We have switched chefs to a very well renowned Chef Mark Seaman. As you can tell, all our chefs are world renowned hence the reason I am attending the best school in the nation. He is teaching us cake decorating and although most of this stuff I have done before, it was still great practice and I learned new methods of doing things and the reason behind a lot of it. We made two cakes specifically: a man's birthday cake and a baby shower cake. As you can see from the picture, we made a cake that looks like a wrapped present. If any of you have seen my work from A.J.C.akes, you have seen me do this twice (once as my very first order and it definitely shows, but one that I am very proud of that I did for Marguerite's birthday). I was very pleased with my finished product. At the end of class, Chef Mark gathered the class together and had us stand by our cake and tell the class what were the flaws of the cake or areas that we struggled. Very humbling and exciting at the same time because you can learn so much and it really is good to be able to recognize areas that I still need to work on. However, I was very ecstatic when 4 people came up to me after class and said mine was in the top two of their favorite cakes in the class. It's great because although we are all going to be competing in the industry in the long run, everyone is pretty amicable so far. It is a good environment because what I've come to learn is that a lot of us are very similar personalities. Many of us are high energy/high volume (very very loud people), all have a very similar sense of humor, many of us are very open (blunt) people, and all of us are slightly anal about certain things or always hope for perfection. As our chefs always say, "Perfection isnt' a reality," and we hear this almost daily when we start to complain about where we messed up. Right now my partner is very helpful because we both are pretty blunt people but because of that we are both pretty tough skinned. We both can be honest about what looks good on the cake or what should be changed and I'm excited to continue to work with her because it will be beneficial to get better and learn from my mistakes.
The other cake we made was a baby shower cake that worked on a few different skills: covering in fondant, royal icing piping, gum paste flowers, and on the side, string work. I have done the fondant and royal icing piping before but I hadn't even heard of string work before. Let me tell you why: very few people sell it anymore because it is such a time consuming task that requires a lot of practice and perfection. However, because of this, one can charge quite a bit since it is a rare skill to be great at. Chef Mark owned his own shop for 10 years and charged $20 per inch he piped. That seems insane to me but like I said, he is great at it and has won awards for it. See the pictures at the bottom and you will see a few of the things we tried with explanations in the caption. There is bridged and bridgeless. Bridged means you pipe a thick bridge by taking the smallest tip you can buy (a 00) and piping 14 lines on top of each other. Royal icing hardens completely and so basically you pipe one line, wait a few minutes, pipe another, wait, pipe another, and so forth. Then you pipe strings from the top to the new bridge you've created. Bridgeless, though, requires you to put pins in the cake and pipe a hanging string from one pin to the other and then let that harden and pipe strings from the top to this hanging line. Once it is all supported with strings, you can take the pins out and it looks, well actually is, hanging off the cake. It is a very dramatic but classy effect. However it took me about an hour to pipe one bridge and two inches of string work.
|Bridged string work with piped lace |
that is attached after completely drying
|The cool effect of bridgeless hanging an inch off the edge.|
|Bridgeless. The piping is supposed to be closer|
than that but they were all breaking on me so I made
them just a bit further away to make it easier.
Also this week I did two different stages. I staged on Tuesday and Friday for a French Pastry School graduate. He doesn't have a shop but makes in a kitchen and sells in stores and at farmer's markets. He is his only worker and although he doesn't do cakes really, I thought it would be a good experience. And boy was I right. I asked to stage and he required a three day commitment. I did a bunch of different stuff and really was able to see a variety of things. He also uses very natural ingredients so I was exposed to new sugars and flours than I had ever seen and used. After three days I received an email asking if I wanted to come in for a fourth day because he was making a wedding cake for his brother's wedding. I assummed I would be making all the daily production goods while he worked on the cake but he said since cakes were my thing and what I was going to school for, I should be able to do it so he so graciously let me bake some of the cakes, stack and ice all the cakes, and even make some of the fondant decorations for the cake. It was an experience I will treasure as it was my first official wedding cake I have worked on. It was an invalueable experience and the fact that he trusted me to work on it was so encouraging. The next day I also did another stage at a restaurant. Everyone there was soooo unbelievable willing to help. If I was confused about anything, they really made sure to help me out and show me where to put stuff or how to do something. I was told I would be there from 9-2 or 4 but I was there from 9-6 and didn't even leave the kitchen once for food or bathroom break. However, I'm very glad I did the stage and I seriously learn so many new things each time I do one. I'm surprised at how many people in my class haven't staged or even looked at the staging list. They very clearly told us that it is unbelievable the correlation between number of stages and number of job offers at the end of the semester. I have done a total of 7 days worth of stages over 43 hours with 3 companies. I have two more stages set up already for next week and more in the weeks to come. I'm really trying to do as much as I can. The program is only four months long but if I have to work my but off in the next four months then I will. And I am.