Icing on the cake: Learning to make an icecream drip cake
There is something a little magical about cake decorating.
It might be fiddly and, at times, frustrating, but seeing the look on a loved one's face when they are given a cake makes it worthwhile.
I love baking and decorating cakes for family and friends. However, my skills have often failed to live up to my high expectations. Keen to increase my knowledge and learn new tricks, I attend a cake-decorating class at The Make Company in Hornby.
My mission is to decorate an icecream drip cake. The cake is impressive. An icecream cone precariously balances on top of a cake and the icecream has "melted" down the sides.
When I arrive at the class, a long table is adorned with everything we need.
Tutor Adrienne Loffhagen has already baked the chocolate mud cakes, which sit in front of us next to coloured buttercream icing.
Five other women are taking the class, too. All have varying abilities and some have been here before, learning how to make a cupcake bouquet or some other creation. Men also take the class and couples make it a date night. Adrienne says men listen well and often do a good job.
Our first task is decorating our cones. We dip them in melted dark chocolate, before covering them with sprinkles. Choosing sprinkles is the most difficult decision of the evening. There are so many choices: hundreds and thousands, stars, hearts, coloured sugar or little sparkly balls. For me, it is hard to go past sparkly balls and hearts.
Next, we cover our cakes with a thin layer of buttercream and leave it to set. This is to seal in the pesky crumbs, so we can't see any on the finished product.
Small pieces of fondant icing are rolled out and used to cover the balls of "icecream", which Adrienne has carefully sculpted from cake.
We grab our cakes again, and smear them with the final layer of buttercream. Adrienne shows us how it's done and, with 18 years of experience, she makes it look easy.
Getting that perfect smooth look is difficult and I could keep going all night in search of perfection. Luckily, we don't have all night.
Then it is on to the trickiest stage of the cake: the drips. The key is getting our royal icing to the right consistency. If we mix in too much water, the drips will fall straight to the bottom of the cake – a definite no-no. Not enough water and there will be no drips – just as disastrous. Nobody wants to go first.
Adrienne shows us how to encourage the icing to run down the side by pulling just a little over the edge with a knife.
I have some good-looking drips going on, then I get cocky. I put too much icing on the top, pushing the drips down and causing them to merge from a drip into a full-blown spill.
"There's no saving that, is there?" I ask Adrienne, hoping she has a solution.
She tactfully says: "You definitely have a good side and a bad side."
I swiftly turn the cake and focus on the good side.
I have to concentrate on putting the icecream cone in the right position on top of the cake and this is where my real disaster happens.
As I am holding the cone upside down trying to figure out where to put it, the ball of icecream dislodges, plonking unceremoniously on to my freshly decorated cake.
There are gasps of horror from around the room and much swearing from myself.
I place the ball back in the cone, position it on the cake and use icing and sprinkles to disguise the mess.
Looking around at the other cakes in the room, I have cake envy. Adrienne says people are never happy with their own cake. They think their neighbour's cake is better, but their neighbour is nearly always thinking the same about their cake.
Once we finish our cakes, there is none of the unpleasant cleaning-up that usually comes with cake decorating. We don't have to clean a thing. I almost feel guilty.
My cake might not be perfect, but I've had fun, learnt new skills and the finished product puts a huge smile on my children's faces.
Where: The Make Company.
What to bring: Just yourself.
Level of skill required: Beginner.
Need to know: Everything you need is provided and you get to take the cake home.
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