I’ve always been one of those people who can learn to do something if I want to badly enough. This stems from the fact that I am notoriously cheap. Why pay $185 for a ceramic pot when I can learn how to make it myself?
Couple that with my desire to be the perfect mother, and it was inevitable that I’d learn how to decorate cakes. I had planned on figuring this out after Mirinda was born, but when a good friend told me she enrolled in a cake decorating class at the community college and wanted me to join her, I couldn’t resist.
So, off I toddle, five months pregnant to embark on a new adventure. I enrolled, hurried to Gibson’s to buy a cake decorating set, and anxiously awaited the first class.
Our first lesson was icing a cake.
The teacher suggested we freeze our two rounds layers prior to class to make them easier to ice. The second step was to take a serrated knife and cut along the top of the cake pan to get rid of the rounded tops.
This makes the cake perfectly flat on top and more professional. Take the cake rounds out of the pans and put them on your prepared cake board. She suggested buying a thin plywood round to put on top of a turntable. If we were actually decorating, we would buy a cardboard round sold at craft stores and top it with a paper or foil lace doiley.
Freezing the layers means you can just take a small paint brush you buy specially for cakes and dust off all the loose crumbs. Then you put a thin layer of icing on to seal your cake.
Plop some icing on top of your bottom layer and smooth it out to the sides, then put the second layer on cut side down so the two cut sides are together.
I was putting on this first layer when the teacher came by to examine our progress. Me, being notoriously cheap, had bought a little set of plastic decorating tools. The teacher had never seen anything like it. She brought over her metal spatula and showed me how much easier to smooth the icing when you have a long, metal spatula that goes across the top of the cake easily.
After you put the first layer of icing on, let it set for a bit and form a film. Then you put the finish layer on. Keep a glass of water nearby so you can make the finish coat smooth as glass. There is oil of some sort in the icing, either Crisco or butter, so the water makes it smooth out.
Then it’s just a matter of decorating the cake. If you’re using a character pan, you might be using a string tip or star tip so the previous steps aren’t necessary. You’ll cover the cake with shaped icing.
I made it through the first lesson, which was just icing the cake. After the lesson, I stopped at a hobby store and bought a real set of decorating tips and a spatula from Wilton’s. I also bought one of their yearbooks which gives all the basics, plus the new designs for the year.
Later that night, I went into premature labor. Barbara, my friend came to get me and took me to the hospital. She was crocheting a baby blanket for me and brought it along.
The nurse would come in and time my contractions and shake her finger at me. “You slow down.” Then she turned to Barbara and said, “You hurry up.”
They stopped the contractions, but I was put on bed rest for six weeks. Supposedly, I wasn’t even to get up and go to the bathroom. My husband was a longhaul truck driver and I was going to use a bedpan and then what? Get up and empty it?
I did stay in bed as much as possible. Friends went to buy groceries for me and I ate a lot of cereal and sandwiches.
Finishing the remaining cake decorating lessons was completely out of the question. However, Barbara was a sweetheart. She came by the house after each lesson and got my icing out of the refrigerator, my supplies and a cookie sheet. Then she sat by the side of the bed and I practiced making scrolls, piping, flowers and all the other things that go along with decorating cakes.
When we were done, she scooped the icing back into the bowl, covered it with Saran Wrap and put it back in the refrigerator. Decorator frosting lasts a long time if you keep it airtight. Leave it out and it hardens.
So, I spent weeks making icing flowers and such. I let them dry and put the in a bowl, separated by wax paper and collected an icing garden. I had enough flowers stored to go into business.
Let’s face it, when you’re on bed rest, it’s good to have something to occupy your mind and hands.
And so, that’s how I learned to decorate cakes in bed. If you decide to try it, I might also suggest putting a sheet over the bedspread. It’s just really hard to explain to your husband why you have smears of frosting on the bedspread.
There’s an old saying, “She can eat crackers in my bed anytime.” It apparently doesn’t extend to frosting.