I’ve come to the conclusion that for commercially viable cupcakes, taste is secondary. Prettily decorated cupcakes are bound to be a hit, and no one really cares whether they taste good or not. I attended Joycelyn Shu’s cupcake workshop this afternoon with C (last minute cancellations and being on the waitlist ensured us a space), and while it was very informative and instructional, the bulk of the teaching and hands-on process was devoted to icing and decorating, not baking the cupcakes. In fact, out of 12 cupcakes – 6 Valrhona Chocolate and 6 Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla – we only got to bake the Valrhona ones ourselves. The vanilla ones were pre-baked for us so that we could concentrate on decorating.
We were taught feathering techniques using an icing made with just icing sugar and cream. The icing can be flavoured or tinted, but it’s still really sweet. This was quite an easy technique – just apply one coat of icing all over the cake, pipe stripes of a different coluor before the base sets, and draw a toothpick to and fro to create the feathering.
We also worked with marzipan, something that doesn’t taste too good but is good to decorate with. The coloured marzipan was pre-made for us, so the shades were a bit garish for my liking. We learnt how to make a rose, creating petals by pressing a few balls of marzipan flat, curling one into a cone for the rose ‘bud’, then adding the rest of the petals around the bud.
Apparently, as a better-tasting alternative to marzipan, we can use chocolate putty, made from melted chocolate and corn syrup. If we use white chocolate putty, it can be tinted just like marzipan. I’m keen to try this out, but at class we just worked with dark chocolate putty. I made another rose, just to see if it was as malleable as marzipan. It’s slightly more fiddly but the rose turned out ok in the end.
We also made marzipan bees, and sweetpea pods, so as you can see, I did learn a lot in terms of decorating techniques, but not how to make a kick-ass base cake. Then again, that doesn’t seem to be the emphasis when it comes to cupcakes. Well, I’m aiming to reach a compromise, between cakes that taste decent, and reasonably prettily decorated. Aiming is the operative word – watch this space :)
Not a big fan of the frosting. Pretty, but I prefer a nice, simple taste (that’s not like a neighbourhood bakery’s). As good as the chocolate base one was, I prefer some of the other cupcakes C has made.