more fun with wilton: advanced gum paste flowers (course 4)

I recently spent four mornings under the tutelage of my good friend Evelyn, learning how to make flowers out of gum paste. We had a terrific group in our class and made lots of gerbera daisies, sweet peas, stargazer lilies, briar roses and stephanotis, plus ivy and lily leaves. This is the first Wilton class that I’ve taken in which I haven’t had to bake a cake and honestly, I was soooooo relieved as it’s been a crazy spring. In lieu of a finale cake, we were supposed to make a spray out of our finished flowers, but I just couldn’t wrap my brain around arranging them that morning. So here they are, in their unbound glory!

Gerbera Daisy


Bunch of blossoms

Sweet pea with ivy leaves

Briar roses

a pair of blue birds

C. and I had some fun this evening making these birds out of fondant. His previous fondant bird sort of melted in the fridge so I promised C. we’d recreate him. C. named his creation (on the right) “Birdy,” after our late parakeet. I haven’t named mine (on the left) yet; his predecessor was called “Morty.” Any suggestions?

my kid takes kakes for kids

This creation is by my 11-year-old son C., who recently took a Wilton Kakes for Kids project class at our local Michael’s store. He iced a single-layer Devil’s Food Cake (recipe courtesy of Zoe Bakes) with ready-made icing and used icing tubes (all from Wilton) to decorate the cake. The design he came up with was badminton-themed, which is fitting because badminton is one of our favorite summer pastimes. First he added a leaf border using a leaf tip (obviously). He outlined the racket and the strings (including a contrasting logo) with a round tip, and filled in the handle with a star tip. The birdie was made using round and leaf tips to make the feathers and round and star tips for the red cork base. And finally C. added a blue bird that he modeled from fondant in class (a la Morty). Sadly, he wasn’t feeling well after class so I stuck the cake in the refrigerator when we got home. By the time he was well enough to eat cake (a few days later), the little bird had suffered from being refrigerated. Fondant creatures + fridges = sticky, soft, squishy mess.

C. did an excellent job with his cake and I was really impressed with how he came up with his own design and used all the techniques he learned in class to execute it. I’m really looking forward to our next project — C.’s birthday cupcakes!

obsessed with flowers

Ever since I began learning how to make flowers in my Wilton classes, I’ve become rather preoccupied with thoughts of flowers. Their relative size, color(s), shape, construction… it’s all suddenly become fascinating to me. C. has been attending day camp for the past two weeks and during my 17 mile drive to and from camp twice a day, I passed hundreds of blooming day lilies, just as I was learning how to make Easter lilies in class. I’ve always loved those vibrant orange to copper-hued day lilies, so I made a bunch out of royal icing for my finale cake. I didn’t end up using them for that, but they will undoubtedly make their way on to another cake this summer.

wilton course 3 finale cake

Today was the final day of my Wilton Course 3 class. It was also the last class of all the Wilton classes offered at my local Michael’s, since I have already completed Course 1 and 2 and the Fondant and Gum Paste class. However, lest I get too big for my britches with all this cake decorating know-how, the cake gods made sure just about everything that could go wrong in my prep for today’s class went wrong. A brief (and partial) accounting follows. My cake layers (I made extra) bubbled over in the oven, making a smoky, burnt mess, which I then had to chisel out (this happened twice!). My layers crumbled and/or broke (yes, every single one of them) when I removed them from the pans to cool. My crumb coats of icing were full of crumbs (which is supposed to happen), as were my final coats (not supposed to happen). By the end of my baking and frosting day yesterday, I was sick to death of this cake, and I hadn’t even had class yet.

Rear view

This morning, I somehow managed to transport the cakes to class without further damage. We spent the morning assembling the tiers and decorating our cakes with the royal icing flowers we had made and dried in advance. All in all, I’m satisfied with the results — it isn’t quite what I had envisioned but I’m mostly relieved that it’s finished and we can finally eat it. 🙂 The cake is the Chocolate Fudge Groom’s Cake from the Wilton site, iced with the Buttercream Icing (half shortening, half butter — a compromise over the all-shortening Class Buttercream which I’ve been whining about since I started my first Wilton class back in February). It’s a good combo — I ate enough trimmings yesterday to know. The purple petunias were for C. — I promised him a purple-themed cake a while back.

