School of Cake

Recently Sister Rhi and I went to a Cupcake Decorating workshop at The Make Lounge in London. The teacher came armed with two boxes of cupcakes and what must have been at least six litres of buttercream in a gigantic plastic tub.

I'd not beheld a sight so beautiful since the mega Nutella of 2006. So rich and fluffy and apparently bottomless. As the teacher slowly ripped off the lid, Rhi and I growled in unison, Awwww yeahhhh lookit thaaaat.

It took us awhile to remember it was supposed to be a fun day. It's that Perfection Or Death mentality so often found in the offspring of school teachers. Who knew it was so freaking stressful to make a piping bag?

"All you have to do" is take a triangle of baking paper. Then "simply" hold one point of the triangle, wrap it around your left hand, then make it meet the opposite point, then gently pull your hand out and wriggle it back and forth until it makes a very pointy point. Got it? Right. EASY.

Mine was utterly rubbish. Rhiannon's looked perfect first go. I was overcome with resentment and would have stabbed my eyeballs with my bag except the point wasn't pointy enough to do so. Then Rhiannon's bag sproinged open and she got cranky. Then came ten minutes of rustling and rolling and swearing until we finally realised everyone else was having just as much trouble and the teacher had to demonstrate the whole process again, except slower.

"I guess we should relax," said Rhi.

"Yes," I said, "They can't expel us from Cupcake School, surely."

We loaded the bags with buttercream and I resisted the temptation to squirt the whole lot straight into my mouth because we had to practice piping. If you are thinking of quitting your day job to make cupcakes, just hold it right there. This shit is not easy. I've always prided myself on neat handwriting but when your pen is made from paper and the ink is 90% butter it's very hard to make it smooth. My letters looked like little farts of mashed potato.

Next we were allocated seven cupcakes each (six to keep, one to screw up and scoff). Then out came the wacky food colourings and our own! individual! tub! of! icing! I managed not to lick it straight off the palette knife. Oh baby.

Then we loaded up fresh piping bags and got ready to cover the cupcakes. Again, this is not as easy as it looks. It is really hard to make a neat circuit of the cake. You get one side looking decent then your hand cramps up so you miss the edge of the other half. But that's okay – you can just photograph them for their good side!

Here's my wee fellas all iced and waiting to be adorned.

(forgive blue cast in that pic)

Next we learned some jazzing-up techniques, such as colouring bits of marzipan, making shapes with little plunger thingies, and how to shower your mistakes with edible glitter.

Here are the stars of my Winter 09 collection: the Girly Christmas Tree and the Valentine's Special.


(You're supposed to dust the icing sugar off your marzipan shapes but I couldn't bloody do it without crushing them.)

The aftermath of our marzipan shapes…

Here's Rhiannon's delicate creations…

And my amateur sugar bombs nestled in their box. The 7th was a shambles and went straight into my gob.


So glad I took this photo as an hour later me and my cupcakes got wedged between a wall and an overloaded Christmas shopper outside the Tube station. Splat!

About Shauna Reid

Ahoy there! I’m Shauna, an author, copywriter and content mentor. I love telling stories about life and helping others to tell theirs.

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19 thoughts on “School of Cake

  1. Oh they look fab. And I’ve been meaning to go to the Make Lounge for ages – such a great idea. Was it good? It’s just down the road from me.

    (Hah. I’ll repeat that. It’s just down the road from me and you were there. And yet unaccountably we didn’t meet! One day. One day. Hmmm, I’m beginning to feel like a mad stalker now!)

  2. @Cal – it was good… just a fun thing to do, yknow? a good laugh… its nice to do something purely for the heck of it. i should do it more often.

    btw it was a crazy speedy trip to London, just over 24 hours… hope next year to spend a few days there, maybe we could arrange some sort of old-fashioned blogmeet?! any other Londoners out there?

    @PQ – ooh i might try… that blog is a cracker πŸ™‚

  3. Oh those look yum! So sorry they splatted πŸ™ I have yet to try a cupcake from a fancy cupcake place that all the fuss is about. Now I’m craving them big time!

  4. How fun! i have been wanting to do something like that for ages. Congrats on not piping the icing straight down your throat, that’s a great accomplishment!

  5. I love the lemony one. It reminds me of my daughter with a jaunty little slide in her hair. Not that she is yellow of course. Lovely writing as always, thanks.

  6. i would have wanted to cry over my cupcakes…and then tried to salvage them, and then probably would have licked the icing off the sides of the box when i realized there was no way to recreate the love…but in a way–now you didn’t have to share the icingy goodness πŸ™‚

  7. Wow.

    If some feral commuter had squashed my cakes I might have felt compelled to mash one onto their forehead.

    But then again, maybe not.

    (what DOES a Tub O’Icing taste like? is it nice like homemade? or nicer??)

  8. @Fifi – the icing in the tub was homemade… which i think was half the appeal. the idea of someone actually mixing up that massive quantity. COOL πŸ™‚

  9. Piping bags are bitches to master aren’t they just!
    I’m about to fight fate and use one for my gingerbread house, with the whole idea that if i stuff it up i can just cover the whole thing in lollies and no one will notice.
    love the cupcakes and the fact that they went splat mere minutes later… come on it’s funny! ;o)
    I want to go do that course now! mmm butter icing!

  10. I found out my dad reads your blog when he mentioned your cupcake course!

    Although I bake cupcakes from time to time, they never look as good as that. I have never tried to make an icing bag.

  11. Wow wow wow!
    I always think cake decorating will be easy and fun. But whenever I try it I end up so frustrated, with blobs of frosting everywhere. And feeling slightly sick from all the frosting that ended up in my mouth… πŸ˜‰
    Those look terrific – so sorry to hear they were crushed!

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