Lesson One: Cake Decorating Class
There is probably nothing better for the nerves of an exhausted first year law student than the therapeutic effects the come from squeezing buttercream out of a pastry bag. Wednesdays class was spectacular; no cases, no laws, no statutes, just a room of eager-eyed wanna-be bakers pushing butter and sugar onto wax paper. My own little slice of paradise right off of highway 99.
We made what is known as 'Decorator Icing' an interesting concoction of hydrogenated oils and sugar, made usually with white Crisco. It does have a purpose, and this is that when you are learning to ice a cake you are not particularly speedy and hydrogenated oils hold up much better at room temperature (or the temperature of one nervous law students palms while decorating). I couldn't quite bring myself to make 100% Crisco fattened frosting, so I used half butter in mine, which was fine in terms of consistency though we weren't decorating for long. Generally this type of frosting is used for the piping and such and another type can be used to actually ice the base coat of the cake. Another foodie in the class made it with butter and coconut oil instead, which sounds more appealing, I will have to try it out after the class is over.
Our first class was three hours long and taught by Cherri Bloomquist, a gregarious matter-of-fact type of woman who has been decorating cakes for over 20 years. Most of the time was spent getting hints on crafting the perfect cake for icing, and how to get that first go of icing as smooth as possible. Two great tips here which are just too good not to pass on.
1) After carefully smoothing on your buttercream, you can use a hot dry knife to melt the buttercream just slightly, which will level everything out. We used boiling water, a metal spatula, and a nice try towel for this.
2) The second tip is, after the buttercream has hardened to the touch (i.e. when you touch it your finger doesn't come away coated in buttercream) you can take a paper towel and using pressure just push a bit to level the frosting. This, in reality, is much cooler than it sounds because paper towels come with enumerable types of patterns, which leave a stunning texture on the frosting itself.
The techniques we practiced were fun and not all that tricky to learn, the hardest part was not shaking while applying it (which I found out only works for me when I either use a small bag or put a small amount of frosting in) and making the pressure correct for the size that you wanted to produce. Here are a couple of examples from class:
These are all done with a number 16 tip, the lines at a 45 degree angle and the stars have to be done straight up and down.