My local adult education college in Sutton offers some cake decorating classes which are extremely good value and a great learning experience - I've previously taken the eight-week novelty cake course, and had signed up to a royal icing and piping class in January. I paid the fees and as I hadn't been told what equipment I needed to bring, I rang up the day before the course was supposed to start- only to be told that it had been cancelled. It turned out they had forgotten to tell me - and it took several weeks to get them to refund my money - which was very disappointing. Equally disappointing was that they had no plans to run that particular course in the evenings again. They have some courses on weekday mornings which is no good to me as I work full time, so instead I have signed up -already - for a different course starting next January.
That seemed a long time to have to wait though so when I saw they were holding a one-off class on making cupcake toppers one Saturday in March, I signed up. It said it was aimed at all levels and didn't say exactly what it would involve, but I was sure I would get some new ideas.
But disappointment seemed to be a bit of a theme. Rather than being aimed at all levels, the class was definitely for beginners. The tutor had to explain and demonstrate some very basic skills and I quickly realised I knew as much as she did - more in fact! I say that because we were talking about fondant and the tutor said you could make the toppers in advance and store them in plastic tupperware, and I knew that fondant sweats if it is in a plastic container and in fact you should keep models made in advance in a cardboard box. I didn't correct the tutor though as I didn't want to seem like a know-it-all, and I thought perhaps what I had learnt before was wrong.
We spent half the 2-hour session making roses with a very simple technique that involved rolling long thin pieces of fondant. We also used a plunger cutter to make leaves. Here are some of the roses that I made:
We were each given a cheap pack of 12 ready-made-cupcakes which we could decorate and take home. I cut out circles of fondant and placed the roses and leaves on top. I thought they looked nice, but wasn't quite so thrilled with my creation given I have previously made 60 cupcakes topped with roses and other decorations for a wedding.
So I made a few little flowers....
I had been hoping the tutor would have some interesting ideas, like the time I used a daisy plunger cutter to make a girl's skirt - you cut through the middle of the flower and open it out to make a fringed skirt. Unfortunately we weren't given any ideas or guidance so I just made some more flowers.
The tutor then mentioned if we had time, she would show us how to make some handbags. That sounded much more appealing so I asked if she could demonstrate and she said "I'd rather let you all have some more time to use the plunger cutters and then if we have time we will make handbags." Sigh.
These ones are rather pretty, don't you think?
I hardly needed a lesson to be shown how to do this though.
Finally the tutor agreed to show us how to make handbags. To be honest I could have figured this out myself as it wasn't hard but at least it was something I hadn't done before. Essentially you make a square or rectangular shape, maybe soften the corners to make them more rounded, then make a handle. You can decorate the bags how you like - on one, I made an extra flap to go over the top with a fastening; on another I stuck on a fondant flower.
There were some modelling tools on the table and I used the end of one to mark out the stitching pattern on one of the bags. The teacher was walking round and when she saw what I'd done, said "oh, somebody's clever" - I got the impression she thought I was trying to outdo her a bit, even though I was actually sitting at the back keeping quiet, as I appreciated everyone else was a beginner and I didn't want to spoil it for them.
I used the end of another modelling tool to make a scalloped shape around the edge of a fondant disc (which we cut out with a round cookie cutter) before placing the handbags on top.
Here are all 12 of the cakes I decorated. It wasn't a bad way to spend two hours on a Saturday afternoon but I was quite disappointed that I hadn't been given more of a description of what the class would involve as I wouldn't have bothered otherwise. Still, not long now until my course next January - and it's the big one: wedding cakes!