Just Desserts

My mom. She will hurt you if you touch her cake.

So, in my last post, I discussed my love of ice cream, but I should probably clarify and say that I do not discriminate against any dessert. Cakes, cookies, pies, crème brulee, chocolate mousse, cannolis, and whatever else I can get that’s laden with sugar and butter are all fine by me as well—and if these treats are accompanied by ice cream, well, that’s even better.

Recently, my mom and aunt celebrated their birthdays and the three of us took the Two-Day Cake Baking and Decorating Workshop at Sur La Table in King of Prussia to mark the occasion. I figured no one could be said about getting older when distracted by baked goods.

When I first saw the title of the class, I figured we would be making your typical vanilla pound cake and practicing with pastry bags and tips to pipe buttercream icing or roll fondant (kind of like the Wilton classes at AC Moore, which I am still trying to make time to sign up for), but it was so much more than that. Over the course six hours over the two days, we made four different gourmet cakes, fillings, and glazes. These included a Sacher Torte, Black Forest Cake, Opera Torte (with the most amazing coffee buttercream I have ever tasted), and a Princess Cake (also known as that questionable yellow thing that you see in the Ikea cafeteria). Our teamwork skills were put to the test as we worked in groups to make the elements of each cake, sharing mixers and utensils, and taking turns making whipped cream and marzipan from scratch.

I wish I took more photos throughout the whole process, but this one of my group’s black forest cake was one of just a few I thought to snap. I had never realized how involved this particular cake is, with its layers of chocolate sponge cake, cherry syrup, whipped cream, and cherries. Piping out the whipped cream and decorating with chocolate shavings was great fun.

A little bit wonky, but good for a first attempt.

The course was instructed by John McKee, who recently joined the kitchen at Fork as a pastry chef. I definitely came away with a new appreciation for professionals like him who spend hours upon hours slaving away in the kitchen. The oven made the kitchen feel like a sauna and my feet were killing me by the end of the second day. Also, even though we didn’t taste any of our creations until the second day, I felt ridiculously full just from looking at everything for two days. I was sure I had no room in my stomach for samples.

But make room I did. Here’s a shot of the finished products before they were devoured.

Clockwise from the top of the plate: Opera Cake, Sacher Torte, Princess Cake, Black Forest Cake

All in all, I thought the workshop was a good value for the money. The instructor knew his stuff and was patient with even the “Baby Jesus” (random Catholic School reference) bakers among us, like on of my group mates who didn’t know what a spatula was on day one. The ingredients that we used were high quality, we got to dirty someone else’s kitchen, and I think we all really enjoyed stepping out of our comfort zone to learn some new techniques. I’ve never baked a cake in my life, and my mom is known as the “Box Cake Queen” in our house; my aunt bakes extensively but she hadn’t made any of these cakes prior to class. She actually got stuck with some of the hardest parts of the class, such as making the Sacher Torte and rolling the marzipan for the Princess Cake and did a great job.

And, I was able to give my mom and aunt the best birthday gift ever—the pleasure of my company.

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