Hello Koala fans!
Things are going pretty well for me down here in Bournemouth and I’m feeling a lot more positive about life in general. There’s still the occasional rocky patch on the road but compared to this time last year, things are a lot better.
I’ve been a little restless when it comes to kitchen stuff – I’m staying in staff accommodation at the local hospital and while the kitchen is useable, it’s not geared towards baking things sadly, hence the lack of recent updates. =(
However, that could soon be changing. On my way into work each morning, I pass a small local cookery school which offers evening classes on all sorts of things, from pastries to pasta, curries to cakes – all kinds of interesting things. So this week, I finally bit the bullet and signed up for a couple of them.
The first was a three hour course on cake decorating. Sadly the Koala wasn’t with me for this particular adventure but given the ungodly amount of icing that was lying around unguarded, it’s probably just as well.
The group was quite small for this one and it seems most of the classes are a fairly similar size – about 6-7 people with the tutor and their happy kitchen elves. We started off by seeing what our finished cake would look like:
Each of the students was provided with a pre-baked sponge cake, with buttercream and jam filling:
The first task was to add the misty looking colour underneath, using a special airbrush modified to take food colouring. Food colouring comes in a surprisingly wide range of textures – liquids, gels, pastes – each with a specific decorating task in mind. The airbrush looked quite formidable and we were nervous about using it. Eventually, a brave volunteer was selected by the rest of the class smartly taking a step backwards and me being slow on the uptake.
I went with pink for my base colour, as I’ve grown to like bright and cheerful tones over the traditional manly colours of grey, black, charcoal and ebony. If you’re interested in getting a similar airbrush for your own decorating, the one I used is apparently about £300 but Hobbycraft and similar stores do a smaller handheld one for about £100 or so.
The next stage involved making the roses for the top of the cake. This proved to be much more challenging. My mum is the gardener in the family; my knowledge of flowers is that they come in self raising or plain varieties. As a result, my finished flowers ended up as something vaguely rose-like, something that was probably an orchid and two others that have yet to be discovered by botanists. They all looked kinda cool though for a first effort.
Several more additions followed – a wonderful little twisted rope pattern to line the base of the cake and some leaves and vines made using a similar pattern. There are two ways to persuade all these decorations to stay in place – one is by using alcohol to melt the sugars together and the other is by using a very tiny amount of piped icing. Vodka is used as its one of the purest forms of alcohol available that still leaves your vision intact after consumption. It works well for the smaller flowers but for the roses and vines, I found that piped icing gave a firmer hold once it had set.
While my cake didn’t turn out quite as spectacularly as the tutor’s one, I’m still pretty pleased with it. ^_^
With kind permission, my classmates allowed me to take some photos of their cakes as well!
I really enjoyed the class and although it was a little more expensive than the sort of baking classes available through adult education centres, the small group sizes, the friendly and extremely helpful tutor made it excellent value for money.
I’ve included a link to their website here in case you’re curious:
…and if there’s any classes you’d be interested in seeing the Koala attend, drop me a line in the comments and work/money permitting, I’ll see if I can go.
In the next week or so, I’ll write up the second of the classes I had there – the one on homemade pasta and, as marsupial fans will be delighted to hear, the Koala *will* be present for it. =)
See you again very soon folks!