Even though I was slightly disappointed with the painting on cakes class I took recently, I booked myself into another course - again using a Livingsocial voucher - shortly after. I now had slightly reduced expectations and, as this class was only £19- about half the price of the last one - I anticipated that it would be quite short and probably quite basic. Even so, I was attracted by the opportunity to learn piping skills - I can just about pipe buttercream onto cupcakes, though the roses on this neapolitan cake left a little to be desired. I've piped onto cookies before but with limited success (you can see a few at the end of this blog post here) so I was looking forward to learning how to do it properly.
The class was held at Deelicious Nazish's Kitchen in Tooting; it was very easy to find (right next to the tube) and the class was in a room behind the cafe - I had a quick look at their menu and it looked like a really nice place, so if you're ever in the area, I recommend it!
The tutor, Janet, started by showing us how to make our own piping bags or cartouches (I learnt a new word!). These are good because you can make them very small - if you are doing fine piping work, a full-size piping bag is a bit big and unwieldy. Janet also pointed out how expensive disposable piping bags are if you need several for the same project (e.g. you are using different colours of icing) and I've long since given up on reusable ones that you have to wash. There's a particular technique to rolling and folding a piece of greasproof paper, which is very simple when you know how - Janet could make these in seconds. Unfortunately I had a bit more trouble, and even after she showed me a couple of times I still found it quite tricky. I eventually got the hang of it but I think I might still end up using bags from Lakeland!
Here you can see a piping bag Janet made, my attempt that I gave up on, and a few of the piping nozzles that we used.
We started by trying to pipe straight lines with royal icing- not as easy as it sounds! I always thought you needed to keep the nozzle on the cake or cookie - or in this case the circle of greaseproof paper that I was piping on to. But in actual fact, you need to touch the tip of the nozzle to the paper as you start squeezing, then lift it up and pull it away so you create almost a long string of icing, several inches in the air above your surface, and then touch down at the end. If that explanation makes no sense, there are probably good YouTube videos you can watch!
While this method sounded instinctively wrong, I discovered that it is actually very hard to pipe in a straight line if you keep the nozzle on the paper, as for some reason you have much less control over it. Bringing the nozzle up allows you to make a smooth movement that gives you a straight line - or almost straight, I obviously need a bit more practice!
We then moved on to piping circles and wavy lines....
... I had a go at combining the two with some musical notes
We then switched to a star nozzle and Janet showed us how to do the pattern you see around the edge of this cake board. It's very easy to do, but looks very effective!
I amused myself for a few minutes by piping pretty patterns onto my cake board!
I even managed to write "Merry Xmas" at the top and pipe some mini Christmas trees
So moving on to the cookies themselves.... these are Janet's creation, don't they look good?
She had baked the cookies before the start of our lesson, so there were plenty of plain cookies for us to help ourselves to and decorate. They were mostly in the shape of Christmas decorations which was great, though we were encouraged to decorate them however we liked.
I started off with some red royal icing and tried to make these both look like the sort of decorations you would see hanging on your tree. I wouldn't have had the confidence to try such detailed piping before this class.
I also sprinkled some of my cookies with edible glitter.
This one is intended to look like a snowflake - it's one of my favourites. Unfortunately I was only able to make one of these as there weren't enough round cookies!
More Christmas decoration designs
Here is my finished selection of cookies!
I then started thinking about what I would do with my cookies, as I didn't want to eat them myself. I decided they would make a nice gift, and would probably hold up fairly well in the post (better than sending cake, anyway). I immediately thought of a friend who lives a couple of hundred miles away, so I don't get to see him very often. He had recently joked that my cakes look so nice, he wished I could send him a slice - so I thought I would go one better and send him his very own box of Christmas cookies! So as a final touch I decorated one with the word Xmas and one with his name - it's lucky he has a short name!
One of the other girls in the class was really creative and had the idea of sandwiching a round cookie together with two of the Christmas decoration shapes, to make the face and antlers of a reindeer. I asked her if I could take a photo - isn't this cute?
As we left, Janet gave us two different sized cake boxes for our cookies and also a small bag, which has a flat bottom big enough for the larger cake box to sit completely flat. This meant I had no problems getting my creations home on the tube and bus, and I really appreciated it. In fact, I just want to say what a brilliant class this was, and if you get the chance to take a lesson at Deelicious Nazish's Kitchen in Tooting then I highly recommend it (this is not a sponsored post and I paid for my own class). The class was scheduled to last 2 hours but we were there for 2 hours 45 mins, so I really felt like I had got my money's worth; as well as the cake box and bag we were also offered tea, coffee or a bottle of water, and were given a mini cupcake to eat as we arrived. All that for £19 (on the Livingsocial deal) was great! My only small complaint would be that we were standing at a table the entire class, so after nearly three hours of standing in one spot piping my legs really ached. It would have been nice to have a chair!
It was a shame too that we didn't get to try flooding, as this is a technique I wanted to learn, but Janet pointed out there wouldn't be enough time for the cookies to dry and us to take them home. Instead she demonstrated the technique, but as I was trying to finish my cookies at the same time I'm not sure I fully took it in!
This is the cool bag we got to take our boxes of cookies home:
When I got home I transferred my cookies to the smaller of two boxes (I could stack the cookies now they were dry) and added some tissue paper, wrote in a homemade Christmas card, and packaged them off to send to my friend Guy. He sent me a nice message after he received the cookies, saying how nice they were and how pleased he was to receive them.
I think it's lovely being able to send someone a little surprise in the post so I will have to start thinking if there are any other edible gifts that will travel well! Let me know if you have baked anything and successfully sent it in the post.....