Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Whooo's in the house? Nigel the Owl with Kaysie Lackey

I recently had the opportunity to take a class with Kaysie Lackey of The People's Cake this past weekend - Nigel the Owl. I had been contemplating learning the art of structure, as it relates to cake, for a while now. But shied away because one, I'm not really a hardware type of person and two, I'm scared #@$%less when it comes to carving cake. This was my very first structure class.....ever....and I'm glad Nigel the Owl was the class to christen me into the world of 3D cake structure and that Kaysie was there to lead me through the process.

It's great to see an instructor who moves and adapts with the students as they learn. An important quality, for me, when you have students who may have never experienced cake structure and 3D cake before - moi included. She "lamazed" the class through creating Nigel the Owl (and there were many deep breathes on my part while creating him), with her down to earth sense of humour and her patience lending a laid back feel to the class.

It was nice to be slapped up side the head and reminded that the motto, "Never stop learning"  includes learning skills outside of your comfort zone. Those of you familiar with my work know sugar flowers are my medium of choice. A little gumpaste, floral wire with a side of dusting powder and I'm your gal. Plywood, screws, nuts...what's that? Pipe thingies, metal screw stuff, (as you can see I have the tool and supply terms down to a science), huh? But as Kaysie would say, "Make cake your bitch." meaning strap on a pair of sugar balls and show cake whose boss. I did and ta da! Nigel the Owl came out whooo-ing just fine.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Making Flowers with Clay as a Medium

For over 10 plus years, sugar has been my medium of choice for flowers. The beauty of sugar flowers has captivated me ever since I was nineteen and saw sugar flowers in a display case. I asked, "What are those?" and that began a long term love affair with sugar flowers. However, three years ago I began to explore another medium in the world of hand crafted flowers - clay.

Diane Phillips, of DK Designs, came to Canada in 2011 to teach clay flower classes and I decided that this was an opportunity to explore not only another medium, but different techniques that could possibly be transferred to the art of sugar flowers. The non toxic clay used, is really not unlike the gumpaste used in making sugar flowers. It is soft, malleable and flexible to work with. Instead of using edible dust to finish and highlight, water soluble acrylic paint is used, and hands in lieu of cutters are used to shape and mold flowers.

The major difference, and I think advantage with clay flowers, is its durability. What I mean by this, is that clay flowers can afford to take a bump, a scratch and a bit of man handling. As you can see pictured below right, an extra clay flower from a recent 3 day workshop traveled in my purse - yes, right next to a can of ginger ale. This sooo would not have happened if it were a sugar flower. Sugar flowers, if not adorning a cake, travel in style, cushioned in the softness of bumpy
foam, cocooned inside protective lid containers. Now of course, any decorations destined for cake or anything food related, would NOT be travelling in my purse. But if you were making a vased floral arrangement or a wedding bouquet, the stress levels over possible breakage would be down for sure.

Creating flowers without the stress of breakage, is a huge stress reliever if there ever was one. That's not to say that sugar flowers don't have their place. My love of sugar flowers has spanned over a decade and it still going strong. It's just that clay offers one an alternative, and depending on the look and feel you're going for in a cake design, clay flowers may just be the thing.

Curious to learn more about how to create flowers in clay? The Deco Clay Craft Academy in Hawaii, offers classes, but instructors are available internationally as well. Diane Phillips, from DK Designs, has also been coming to Icing Inspirations, in Kitchener, ON for the past three years and is booked for 2014.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Online vs. the Traditional Classroom in the Cake World

In this digital age of the internet, laptops, computers and now tablets, iPads and smartphones, the learning environment has changed dramatically. We now have more options than ever available, that allows us to choose "how" we want to learn and "when" we want to learn. In the cake world, this has made a dramatic impact.

Craftsy for instance, has taken advantage of the world wide web by bringing the learning environment directly to people. It does this by offering online educational videos in an array of topics, from quilting and photography, to how to bake the perfect croissant to creating beautiful sugar flowers. Purchase the tutorials that interest you the most, and forever have lifetime access to that particular online video. Cake Masters, on the other hand, is completely dedicated to cake decorating and is another online learning environment where people can access cake related video tutorials online. Although both are fees based, both feature online videos from well known cake designers and individuals with various skills and experience in the cake world.

The big question though, and the one that I keep hearing is, which is better? Online learning or the traditional classroom learning format? Hmmm.....and hmmm....is right, as this question has been rolling around in my head since Craftsy, and now Cake Masters, started offering online cake decorating videos. As a former school teacher and with a background in education, here's what I've come up with: it depends on the person.

Yup, that's right....it depends on the person. I say this because, I would have students who I could explain things verbally to and they were good to go. Others, you could explain things ten different ways to Sunday and they still wouldn't understand what you were talking about - they needed the hands on approach. This happened no matter what age my students were, 5 or 55 years old. So you have to ask yourself:

  1. What kind of learner am I? Visual, auditory, or hands-on?
  2. What experience and knowledge do I bring to the table? Am I a complete newbie? Or do I know some of the basics?
  3. Where do I want cake decorating to take me?

If you are completely new to cake decorating, there is nothing more invaluable than walking into a cake decorating class and having someone take you through the basics of layering, crumb coating, boarders and covering a cake with fondant. Even a baking class or too, will help you understand why some cakes are better to use than others (i.e. pound, chiffon, sponge, etc.) depending on your cake project. If you have some experience and a few cake classes under your belt, online learning may be right up your alley. Online learning offers you:

  • the convenience of learning "when" you want and "where" you want
  • affordability
  • accessibility

I think online learning sites, like Craftsy and Cake Masters, have become popular because it has made cake decorating more accessible and affordable. Cake classes can easily run you a few hundred, depending on who you are learning from and where. Add a plane ticket and hotel, to make it happen and you can easily reach the $1000 mark. So depending on your budget and what you are able to afford, online learning may be just right for you. If your schedule is a bit scattered and busy, accessing a Craftsy video in your PJ's when you've finally managed to put the kids to bed might be the best in terms of accessibility for you.

Whatever your chosen medium for learning might be, I'm a firm believer that we are all life long learners, we never stop. So if it's signing up for a class at your local cake shop, or clicking your mouse (or swiping your iPad) to start your cake video, the medium you choose is the one that works for you at whatever point you are in your cake decorating career or path.