I still remember the look on the instructor’s face… she had clearly never encountered a student like me before and she had no idea what to do with me, haha. My sister was laughing really hard when I described my behaviour in class, but she laughed even harder when I told her that the class size was a total of 4.
Tips for Saving Money on Cake Decorating Materials
For the beginners’ course, you will acquire a set of basic tools and you will learn basic techniques and principles. From there, I’ve since been able to figure out much more advanced decorating with the help of the internet. So I’ve saved 1. the cost of the courses and 2. the cost of the expensive Wilton student kits that are mandatory for each course. The kits have repeat tools and include accessories that you’re not likely to use again, so I’ve purchased a few individual tools, as I’ve needed them, when being resourceful wasn’t enough.
Instead of buying sets of icing dyes, I only purchased the primary colours (red, blue and yellow) and black. Note that the Wilton black dye will not give you a true black or gray colour, so use the Duff brand black colouring instead. It’s fun experimenting with mixing colours and not only did I save money and cut down on waste, I didn’t have to find storage space in my already overcrowded kitchen (especially since this class inspired me to buy a large cake carrier).
I personally think that the rectangular cake carrier is the most versatile because you can use it to carry a 9″ x 13″ rectangular cake, a 10″ round cake, 12 cupcakes or 24 mini muffins (it comes with a reversible tray that holds the cupcakes/mini muffins in place). However, note that it is not tall enough for 3 layer cakes. If you’re transporting cakes, I recommend using a silicone mat (or some other non-slip thing) under the cake board to prevent it from sliding around in the carrier. Also, after you finish baking your cake, put a large dab of icing between the cake and the cake board to prevent your cake from sliding off the cake board.
My Cakes from the Decorating Class
The first three photos are of my very first attempts at cake decorating. They still make me laugh whenever I see them, so feel free to laugh “with” me 😉
Below: For the first cake, we were supposed to use piping gel to transfer a rainbow pattern onto our cakes. But the “artificialness” of the edible piping gel grossed me out, so I free handed a similar design. As you can see, my rainbow is missing a few colours, but I couldn’t afford to add any more layers because I didn’t make enough icing colours for the class to begin with. I had to borrow the purple and bright pink icing that was left over from other peoples’ cakes. I thought my cake looked hilariously bad (especially next to everyone else’s) but I was quite impressed with myself for being creative and adding sun rays and an extra cloud 🙂
Below: This was the second attempt at cake decorating.
Below: This was one of the other girls in the class. I giggled when we were making the bases for roses, because I thought they looked like penises. For some reason, no one else made the association. Tell me you see it too 😉
Below: This was my third attempt at cake decorating and the last cake from the course.
Check out the more recent posts under my Cake Decorating and Cookie Decorating categories. You can see the progress, the experiments, and the new techniques that I’ve learned since this course (self taught). If you want to know how I did any of the decorations (ie. tip number, icing consistency, etc.), feel free to ask me in a comment and I’ll post the details in a reply.