Cake decorating cookbook/tools advice needed
Could someone recommend a good book for beginner cake decorating? I have a small piping back and some tips.....to give you an idea of my experience, I've only used the star and round tip for cupcake decorating and devilled egg filling.... I'm overwhelmed looking at the stuff on amazon. Are the Wilton's classes any good?
Wilton's classes and books are quite good for the home baker, and even the pros on a budget.
Cake decorating is not my strong suit, so I hope that someone who is more proficient will chime in. I do the occasional wedding cake for a friends catering service, but I would rather bake.
Years ago I took a Wilton's class at the urging of a friend from Thailand. She was afraid she wouldn't understand all of it, and a lot of people had a hard time dealing with her thick accent (I didn't, though.) It was very good, and I learned so many things, but of course I spent a fortune on the Wilton's accessories. Lucky for me, there was a "party" store in town that sold the same stuff for about 25% less than the store we were taking the classes in. You do have to practice a lot to get the techniques down, but once you do you feel so accomplished. I just made fancy birthday cakes for my family, but she got so good at it that she was selling her cakes to co-workers. If you can take the class with a friend, you get more support and can spend time together practicing.
Before you start buying books, I highly reommend you browse the Wilton' website:
This is the page that begins the "how to" techniques. They have lots of information on their website.
As for equipment, here are my recommendations for basics:
For tips: http://tinyurl.com/263g7b
icing bags: http://tinyurl.com/6dohg
cake leveler: http://tinyurl.com/278f5v
Pattern Presses: http://tinyurl.com/25v7w8
And I would add any lazy suzan. Wilton does have a decorating stand (http://tinyurl.com/4lopt), but if you have any kind of lazy suzan with a flat surface big enough to hold a cake plate, it will work fine. I won't tell you how old the one I use is, but I count its age in decades. Using a lazy suzan you can turn as you work your way around the side of the cake to decorate it is so much easier than turning the cake plate. Usually means fewer thimb prints in the frosting too! And I strongly urge you (or anyone) to go with the disposable frosting bags. They make life so much easier!
You'll find as much information on the Wilton website as you will in most expensive books. There are very good frosting and icing recipes on the website as well. The website is fairly complex, set up in "shops" so you have to start with the main title page and work your way through all the shops from there. WalMart carries Wilton, and depending on the store may have a lot of supplies or only a little. In my experience, often cheaper than Amazon or Target. Most towns and cities have cake decorating shops you can find through the yellow pages, and some are incredibly fair on prices, others not so much.
As for decorating advice, do pop for the cake leveler tool. It's soooo much easier than trying to level a cake with a knife, and a level cake is critical to a good finished look.
One of the most attractive cakes to start with is to make any flavor two layer cake, then mix up a ton of chocolate frosting. I often use cocoa for the flavor and color, but sometimes I use melted chocolate for a darker color. Hershey's "premelted" packets work well too. Then frost the cake, top and sides.
Next you need a couple of packs of sliced almonds. Put them in a soup bowl and put the plate the cake is on on a cookie sheet. Put all of the sliced almonds in the soup bowl, then hold it close to the cake and with one hand scoop up handfuls of the sliced almonds and press them into the sides of the cake. Not all of them will stick, but that's okay. Keep going until the sides are pretty well covered all the way around. Brush the extra nuts off the edge of the cake plate and put the left over sliced almonds in a zip lock bag for future use. I store mine in the freezer.
Now, put the cake on your lazy suzan. Put a tip coupler in a disposable plastic bag with the largest star tube you have. Now pipe a single row of stars touching each other or shells (http://tinyurl.com/yql9qo) around the bottom of the cake. Change to a size smaller star tube and pipe the same pattern around the top rim of the cake.
It's quite pretty like this and has lots of room for birthday candles. Or you can free hand pipe a design on top. The press-patterns are also great for creating a really showy but easy design on the top of the cake too. For Christmas, I often gild the lily by sticking candy canes at intervals around the sides, or add pepermint kisses to the decorating on top.
Cake decorating is lots and lots of fun. I'm not a pro baker (and have never had a desire to be!), but I have saved a TON of money over the years by decorating the kids' fancy birthday cakes as they were growing up, and wedding cakes for the family. THOSE suckers are expensive! I'll see if I can figure out how to upload a few pictures of cakes through the years. But remember, everyone was a beginner once!
Basket weave isn't all that difficult if you have the right tip. A bit time consuming, but...? If you do cupcakes, you'll love doing cakes! I think I'd rather do two wedding cakes than a dozen fully decorated cupcakes.
The Wilton Year Books are also a good source for new techniques and decorating supplies. They run about ten bucks each. But after a few years, you tend to say, "Enough already!" I think my newest one is at least a decade old.
Ateco is another company that makes cake decorating equipment. You'll find them here: http://www.atecousa.com/ Wilton seems to have more, but there are a few things Ateco makes that Wilton doesn't. Or there used to be.
One thing I forgot to mention. Do invest in some paste food colors. They don't dilute the frosting and you can get full strong colors like black, deep purple, bright Christmas red. Good stuff!
I don't know if linking is ok, but there is a site called www.cakecentral.com that is a wealth of info on cake and cookie decorating. some of hte people there are professional or home bakers who sell to friends/co-workers but plenty are just people who are interested and want to decorate for their own family.
i did take one wilton class and to get decent looking cakes for my little kids, it was fine for me. i use the shimmer dust and good paste colors for my frosting to great effect, but then again it's easy to impress a preschooler!
I was so disappointed when I learned how to do basketweave frosting. I'd always loved it because it was so intricate, but it couldn't be easier to do.
I highly recommend live classes if you have the opportunity. You can read a book all day long, but that book can't make the simple corrections/suggestions that a live person can, and simple things can make all the difference in the world. Classes are offered at most craft stores in my neck of the woods (Michaels, AC Moore, Rainbow Bay, Hobby Lobby, etc.) and also through a couple of our community colleges in town.