My New Love: Cake Decorating

In February 2005, I started taking a cake decorating class from Lori Parrett at Cake Walk Chicago. What a ton of fun. Lori is a great instructor, very talented but also very easy-going. I can't recommend her classes and store enough. In fact, it was the best educational experience of my life, and I've had a lot of experience. Heck, I may give up being a computer nerd and make cakes all day. Here's a selection of my first cakes.

My first fondant cake (pre-Lori's class). A wedding cake in the shape of a Buddhist Stupa for my friends Kasia and Brad Glick. There are "prayer flags" spelling their names twisting down from the spire. The bride and groom figures are courtesy of Drew.
My first foray into buttercream roses, first class where we got to do anything. I'm pretty darn impressed, myself. Lessons learned: "1. Cakes look great with a pile of roses and 2. Don't make drop flowers on the sides of cakes where they, indeed, drop."
My second fondant cake, made at a Saturday workshop at Cakewalk Chicago.
If I had known it was going to look so good, I would have put it onto a nicer board. Themed as a Rainbow Fish for PJ Karafiol's birthday. Lessons learned: "1. Choose the right size cake board and 2. If you glue everything together with vanilla extract, the cake smells heavenly."
A birthday cake I made for Ru's birthday. She was turning one of those ages, her father-in-law the other. A stabilized whipped cream frosting. Lessons learned: "1. Step AWAY from the cake before you make ridiculous dots and frills all over the lettering and 2. If Wilton recommends a method, it might not taste great but it will work."

A birthday cake I made for one of our favorite babysitters, Anya. You can just about squeeze 18 roses on a 7" cake. Thank goodness I got rid of that "Friends and Family Plate." Lessons learned: "1. When you do lettering in melted chocolate, do the mirror image! Fortunately 18 is symmetric and 2. Classical buttercream roses taste like, well, butter. Plus they're a pain in the butt. As Anya said 'The red ones taste like icing!' and 3. Cake mixes taste just fine if you ladle strawberry buttercream between the layers."

A birthday cake I made for our other favorite babysitter, Ruthie. Her requested design; a traditional (in our family) carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Lesson learned: "Be bold, or you'll get anaemic vegetables." A birthday cake for Jonah's first. Cake made by PJ. As Andrew said: "What are those seagulls doing on the bottom?" Lesson learned: "Don't fart around with new tips on somebody else's cake." Nonetheless, so admired by a partygoer that I have a whale request for another birthday party.
Fluted Chocolate Ruffle Top
Sigmund Freud in white and dark chocolate, done for my neighbor Jim the Psychologist. The cake is a chocolate buttermilk, the icing an Italian Meringue flavored with Drambuie and orange marmalade. Lesson learned: "Use candy chocolates to avoid bloom unless you're eating it immediately. Also, colors of chocolates have to be at the same temperature to avoid separation." Meredith's birthday, a big number (for her). Chocolate ruffle top on a chocolate cake, strawberry mousse piping and filling. Lessons learned: "Stop using that overblown Cake Bible. Also, if you're going to make a dense cake, put two layers of light filling in the middle." Ruffle was surprisingly easy, given the recipe in The Perfect Cake.
30 mini cupcakes for Alec's 4th birthday school class . They are vanilla with a dipped chocolate glaze and sugar crystal sprinkles. On top are chocolate wafer "bugs." Lesson learned: "Fill mini muffin cups with a pastry bag -- one air bubble in a cupcake and it's totally unstable." The repeat of the whale cake for Alec's 4th birthday. He likes pink. Devil's food cake with butter/shortening icing. Compare to the one above -- I'm getting more agressive with the decorating. Lesson learned: "Small children always want a piece with whale icing on it -- so make the main decoration big. "
A buttermilk chocolate cake with orange mousse filling and orange buttercream frosting. Recipes from The Perfect Cake, buttercream mixing from The Whimsical Bakehouse. The final installment in Alec's birthday. Lesson learned: "1. Do not turn the oven dial to Broil instead of Bake. 2. NEVER add gel coloring to chocolate ganache because it will curdle/seize and look disgusting." My sister's traditional carrot cake with cream cheese icing. Made for a big birthday of Andrew's. Now all gussied up with basketweave. Can't say it's significantly more beautiful than the one show above with really simple and fast dots.
A monster-size cake, chocolate cake with chocolate ganache filling and chocolate glaze. More chocolate than you can shake a stick at, created by Marty for her dad's 80th birthday. I made the roses as my modest contribution to the abundance. As you can see, we're on a roll with the monster size cakes. Personally, I think the red roses look better interspersed with the white ones. A cake for Sara Fagan's birthday and Bradley Reunion. Lesson learned: "1. When you shatter a cake while trying to layer it, just flip it upside down! and 2. A cake this big needs at least four layers of cardboard under it (hence the duct tape)."


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