Lessons 53-56: Finish What Ya Started

A lot goes into a cake. As we go through each four-hour Pastry & Baking Artsclass, putting together different parts that eventually make up the whole picture, whether it’s a round cake or tiny petit four, I can’t help but think the different components, the batter, the filling, the icing, the writing or decoration, are like pieces of a puzzle that we are challenged to assemble as, uniformly, beautifully and as efficiently as possible.

Chef Kathryn puts the pressure of time on us, giving us a sense of what it will be like when we are in a professional kitchen and dessert tickets are coming in all at once at a busy restaurant or when you only have five minutes until that mother is coming in to pick up her son’s birthday cake that hasn’t been iced yet. She presents real life scenarios, and thinking about it while in class is putting the program in perspective. Our partners are our production team and how we manage what we each do is integral to the whole process. For example, this week we worked on petits fours. Chef Kathryn warned us that Lesson 56 was potentially going to be the most difficult lesson we would encounter in our program.

The assignment was to cut, glaze and decorate petits fours glacés, preparing at least 12 identical ones for presentation at the end of class. We had already made the frangipane cake the day before. Now, we individually selected a shape, design and color for our petits fours, ensuring there was variety in the class. I selected a diamond shape with a geometric design in peach which eventually evolved into bright blue when I got a look at all the different colors I could choose from.

Sometimes, you just have to go with what inspires you at the moment, I guess. Then there was the fondant. I had my hands deep into it, smoothing it over heat and making sure it was the right texture to enrobe the petit fours in smooth and colored fondant, with no bald spots. After practicing several different geometric designs on parchment paper using both green fondant and chocolate sauce, I opted for the chocolate sauce as it looked better against the bright blue and was somewhat easier to work with.

With Chef Kathryn’s guidance to consider the shape, the color and the time I had left to finish, I chose a design that worked best for my petits fours — three simple dots. The lesson was one of the most interesting thus far. Yes, all we did was cut, glaze and decorate cakes but it was our opportunity to finish a project individually that we had initially started together. Seeing all of our 14 designs on a mirrored display was, to me, a finished showcase of all of our different personalities, skill sets and visions weaved into one final presentation. In the end, it was beautiful. On another note, I have set up my first two trails — one at a restaurant and one at a large production site. I’m excited, but anxious. Next up in the classroom: We will be using some new mixing methods (I told you there were a lot!): modified creaming, foam cake and sponge cake!

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