Guest article by Chantal Mallett.
Last week I responded to my Editor friend, Tina’s call out, to be her last minute stand in on a ‘make your own wedding cake’, cake decorating workshop.
The following morning, I rock up to the welcoming green door of Cookery School, just off Regent’s St in London and descend the steps to a bright, smart space and the beaming smile of my hostess for the day, cake decorating expert and author Victoria Glass.
There were three of us attending the workshop, all new to cake decorating; a mum of three, a food blogger and cookery student and me, a couture bridal wear designer – no assumption should be made about my aptitude for the day’s task, given I was not good at pottery in school, born out by the fact that I made gargoyles but I was hoping to turn out something fairer of face than that.
After a breakfast of freshly baked scones and coffee we began the day learning how to create a peony out of sugar craft florist icing, using cutters and shaping tools; a project we would set aside to finish later. In my mind, I imagined we’d be decorating an iced dummy cake but instead, we set about constructing a three tier, real wedding cake, each! This was clearly a far more challenging and skills packed day than I had anticipated but ‘a piece of cake’, right?
Well surprisingly, to all of us I think, with Victoria’s clear directions, it was easier than I expected to grasp the basics.
We sliced our lemon, vanilla and carrot cake tiers into layers filling them with curd, jam and flavoured butter creams, slathering them each in a layer of butter cream and marzipanned them and all before lunch. Far from producing nine iffy looking cakes that resembled a badly filled wall, we had all done a pretty good job.
Whilst we ate lunch Victoria and the team got some of our cakes iced so that we only had to ice one (which is essentially the same process as marzipanning), before cracking on with the fun stuff. Cutting and shaping more petals for our peony, learning how to create roses and piping techniques and before we knew it, we were let loose on our cakes.
The day was filled with laughter, Bake Off style banter, the odd split bit of icing and sad looking rose (mine) and surprise, surprise, we all created some half decent wedding cakes or at least, the beginnings of. I concentrated on decorating the top tier because I hadn’t realised we could take away the whole thing (how cool is that) and there was no way I could get it home on the train.
If you were to ask me if after the workshop I really can make my own wedding cake? I would have to say yes. But on or immediately after the workshop? No, not really. In fairness, even if you are ‘crafty,’ it really would be a pipe(ing) dream to expect to come away from a one day workshop having completed a wedding cake that passes muster at a wedding or with enough skills to be able to DIY your own cake straight off the bat. It also came as no surprise to me, that cake decorating is a time-consuming business, and is not a skill that comes overnight.
As a taster the workshop was really great; we all achieved far more than we expected and that really is encouraging – especially if you want to start doing this at home as a hobby or practising towards being able to create your own wedding cake.
Icing sugar flowers become harder and less fragile over time, so can be made way ahead of a wedding and with lots of practice and lot’s of time, it is possible to master sugar flowers well enough to impress both yourself and your friends. Who knows, if you have lots of prep time, creating sugar paste flowers could even be your wedding de-stresser.
Personally, I’m a perfectionist, I know and know of, some of the best wedding cake makers in the business and I know what really amazing sugar work looks like and I have neither the time or inclination to ever get that good. So whilst I was quite pleased with my own efforts and thrilled that I have come away having learnt enough to pretty professionally ice and do something artsy for a Christmas cake or a family member’s birthday cake, I would definitely prefer to leave my wedding cake to the professionals; apart from anything else and having made my own wedding dress, I can tell you that making anything for your own wedding is ridiculously stressful and if I learned anything from my day at Cookery School, cake decorating should be and is a lot of fun.
Pop a flower blossom anywhere you need to hide a piping bodge up.
If you can’t Uber home, take appropriate sized plastic boxes to get your tiers home in one piece and a strong handled bag. Take it from me, leaving cake behind IS a crime against baking.
For inspiration (or intimidation) check out the following talented makers:
See Victoria Glass’s book Boutique Wedding Cakes for how to bake and decorate wedding cakes at home.
For more information about the Cookery School course, visit cookeryschool.co.uk
Credits: Other cake created by Hollie