Flower detail

When I started my first Wilton class last winter, all I wanted was to learn a little something about cake decorating so I wouldn’t make too big a fool out of myself when I did my cake classes at Johnson and Wales. I didn’t expect to love it, or even be good at it. To my surprise, I found the classes to be really enjoyable and personally gratifying. As my mother-in-law said to me recently, “Those classes really worked out for you, didn’t they?” As always, a million thank you’s to Evelyn for being the best teacher an uncoordinated, unartistic person could hope for — positive, supportive, patient and most of all, always good-humored. I am so grateful we crossed paths.

what a difference a year makes

Today is my dear husband’s 44th birthday! For the occasion, I baked the same cake I made him last yearCook’s Illustrated‘s Devil’s Food Layer Cake with Whipped Cream Frosting. The difference between last year’s cake and this year’s are 3 1/2 Wilton courses.

Last year’s cake

This year’s cake

The whipped cream isn’t as easy to work with as buttercream icing, but I think I did a decent job. I made the flowers in Course 2 and dried them for future use (I have boxes and boxes!). The leaves are buttercream icing tinted with moss green icing tint.

carrots, cream cheese and fondant

Today was the last day of my Wilton Fondant and Gum Paste class. It’s my usual M.O. to bake a chocolate cake for my Wilton class cakes, although it’s not necessarily my preference. I wouldn’t mind a white cake with raspberry filling or something different every now and again, but I’ve been told by the guys (well, one 11-year-old guy actually) that it has to be chocolate or else they (he) won’t eat it. And I don’t want to be the only one eating all this cake!

However, we’ve had a fair amount of cake in recent weeks, and will continue to, between all the birthdays and my next class, so I decided to be daring and veer off the chocolate path. I baked the Carrot Layer Cake from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book and iced it with Philadelphia Cream Cheese Frosting from the Kraft Foods site. America’s Test Kitchen‘s carrot cake is very basic — just carrots. Some of the other recipes I looked at contained nuts, raisins, coconut and/or pineapple. I couldn’t settle on which of those other ingredients I’d want in my cake so I just decided to go basic. (It’s a good thing too, because P. later told me he wouldn’t have liked any of those other ingredients.) I’ve made the Philly Cream Cheese Frosting many times in the past. It’s a cinch — just 4 ingredients (cream cheese, butter, vanilla and confectioners’ sugar) — and goes great with all sorts of cakes. Try it and you’ll never use canned again.

After icing, I covered the cake and cake board with fondant and added the final touches during the class. I like how it turned out although I do wish I had done something a bit more creative (the ideas were straight from the book) — I tried to come up with something different, but ran out of time. Also, I would’ve liked to use a different color combo (I used these colors in an earlier class) but I was trying to use up the supplies I had.

C. — I know I owe you a purple cake — we’ll see what Course 3 brings.

And lastly, as always, I’d like to thank my instructor, Evelyn, for her unwavering support and endless patience.

Favor box atop the cake.

more fun with fondant

This week we covered cakes in fondant — judging from the wrinkles I have a lot of work ahead of me. We also practiced different decorating techniques using fondant and gumpaste — draping, a handkerchief overlay, a ribbon garland and a ribbon border.

Draping and handkerchief overlay

Ribbon border and ribbon garland

My instructor recommended we use a pound cake or a carrot cake for a base, since fondant tends to be too heavy for sponge cakes. To meet our household requirement that all cakes be chocolate, I made Deep Chocolate Sour Cream Pound Cake from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle (I found the recipe on Chubby Hubby’s blog here). The cake was very indulgent (3/4 of a pound of butter and a cup of sour cream will do that to a cake), but moist and scrumptious. It even made the Wilton (Crisco-laden) Class Buttercream seem tasty. At least I thought so. (L. said it was dry but mushy. Teenagers excel at tact.) I used natural cocoa rather than the Dutch-processed cocoa Boyle calls for. If you’re looking for an over-the-top chocolatey cake, I recommend making it with Dutch-processed cocoa as written. I baked the cake in two 8-inch rounds rather than in a loaf pan; if you do this the baking time is approximately 55 minutes. Baked this way, the recipe produces a 3 1/2-inch tall layer cake.

I’m looking forward to next week’s class — no cakes, just flower production!

wilton course 2 finale cake

Last night was my last class of Wilton Course 2. Pictured above is my finale cake for the class — the birds were made from a mixture of confectioners’ sugar, water and Wilton Color Flow (essentially powdered egg whites, I’m told). The flowers were made from Royal Icing and were all made in advance and dried. I did the basketweave pattern and the rope borders during class (click on the picture for a larger image). The underlying cake is Cook’s Illustrated‘s Devil’s Food Cake, which I’ve baked once before for P.’s birthday last summer. Big thanks as always to Evelyn for her encouragement and tireless patience.