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You can always trust a Baker to rise to occasion
IT was Oscar Wilde who once said ‘I can’t stand people who do not take food seriously.’ And this opinion has never been more pertinent than when talking about the art of cake decorating.
There are many people who negligently pick up a finely carved, colourful cupcake and stuff it in their mouths with no second thought of the precision and time spent transforming the simple looking sponge into the tasteful masterpiece.
I may have once been one of those people, but after two hours of learning the very basics of frosting and icing design I will never take the skill for granted again.
I was being taught by one of the best people in the industry, self-taught Shelly Baker, who first turned to cake art four years ago after taking up the skill from her mother. Since then she has bagged a number of awards for her interesting designs ranging from Sunday roast styled cakes to a loaf of bread.
She has also published books and a series of online tutorials which have been viewed by bakers from every corner of the world.
For my lesson I headed to her female-themed studio, which has been fashioned to relax her pupils with Cath Kidston cushions and aprons, pretty flowery curtains and a smart wooden table.
“It’s becoming a lot more popular with the Great British Bake Off on TV, people are a lot more into it,” said Shelly, 33.
“I love being creative, I find there are no limits to what you can create.”
Emma Lidiard gets pressing
My first task was to roll out pre-coloured icing fondant – this was achieved with cornflour to reduce the stickiness.
From talking with Shelly, while I strenuously rolled, it was clear she was not just an artist but embedded in her success was the in-depth knowledge of how ingredients combine. She was able to enlighten me on facts about powders, not just the ones on her table but an endless list of ingredients used all over the world.
My next challenge was to cut out shapes from my icing, using a very steady hand, before leaving them on foam to dry.
“Once you know what you are doing you don’t tend to need to think about it.” said Shelly.
“It can be very therapeutic for people. Everyone always says how relaxing it is. I have a lot of high powered business women who come here, they say they like to get away from all the usual stresses in their life.”
Next, it was time for piping. This involved squeezing butter icing out of a bag to create a variety of whirls and layers on top of the cake. On this frothy roof we placed our pre-cut icing shapes.
Shelly said men come along to her classes as well but they like to produce different shapes to the usual flowers and leaves.
“It’s a great family activity,” said Shelly. “One lady has been here four times and each time she brings a new member of the family.”
Anyone interested in attending one of Shelly’s cooking classes should visit www.mrsbakerscakes.co.uk.On the website there is also a blog filled with helpful tips for anyone thinking of launching their own cake design business.
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