A few months ago, I was invited (through a recommendation from Debbie of Ms. Debbie’s Sugar Art – thank you!) to do a demonstration at the Alachua County Newberry Library Branch. The description of the demo was “Need some fresh decorating ideas for your baked delights this holiday season? We have the perfect gift for you! A professional cake decorator will present ideas and techniques for creating wonderful delights sure to satisfy Santa and his elves.” Professional! Wow, I definitely wouldn’t go that far! haha!
Here I am in front of my demonstration table. It looks pretty good for not really planning much in advance, right? Haha! I found the cutest fabric at JoAnn’s that had little cupcakes on it, but they didn’t have enough of the fabric to cover a whole table so I had to buy brown to go underneath that. Actually, I think I prefer it this way compared to the whole table being covered in the pink cloth!
I made a “dummy” cake and a Christmas cookie bouquet to display during the presentation. The cake was an 8″ square covered in blue fondant. I put a giant green and red ribbon on top and shaped 2 elves out of fondant using the instructions from a book about making things with clay.
The cookie bouquet was just 6 sugar cookies on sticks decorated with fondant. I bought a cheap container at Michael’s and then filled it with Christmas candy and candy canes. These are super easy to make – just push a cookie stick into the cookie dough before you bake the cookies. When they are baked, the stick should be pretty secure. Then, put a piece of styrofam in the bottom of some kind of decorative container and shove the cookies in. Be sure to push them in to differing heights so that you can see the ones in the back. Containers with wider mouths than this one are better because you can get a more full bouquet. Go try one!
For the demonstration, I did something much easier. This you can definitely try! You need to start off with your favorite cake recipe. Bake two layers in 8″ round pans. When the cakes are completely cooled, level them. Assemble the cake like always: place one layer on the cake board, apply a layer of filling or icing, lay the second layer on top, ice the whole cake. The icing on the cake doesn’t have to be perfect NOR does it have to be crumb-free because you end up covering the whole thing later! Here’s what you need to finish the cake:
You’ll need your favorite chocolate frosting, 30-35 strawberries (trimmed to remove the green part so that all the strawberries are approximately the same height), 2 boxes of Pirouette cookies, your favorite Christmas ribbon, and appricot glaze (see recipe below). I trimmed the Piroutte cookies ahead of time so that they were all different lengths, but you could also trim them to the same length – be creative!
*You could also make a strawberry glaze for a cake like this. Use the same procedure, just substitute seedless strawberry jam/preserves for the apricot preserves.
2 1/2 cups apricot preserves
1/3 to 1/2 cup water
Combine the preserves and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and immediately strain into a fresh bowl to remove any apricot chunks. Allow the glaze to cool completely before using. Store the glaze in the refrigerator if you make it ahead of time. The glaze should be runny when you use it so you may need to reheat it in the microwave or on the stove first.
How to decorate the cake:
Place the Pirouette cookies upright all the way around the edge of the cake. Use double-sided tape to attach your ribbon around the center of the Pirouette cookies. Place the strawberries on the top of the cake to completely cover it. I left most of the strawberries whole and filled spaces with strawberry halves. You could cut all the strawberries in half before placing them on the cake or you could slice them thinly and layer them on the caketop. However you do it, it’s bound to be beautiful! After all the strawberries have been placed, brush them with a little apricot glaze. Don’t go overboard here! The glaze just gives the strawberries a nice shine. If you add too much, you’ll come back in an hour to find that the glaze has slipped to the bottom of the cake and your cake is now swimming in it! Anyway, here’s the finished product:
So how did the demonstration itself go you ask? Well, let’s start by saying that this demo was scheduled on the same day of the SEC Championship game (Go Gators!). Gainesville and the surrounding area pretty much…not pretty much – definitely revolve around UF’s football season so we didn’t expect many people to show up at the demo. Adam went with me to help set-up since I had no idea what to expect when we got there. We put my table in the front of the classroom and a small semicircle of chairs in front of it. At 2pm, when the demo started, a 5th grade girl came in, pulled up a chair to MY side of the table, and started looking for something to do. I guess she’s used to hands-on demos because she pretty much took over on this cake! I showed her how to put the cookies on the side and she took it from there! Then a mother and her daughter came in and she helped a bit too. Only one other lady came in during the demo. Yea, we got a whopping 4 audience members and none of them actually sat down! They all stood around the table! It was kind of odd that no one noticed the semicircle of chairs….whatever. So the little girls decorated the cake and everyone but the 5th-grader left. She stayed for the entire hour…lucky us! haha! She was very sweet though. I had brought some fondant with me so I let her play with it and take some home. Here she is making a flower with her fondant:
The Newberry Library Branch Manager has already scheduled me to do an Easter-themed demo on March 28th. I’ll definitely do something kid-friendly, hands-on, and easy! In any event, this demo was a lot of fun, and it was a good way for me to get more teaching experience. Thanks again to Debbie for recommending me in her place!