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I made some more macarons recently. In my efforts to try out a few more flavours, I decided to go for lemon basil macarons and cardamom vanilla macarons. Both macarons were filled with a simple Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I flavoured the buttercream vanilla (for the cardamom vanilla, duh!) and lemon basil (for the lemon basil macarons, double duh).

The cardamom vanilla macarons:

These were ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS! Moist, slightly crunchy, and full of flavour. And I only added 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom to the macaron recipe. What a result! I could probably add a bit more for some extra oomph, but I’m happy with 1 teaspoon.

The lemon basil macarons:

These were just OK. I’m not a huge fan, really, but they’re good. I used a handful of fresh basil leaves for the meringue cookies, and also mixed some dried basil and fresh lemon juice into the buttercream. Unfortunately, the lemon juice overpowered the basil almost completely, so you can’t really discern the basil. Better luck next time.

Also, you’ll note that both macarons are pretty much the same colour. I should probably revise that in the future to make it a bit more obvious which is which. I’ll work on it. After all, it’s all about the learning experience!

I think I’ve most definitely decided that once the bakery opens a storefront, I’ll be serving a variety of macarons. Now I just need to come up with more flavours. Suggestions welcomed! =)

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I promised I would write something about my experience in Colette Peter’s cake decorating class at the Notter School of Pastry Arts. So, here’s my experience!

I arrived in stormy, rainy Orlando, Florida on Sunday November 30th. After jumping on a bus and arriving at my hotel (the Crestwood Inn and Suites), I was slightly annoyed. My flight was long, the bus ride was disorienting, and there are virtually ZERO sidewalks in Orlando. So, carrying my bag the .8 miles to the hotel was a bit tiring. After resting at the hotel for a bit, I headed out, printed directions in hand, to the Notter School. Surprisingly, it was easy to find. Since that mission was accomplished, I then walked around the Florida Mall, then got bored, and went to TGI Fridays for some din-din. The people at TGI Fridays were very nice, and the Sam Adams Winter Lager that I had was especially tasty. I then meandered back to my hotel, walking past the Publix distribution center, as well as a Sherwin-Williams factory. Truly, I was in a quality neighbourhood. It was only on my final day in Florida that I realised how quality: the barista at Barnie’s informed me that the OBT (Orange Blossom Trail, the main road in the area) was frequented by miscreants, the homeless, and random prostitutes. If I ever go back to the Notter School (or if anyone reading this has any inclination to go), please be wary of where you stay, and who is around you at night.

Anyways, back to my experience. On the first day of class I arrived a bit early to do some paperwork, get situated, etc. I arrived at 7:30, and already several students (the students who were fully enrolled at the pastry school) were already there. A few others filed in slowly. Colette Peters was there, ready to get started.

We began with a Q&A period. Unfortunately, it lasted a full hour and a half.  A bit longer than I wanted, especially because we covered some of THE MOST basic questions possible (eg, “What’s a crumb coat?”). Certainly, some of the questions involved operations, business stuff, etc., but it quickly turned into a full-on discussion where people were sharing ideas, comments, etc. I didn’t pay $820 to listen to the ideas of some woman with no experience from Atlanta. I came to hear from Colette, clearly a master of cakes, and a cake business. Anyways…. during the Q&A period, I thought it would be fitting to snap a photo. Here it is:

The woman in left centre was probably the most interesting person that I met (though everyone was interesting in their own way). She’s got some incredible photos of cakes on her website, and if I am ever in Nova Scotia, I will be going to her for some cake, and for her family’s restaurant. Check it out here.

After this extended, impromptu Q&A, Colette demonstrated some gum paste flowers. This included some five petal blossoms, roses, peonies, cymbidium orchids, and hydrangeas. She also pointed out her four books that she was selling, as well as some of her gumpaste tools. A shameless plug, for certain. But it worked… I bought some of her cutters. Don’t judge me. They’re good quality. On the second day we learned how to colour our flowers with petal dusts (non-toxic chalk). We also learned how to airbrush, and she demonstrated some brush embroidery techniques. Aside from the peony and the orchid, I didn’t learn anything new. And because I’ve already done some gum paste flower work before, it wasn’t the most eventful of days. Anyways, here’s a photo of the flower bouquet I put together:

Since I’ve done some gumpaste work before, I took some time to make some extra flowers, and also made some little critters. Over time, I assembled quite a few little animals, and even some accessories, including presents, bubbles, a cheese wedge, and some cinnamon rolls. I was able to add them to one of my final cakes on the third day. The photo is below.

On the third and final day of class, Colette demonstrated how to use fondant; how to roll it out, drape it over a cake, and how to use it on dummy cakes (styrofoam boxes or circles), etc. She also quickly demonstrated crimping, embossing, and painting with luster dust. Whoo…..

The rest of the third day was for us to decorate our cake (dummies). The airbrush was almost constantly being used, so I didn’t get a chance to use it. Oh well. I agree with Margaret Braun when she says that “airbrushing is for t-shirts, not cakes.” Snarky, but pretty true! =) I also didn’t get a chance to do anything with brush embroidery, because there was only one teeeeeeeeensy bowl of royal icing available to the entire class, and since Colette never explained anything about royal icing,  people in the class didn’t know that it had to be covered with a wet towel, so it quickly dried out. Anyways…

For my cake, I decided to “get the most bang for my buck” and chose to do 3 simple designs using the same cake dummies. First up, is a slightly Hawaiian/Island-esque cake. For some reason, it reminds me of South Carolina (though I’ve never been there):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My next design employed my little gumpaste critters, as well as some random curly things I made earlier in the morning:

And finally, I quickly assembled a mosaic, roman-emperor style on the opposite side of my critters and curls cake. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to trim the curls off so that you couldn’t see them, but… the class was ending, and I was running out of time. Anyways, I think you get the idea!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TA DA!!!

