Michael’s Basic Cake Decorating Class – Day 1

Update: Since writing this post, I’ve received a lot of comments about wanting to take or register for cake decorating classes. Please note that I do not offer cake decorating classes. If you are interested in taking these types of classes at Michael’s, I recommend contacting your local store.

A couple weeks ago, I went to what I thought would be my first Michael’s basic cake decorating class. Due to that unfortunate mix-up, I was put in the correct class which started last night. All I could think was “FINALLY!”

This time around, it was such a relief to arrive at the Michael’s store craft room and find people with the required sugar cookies laid out. Our class was all females with a nice mixture of ages and the instructor was wonderfully informed, chatty and super friendly.

The only dull thing was that the first class was, to put it mildly very boring. At least for me.

We started out by going through the Wilton’s booklet that came with the class (these babies are $25 at Bulk Barn, so I think that was a nice steal since the class was only $22). She went over the secrets to baking a good cake and how to make your own buttercream icing with shortening. It was good for a lot of people, but except for the odd little fact, this was nothing new to me. The instructor then pulled out a hand mixer and showed us how to make homemade icing and then we passed around the bowls of icing to compare the consistencies and which ones are used depending on if you are icing the cake or piping borders.

YAWN (I’m sorry).

Halfway through the 2 hour class, she then pulled out the piping bags (YES!) and we learned how to properly fill them without getting a mess everywhere (something I’m still working on). Cookie royal icing is way different than cake buttercream icing, so I think it was easier to get into the piping bag. I did learn that I need to recut my featherweight piping bags as my markings are a little off and that might make a difference in controlling my piping and why my tips are always a little wobbly.

Our instructor pulled out a plain vanilla cake that she made for the class and showed us how to level it with a cake leveler (we joked throughout the class about how everything she showed us was getting us on the Wilton’s brand) and then she filled the middle of the cake with icing and vanilla pudding. She iced the cake with the icing she showed us how to make and then showed us how to spread it with minimal crumbs.

For the rest of the class, we then got to use our piping bags with the star tip #18 and practice making stars on our practice board and our cookies that we brought. As a last sweet treat, our instructor cut up the cake she made and we each got to have a delicious slice.

Despite the slow start, it was a very good class. I felt totally in my element around other people interested in learning cake decorating. I also think its better that I start in the basics, even if nothing is really new to me right away. Nothing would be worse than being cocky and trying to take the next level class and feeling left behind and useless with icing leaking out of my piping bag.

Some great things I learned from the first class:

1). Lighter pans are better for baking cakes. It cooks more even and darker pans are more likely to burn the bottom of your cake.

2). Only fill your pans half-way with cake batter to prevent the top cake lump from forming (although this part is usually cut off later when you level the cake).

3). When measuring your piping bag with the coupler base, mark the bag against the first ridge where the tip screwed in and then cut it.

Next class we get to ice and decorate a cake with a cupcake design so we have to bring two batches of homemade buttercream icing (the Wilton’s recipe) and a round cake.

Looks like I need to buy a round cake pan for next week!

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

After a long day at work, nothing is more delicious than a plate of warm, homemade cookies.

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies
 Especially if the cookies are made with chopped white chocolate. 

 And roasted macadamia nuts. (I find that the unsalted kind works the best.)

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

Yes, I’m still hand-mixing my cookies. If it makes you feel better, I think its making my arms stronger. I like to think of it as exercise from eating all these baked goods.

I Heart Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love using cookie cutters so much so that I pretty much only make rolled sugar cookies. However, one of my childhood favourites is classic chocolate chip cookies and I was feeling a little deprived and sick of frosted sugar cookies (I’m sure this will pass). So, you wouldn’t believe how excited I was when I came across Callye (aka SweetSugarBelle)’s blog post for rolled and cookie cutter friendly chocolate chip cookies. It’s was best of both worlds – fulfilling my chocolate chip need and using my growing stack of cookie cutters!

I’ll admit though, I was a little bit nervous. I mean, these cookies are known as drop cookies, meaning they spread and form their own shape when baked. Would the dough listen to my predetermined cookie cutter or would they get it their little minds to create their own shape? Also since there are chocolate chips wouldn’t it be, oh I dunno, difficult to cut with a cookie cutter? I slowly accepted these fears as a challenge and decided to push through.

I blamed my chocolate chip cookie craving.

One thing I noticed that there is no baking soda in the recipe, so there would be minimal dough rising/forming. Still, I was a little skeptical that my cookies would be able to keep their shapes. Just because someone else was successful at it doesn’t mean that I would be just as successful. The universe is mysterious and cruel that way.

Callye makes a note that is to use a good cutter and boy she wasn’t kidding! Those chocolate chips are rough to cut through. I didn’t have any mini chocolate chips on hand since I just bought a huge bag of semi-sweet regulars from Costco, so something tells me that having minis makes the cutting process easier.

What she didn’t mention was how good the cookie dough is on its own. I guess that goes without saying though, as this pile of scraps used to be bigger.

So here are the cookies before they went into the oven. You can bet I was crossing my fingers that they would keep their heart shapes.

And they did! These chocolate chip cookies were moist and delicious and I highly recommend the recipe. I even substituted the butter for margarine (a frequent habit of mine) and accidentally added a full egg instead of just the required yolk (not a frequent habit – I was making supper at the same time and taking photos) and they tasted just as great with a cold glass of milk.

Happy (early) Valentine’s Day.

Blank Canvas Cookies

My favourite way to start the cookie decorating process is by starting with a white icing background, or a blank canvas if you will. This gives me a chance to practice my piping skills by outlining and filling the cookies and organize my gel colours for what I want to use.

Plus a white background makes your other decorations pop nicely, whether its more icing, sprinkles or drawing with edible writing markers. I bought these bad boys at Michaels with a 40% off coupon (they always get me). I’m not sure if you can buy Americolor in Canada which is the edible marker brand that everyone raves about, but these work just fine.

Mmmm, nothing beats a platter of Valentine’s Day cookies!

Glee Cookies!

To say that I’m excited for tonight’s Superbowl episode of Glee is a complete understatement. If you asked Trevor, he’d say that I’ve talked about nothing else these past few days. To be fair though, it’s been 2 months since the newest episode, so I’m going through major withdrawal.

The cookie recipe I used is from Cookie Craft. My mixer is still broken, so I used a wooden spoon. And then my hands. I’m domestic and crazy that way.

I didn’t have a star cutter, so created the shape with a knife and the little paper cut-out beside the square cutter in the top of the picture. I just had to make gold stars because they remind me of Rachel Berry.

The square, heart and flower cutters are from Bulk Barn. Have I ever mentioned that I love Bulk Barn? It’s right up there with my love of Glee. And cookie decorating. But I think Glee might be higher. Nothing makes me happier than a new Glee episode.

Except maybe a new cookie cutter.

They make cookies look so pretty.

For Christmas, I found these bad boys in my stocking. My family knows what I love and you can bet I’ll be wearing these in anticipation tonight. Not for the football game though, that would be crazy!

Okay, enough football, back to Glee. Does everyone remember the episode when Rachel makes her famous “I’m sorry” cookies for Mr. Shue? That was all I could think of when I was piping and decorating these cookies. I knew I should have made more stars!

Have a great Sunday everyone! And enjoy the new episode!