There are two kinds of people in the world; cake people and frosting people.
Cake people love cake. They like muffin bottoms, and pie, and never cut the crusts off their bread. Frosting people love frosting. They only like the tops of muffins, the innards of pies, and rarely belong to the clean plate club. Neither one is bad or good, we just nee dot recognize that these are two entirely different species of mammals.
Years ago, I brought in one of those store-bought sheet cakes to the office to celebrate a birthday, and, even though the whole thing was covered in frosting, one corner was especially laden with frosted flowers. That one corner piece of cakey real estate hosted four times the frosting of any other piece, and as I went to plop it on to the assembly line of paper plates, three, yes three people, including somebody’s boss, dove for it. It was awkward. Ten minutes of bickering followed and eventually someone had to split the baby like Solomon, slicing the single corner piece into three different parts. None of those three people were nice to each other ever again. Nobody ever flat out mentioned The Corner Piece Battle of 2005, but it was never forgotten.
Moral of the story: frosting people are weird.
I am a cake person. I like a really good cake with barely a drizzle of icing. Not frosting, icing. Nothing fancy. I feel bad when people give me frosted sugar cookies for Christmas because I regift those faster than you can say “Festivus”. When the folks at Wilton invited me to participate in their annual Sweet Up, a two-day extravaganza devoted to weird and wonderful things you can do with frosting, I thought it might be fun to participate in as a spectator sport.
Whoa. You guys. I don’t even know what to tell you. Something strange has come over me. I might have converted to…frosting.
PS: If you are already into this stuff, that box on the right is going to rock your world. It’s like the next step beyond gel coloring. It’s super vivid and it’s formulated to give the same color every time (it’s normally impossible to get the exact same shade across multiple batches). It’s new, and I think this box will retail for around $20. I’m going to try it on my coffee filter flowers this weekend. I’ll let you know how it goes.
This is what most of the event looked like – bloggers and youtubers standing in small circles watching weird and wonderful things being done with frosting. Most of the folks there were food or party-geared bloggers, so they knew a lot more about the subject matter than me. I learned SO MUCH.
On the cookie decorating front, I learned that it really does not matter how talented you are with your hands, if your frosting isn’t the right consistency it won’t work. Here, Amber (aka Sweet Ambs) was demonstrating using royal icing with 15-20 second ribbons, or what they call ‘flood consistency‘. They gave us a little crash course on how to make it, I made it, felt really good about it, then she came around and told me I was wrong (but she was really nice about it) (and I soon found out she was totally right). So if (like me) you have ever tried to do fancy cookie work and gotten frustrated, it probably wasn’t your frosting skills, it was your frosting consistency. After you get your consistency down, the sky is the limit. Look at what you can make using nothing more than a circle and a series of dots!
Amber has a bunch of other videos on youtube. And she’s totally nice. If you are interested in learning from a master, you have to check her out.
Wilton baking and sweet treat products, or as I call them, “the purple aisle at Michaels”, are geared toward home bakers who want to ramp up their game. I was always really intimidated by the idea of cake decorating because I have never been good at it. Sure, I can get the frosting on the cake but then it slides off or starts to separate, etc. Not cute. Getting some tips from the pros was a real eye opener. Now I’m anxious for someone to have a birthday so I can make them a cake.
Speaking of cakes…this a scene from inside the Wilton cake vault, which is like a small town library but instead of books they have cakes.
It’s a little too narrow to get pictures, so you’ll just have to trust me when I tell you it’s incredible. Also, when you walk through the Wilton’s offices the file cabinets are topped cakes instead of potted plants. My kind of people!
We also got to tour the studios where the decorating designers do their work. One corner is working on Christmas cupcakes, the other is on Easter, another one on weird stuff you can do with fondant. It’s very Willy Wonka but there were no oompa loompas (not while we were visiting anyway).
This is the cake of the year they designed for the welcome reception. If I ever made something like this you can bet I would be on top of the mountain with a megaphone letting everyone know; for these gals, they are like, “Meh. No biggy. This is what we do on Tuesdays.”
1. Everyone was so nice. 2. HOW DO I GET THAT JOB?
I think my favorite part was the prop room. They have every kind of plate, napkin, and cutting board under the sun.
You can’t even see the cake plate situation in this shot, so let’s just say, it was impressive.
Later on we got to do some boozy baking with vodka and kailua. These were White Russian Cookie Cups. Delicious. Have you ever done cookies in mini muffin cups? This was new to me. Can you tell my cookie trend skills are behind? The other four people on my team were food bloggers so I pretty much got to sit back and watch. It is a rare luxury to watch other people cook, so I was totally down with that!
A huge thank you to Michael’s for inviting me to be a part of their Michael’s Makers group on this adventure — what a fantastic group of ladies (right to left: Mariah, Kara, Cindy, Destiny, Lindi, and Jillian). And, thank you to the team at Wilton for welcoming us to their home. I am coming away with so much, including, dare I say, a new found love of frosting (!!!).
Luckily for me – I live an hour away from Wilton’s headquarters just south of Chicago, which is also home of The Wilton School, “The Yale of cake decorating.” I have my heart set on making gum paste flowers so they will be seeing me again! Luckily for all of us – Wilton offers introductory and advanced cake decorating classes at Michael’s stores across the country. Check them out for yourself.