So, that was Colette Peter’s cake decorating class! Did she cover everything? No. We never learned the oriental peony, or ivy. Did we do any piping or buttercream work? No, unfortunately. I wish we would have. Did we cover everything the Notter School said we would? No. And what we did cover was only covered very briefly. Was it worth the $820? Err…..

Did I enjoy meeting Colette and learning from her? YES! Did I have a great time? YES!! Would I do it again? YES, but…. I need to save a lot more money before it happens again.

At least now I can say I’ve been to Florida, I’ve been to a culinary school, and I’ve met one of the most famous and talented cake decorators in the country. Now if she would just hire me!!! =)  knock on wood and keep your toes and fingers crossed for me!

Colette Peters in the background, my gumpaste critters in the foreground

Colette Peters in the background, my gumpaste critters in the foreground

It’s my first full day back in Utah since my trip to Orlando, Florida for the cake decorating class by Colette Peters at the Notter School of Pastry Arts. After the three-day class ended, I got a photo with Colette. One of the three cakes I decorated is visible, as well as three other people (in the background), who were obviously taking the class as well. Note how unprofessional I look–no chef’s coat. Whatever. LOOK AT THAT SMILE ON MY FACE!!!!!! So happy! =)

Colette Peters, me, my cake, three other random people.

Colette Peters, me, my cake, three other random people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll post more about my experience, and PLENTY more photos in a few days… I’ve got to get back to work!

Ooh… and I already have a cake to do for next weekend. YES!

I’ve never done anything with gumpaste before. I know that it dries out VERY quickly, and that always made me shy away from it. I work very slowly, and the prospect of something drying quickly just seemed to add to the stress levels… but I thought I’d give gumpaste a chance. After all, I’m leaving for the Notter School of Pastry Arts on Sunday the 30th for a three-day course on cake decorating from Colette Peters. I’m very nervous, of course, but everyone keeps joking about how I’ve got to “Bring it!” and “Show those grannies up!” Truth be told, I wouldn’t have known about the Notter School if it weren’t for Su-Yin. She spent 6 months there doing the full pastry training, and I spent a full week reading all of her posts about the school and learning vicariously from her!

Enough rambling. Here are some gumpaste flowers I attempted, not having a clue what I was doing. There are some roses, carnations, tulip buds, cherry blossoms, mimosas, azaleas, and ivy leaves. I will try to do more in the future, but these took me every night for a full week! Totally worth it. Please ignore the bad lighting…. I promise I’ll get some better lights later, when I can afford them….

Here is a little cake with the hydrangeas I photographed in an earlier post:

I had a great lesson yesterday in photography. My good friend Shawn was able to help me out with a LOT of the problems I’ve had with my digital camera lately. The main problem being that I have no idea what I’m doing! =)

It’s a “point and shoot” so that’s what I thought I had to do! I didn’t know there was all this mumbo-jumbo about ISO, F-stop, film speed (which is apparently ISO, but is different on a digicam), lighting, exposure settings, etc… after several hours of repeating what ISO means I think I have the most basic handle on photography. I took some test photos of some gumpaste hydrangeas I made weeks ago. Here are some of the photos:

ISO 80, F2.8, 1" Exposure +1

ISO 80, F2.8, 1" exposure, digital macro

ISO 80, F2.8, 1" Exposure +1

ISO 80, F2.8, 1" exposure, digital macro

ISO 100, F2.8, 1"6 Exposure, Manual setting

ISO 100, F2.8, 1"6 Exposure, Manual Macro

And here’s a rose I did for a bouqet last week. I’ll post photos of the full bouqet as soon as I take them with my newfound knowledge and passion for photography!
ISO 800, F2.8, 1/25 exposure, digital macro

ISO 800, F2.8, 1/25 exposure, digital macro

15 servings, yellow cake, vanilla buttercream, fondant, carnations made of sugar

15 servings, yellow cake, vanilla buttercream, fondant, carnations made of sugar

Practise cake (not edible). Fondant over hat boxes, with sugar flowers

Practise cake (not edible). Fondant over hat boxes, with sugar flowers

 

120 servings, amaretto cake with raspberry filling, chocolate cake with almond buttercream, fondant, sugar bows
120 servings, amaretto cake with raspberry filling, chocolate cake with almond buttercream, fondant, sugar bows

These are three cakes I’m very proud of, and they span quite a good length of time in my decorating career. The first was done around Mother’s Day in 2007, the second was sometime in November 2007, and the third was in June/July of 2008. Not only am I getting a bit better at decorating, but the flavours of my cakes are really developing. I can’t tell you how good amaretto cake with raspberry filling is. YUM! =)

This will be a page for all of my baked creations, so the world can see what I’m up to, what I can do, and new developments with Big Spoon Bakery. I promise to upload stuff soon!

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