Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cupcake Decorating Class by Crabapple Cupcakes

Just like the recession we had to have, pictured above are the cupcakes I had to have, given the circumstances I found myself in. 

My colleague Susie kindly gave me her voucher to attend a cupcake decorating course run by Jennifer Graham of Crabapple Cupcakes last night, as she could not attend.  The course started ordinarily enough, although rather more politically than most, as Jennifer has some very strong beliefs about the cupcake industry that she shared with the class.  However, by the end, the course had disintegrated into  something akin to a Boxing Day sale in a mad grab for icing, piping bags, edible glitter, cachous and flowers. 

Jennifer's course teaches techniques for decorating cakes using buttercream and ready made sugar decorations.  Her cakes are undeniably pretty and taste very good, and I have often professed my admiration for her recipes for Very Vanilla and Dinosaur Rock Chocolate Cakes fom the Crabapple Cupcake Bakery Cookbook, which are my basic cake recipes of choice.  She does have some very good tips for how to hold cupcakes, knives and  piping bags while decorating, which differ in some respects from the more conventional wisdom that was espoused to me at other cupcake decorating classes.  However, the key course disadvantage is that Jennifer shows you all the techniques before letting the class loose to decorate their own, which means that some things are easily forgotten before you get a chance to practise them.  Apart from the aforementioned grab for supplies, other drawbacks included the small size of the room (on the first floor of a city restaurant) for the number of students, and an absence of damp cloths or a readily accessible sink to clean your hands and utensils of excess frosting, sprinkles and other detritus between cupcakes, leading to cross-pollination of cake decorations and a messy benchtop. In the end, I used whatever supplies were easiest to access and used my apron as a cleaning cloth to wipe my hands.

My cupcakes are decorated with (clockwise from top) chocolate ganache, "the proposal" buttercream and ganache design, a woeful attempt at the "signature swirl" design, a freeform swirl, a chrysanthemum and a topiary design.  There were other designs demonstrated to us, but we only had six cupcakes, and I wouldn't have wanted to attempt any more in the class.  I have taken notes and I bought a basic piping kit that included all the tips Jennifer used so that I can go away and practise Jennifer's designs in the peace and sanity of my own kitchen.

I have a milestone birthday coming up soon and I plan to make cupcakes; however, I will be going with one of the elegant and simple Whimsical Cakehouse designs atop Jennifer's Very Vanilla cupcake recipe rather than a buttercream swirl.