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Cake Decorating 101 at L’Academie de Cuisine

April 7, 2009

cake-decorating-101-001This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending a cake decorating class ant L’Academie de Cuisine and I had been thrilled for weeks.  Like a kid on her first day of school, I laid out my clothes the night before, went to bed early, and arrived in Bethesda half an hour before class started.  I was so excited!

All in all my experience was a good one.  I definitely learned a few tips and tricks I didn’t know beforehand.  The teacher, Dave Arnold, has been teaching pastry and beginner’s cooking workshops at the school since 1984.  He was patient and really helpful;  it was clear he wanted this experience to be fun for all of us.  At the beginning of class he gave us a syllabus, that shared tips, tricks, decorating resources and recipes.  I’ll share some of the recipes inside at the end of the post.

We first started practicing piping techniques with instant mashed potatoes, which was smart because once you piped with them, you could use them again.  He taught us basic techniques, most of which I already knew and just needed practicing.

In the second half of the class he showed us how to slice cakes to even the tops, crumb coat them and properly frost them.  We made a classic vanilla buttercream and then decorated our cakes using the techniques we had practiced earlier.  While I’m still not perfect, I’m glad to have had the time to practice under the supervision of a professional.  I feel a lot more comfortable about making layer cakes then I did two days ago.

Recipes:

Just a warning! These recipes are for a “classic American” buttercake. If you do not like sugary sweet, this is not for you. Our instructor mentioned that we could take away one box of powdered sugar if we found the frosting too sweet, however, I’m not sure what that would do to the consistency for those who wanted to pipe.

Classic Buttercream Frosting
Source: Dave Arnold, L’Academie de Cuisine

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup vegetable shortening, room temperature
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tsp flavorings such as vanilla, almond, lemon, etc.
6 tbs heavy cream
1 pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp of meringue powder or 1 egg white
3 lb confectioners sugar
2-4 tbs water or milk for adjusting the consistency

Directions:
1. Using a stand mixer, cream together the shortening and butter together until smooth, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.  
2. Scrape down the blow and add the flavorings, heavy cream, salt, meringue powder and confectioner’s sugar. Blend on low until mixture starts to become smooth.
3. Scrape down the bowl and mix on medium for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Mixture should be smooth and spreadable. If not, add some of the milk or water to achieve desiered consistency. Makes six cups.

Vanilla Cake
Source: Dave Arnold, L’Academie de Cuisine

Ingredients:
2 large eggs
1 cup milk (whole)
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour
1 tbs plus 1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
12 tbs unsalted butter

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 and prepare two nine inch round pans.
2. Mix together egg yolks, extract and milk. Mix well.
3. Sift togehter flour, baking powder and salt.
4. In a seperate bowl, cream the butter until fluff. Scrape down the bowl and add the sugar, beating both together until fluffy.
5. Starting with the flour mixture, alternate in five parts between the flour and milk mixtures. Mix batter on medium an additional 30 seconds after all ingredietns are combined.
6. Divide batter between both pans and bake 25-35 minutes. Do not open the door before 25 minutes.
7. Cool and turn out onto rack. Let cakes cool completely before filing and frosting.

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