As soon as I picked up a copy of the new Konditor & Cook book, I was in love. Baking doesn't get any more indulgent or delicious than at the hands of this London bakery. So when I discovered that it ran classes, offering the chance to learn some new cake decorating skills, then try them out on the bakery's infamous Curly Whirly cake (think rich, brownie-like chocolate cake surrounded by vanilla and cream cheese frosting), I couldn't resist.
So one Saturday morning I found myself sitting in the cookery school room of the Konditor & Cook store just off Borough Market. The phrase small yet perfectly formed was born to describe this school. Taking place in a tiny kitchen area at the back of the shop front, the school only has seating for eight students, but this makes the process a lot less intimidating, and has the added bonus that you can easily see what your fellow students are creating and share in their triumphs.
The class began with a trip downstairs to the bakery to see where the delicious cakes are created and to pick up a few baking tips (see below). This class focused on cake decorating, but if you're more interested in the baking side of things, they'll be starting some baking classes very soon.
Next we went back to our little work area to learn the basics of icing - starting with how to colour royal icing and how to make our own piping bags from greaseproof paper. The process looked fairly simple, but most of us were all fingers and thumbs for the first couple of attempts. Then we were let loose on a cake board to practise piping our name and creating shapes from simple dots (there's a surprising amount you can do with a dot!), before transferring our skills to decorate biscuits.
Once we'd mastered the simpler techniques, we moved on to the process of flooding. You start with your normal royal icing consistency to pipe the outline of the shape. While this dries slightly, water the icing in your desired colour down with a little water to the consistency of thick custard. Spoon into a piping bag and use to fill in the area within your outline. It's as simple as that!
After lunch, our wonderful teacher Laure showed us how to create beautiful roses from marzipan, which became somewhat addictive (discover how to create them here
Finally it was time to put everything we had learnt to the test as we were let loose with our very own Curly Whirly cake. There was no brief, we just had to let our imagination run wild, and everyone in the class came up with something different. I opted for Calla Lillies with love written underneath, someone else made a football cake for their son's birthday, while one of our more artistic students created a minion from Despicable Me
We all went home delighted with our creations, and more confident that with all the tips and tricks we'd picked up, you really don't have to be an artist to create beautiful cakes. All you need is some creativity, the right tools, and the options are endless.
If you're interested in taking a course at Konditor & Cook, you can find out all the details here
. Read on for some of the top tips I picked up on the day...
Top tips from Konditor & Cook
- Line your cake tins with foil rather than greaseproof paper when baking. You don't need to grease the paper and it also peels away from the cake really easily once baked.
- Make your own piping bags from greaseproof paper rather than using fabric ones. Fabric bags and nozzles are ideal for buttercream and cupcakes, but when using royal icing to pipe, paper bags allow you to control the size of the hole better than using a nozzle, plus you can have several bags containing different coloured icings lined up at the same time. They're cheap to make, and can be thrown away after you've finished with them.
- Rather than buy moulds, make your own! Use whatever object you like, place in a yoghurt pot or disposable container, then set in silicone gel. This method is much cheaper than buying a mould, and means you can create a bespoke decoration.
- Use paste rather than liquid food dye. It doesn't affect the consistency of the icing as much, and also you only need to use a really tiny amount, so a small pot goes a very long way.
- If you're making roses for the first time, make them with marzipan rather than sugarpaste. When you're practising it doesn't harden as quickly as sugarpaste, so if it all goes wrong you can just re-roll and start again!
- Dots are a decorator's best friend - they can be used to fill spaces for a pretty pattern, and joined together will form flowers, hearts and much more.