Monday, February 06, 2006

Cake Decorating

By Christina VanGinkel

I grew up in a family that owned a bakery. My dad worked in a bakery growing up, and when he was drafted, during World War 2, he worked aboard the USS New Jersey as a Baker First Class. Upon leaving the military, he went on to own several bakeries, both in Chicago, and then in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He was a talented baker, and people from all over would drive for hours just to purchase baked goods from his stores. What he truly had a knack for though, was decorating cakes. This talent was passed down to several of his children, but in particular to one of my brothers, Alvin Marshall. A cake decorator, with such artistic ability, Alvin went on to work at one of Hollywood's most exclusive bakeries, The Cake Walk, and decorated cakes for the likes of Rita Moreno, Sylvester Stallone, and George Burns. My favorite photograph of him is standing next to the cake he decorated for George Burn's 95th birthday, a bust of the actor himself.

I tell you all this because I could not decorate a cake if my life depended on it. Some people are born artistic, and others are not. I was not. Yet, I love crafts, and the arts, and I love fancy cakes. Therefore, with all this in mind, I have decided to check out what cake decorating courses there I might be able to find in and around my immediate area. I live in quite a rural area, but there are a few towns within driving distance that occasionally offer classes such as this. What I found was a course that runs several weeks, that is put on by the local high school for the adult education courses that they offer several times a year. Some of the courses are for actual college credit, while others, the cake decorating class included, are more for the average adult looking to expand their horizons.

The class includes the basics of choosing frosting, basic flowers and leaves made from frosting, choosing equipment, such as the tips and bags that cake decorators use to create with, and other details such as tinting and coloring your designs. This is what the brochure says. When I mention this to my sister, she responds that the class sounds like a good place to start if I am interested in learning the basics. She also offers to give me a few pointers, which she has offered before, but I have always been a bit intimidated to accept, as she decorates almost as well as our father and brother did before their passing.

I not only plan to take her up on this offer, but to also sign up for the class. Cake decorating can be an enjoyable hobby, or even a job. For me personally, I am looking to learn the basics, as a hobby, to decorate a cake or two for my grandchildren in the years to come! If this is something that you have been considering, I can tell you that cake decorating is a great way to let your creativity show, and enjoy a delicious piece of cake all at the same time.

Check out what classes might be offered in your area, such as the course I found through one of the areas local schools. Be sure to check with your local craft stores too, as some craft stores, such as Michaels, offer the famous Wilton Cake Decorating courses for both beginners and those looking to further their skills. Course 1 goes over and teaches the basic skills, such as how to ice a cake and perfecting a simple border of roses. Course 2 continues with more intricate borders and flowers, including pansies and mums besides the typical rose. It also teaches a weave design and color flow. Course 3 introduces the students to even more advanced borders, rolled fondant, how to assemble a tiered cake, and some of the most intricate flowers you will ever see on a decorated cake.

Wilton has the advantage of their longevity standing behind them as they teach students today. I remember many of the products that my father and brother used years ago, from their icing bags and tips, to the paper they laid across the cakes as they baked them were all backed with the Wilton name.

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