Friday 27 July 2007


royal icing flowers, buttercream roses, fondant leaves

cornelli lace technique, royal icing lilies & fondant leaves

Prior to my due date and the impending birth of my next kid, I thought I had better do some things I knew I wouldn't be able to do with 2 little ones. This is a digital record of all the homework I had to do for the cake decorating course I took.

first things first: practising how to make drop flowers & leaves

I have always wanted to take a cake decorating course. The one that I enrolled in was located in City Square at 12th and Cambie at the cookware shop, The Cookshop. At the back of the store, there is a fully equipped kitchen and classroom where ordinary citizens, professionals in the food industry and foodies like me can take classes; usually these classes are taught by professionals in the industry. Often a chef from a local restaurant or bakery comes and has a demo and passes around tasty treats and a copy of the recipes.

buttercream dots

Every couple of months a calendar is published for the upcoming classes offered. A continuing course that is offered is the Wilton Cake Decorating Course. The entire course is about $300. Classes occur on the weekend, usually on Sundays and you can do all three courses or just one at a time, which is a flexible schedule for most people. You even get a certificate at the end of the course. I was able to get all three certificates for completing the entire three courses. Nothing like the "feel-good" factor of eating all those cakes and getting a certificate for it regardless of how good your cakes look! Everyone wins!

practising the wilton rose
I'd say the neatest thing I learned was how to make all those flowers. The "Wilton Rose" was the most challenging and I thought only got better with lots of practice. I think I'm pretty confident with the flower nail now and I'm not put off by trying to attempt a rose. The whole experience was quite rewarding because now I can use the skills I learned to make those yearly birthday cakes for the kids!
basketweave technique (easier than it looks!); royal icing flowers; buttercream roses, fondant leaves

rolled fondant, cornelli lace technique, royal icing lilies & fondant leaves

For scheduling information, check out the calendar at the Cookshop for the classes they offer (click on the left sidebar on their's the first link). The Wilton Cake decorating courses are always offered on Sunday afternoons. These cycle year round. I took the 3 course package. Occasionally, the Cookshop will also have guest chefs teaching their craft. I have taken a few where pastry chefs from local bakeries/patisseries come and share their recipes and decorating tips. Then you get to eat the stuff too. It's great. You have to keep an eye on the calendar to find chefs that appeal to you. The calendar only shows its offerings 2 to 3 months in advance.

Other people have told me that Michaels Craft store offers the Wilton Cake decorating classes too. I can't say what they're like because I haven't taken them. However, I hear they can be cheaper with promotional stuff thrown in.



Anonymous said...

Hi cake on the brain. was interested in taking the cake decorating course at cookshop and by the looks of things, it's worth it! Am looking for a wedding cake decorating course offered in July/August. Do you know of any? I live in the Caribbean year round, but return to Van. every summer. I'm a work at home Mom, making wedding cakes, but I am self taught. Would appreciate any info.
Diane in the Turks & Caicos
p.s. seeing the picture of Granvillle Island makes me a bit homesick!

Cakebrain said...

Hi Diane,
Thanks for dropping by for the visit! Yeah, the cake decorating course at the cookshop is perfect if you're interested in learning the basics. Once you've learned the basics, it's just a lot of practice. Then, you can probably tackle a wedding cake. I have taken the full 3 courses by Wilton at the Cookshop. However, Michaels Craft store offers these Wilton courses too and I believe they are cheaper. You don't get the same amount of course hours with Michaels (I visit the one in Richmond, on Bridgeport Road). The Michaels setting doesn't feel as "professional" as the Cookshop setting, but the instructors are all Wilton-trained. Check out the links at the bottom of my post for the schedule for the Cookshop (the Wilton courses are offered continuously year round on Sunday afternoons) I'm not so sure how Michaels sets up their course schedule.

Anonymous said...

You are amazing! I noticed you live in Burnaby. Do you do this at a business? Would you consider taking a purchasing order?

Anonymous said...

Hi cakebrain,

Hello from a fellow Vancouverite!

Your blog (this post, in particular) has inspired me to take cake decorating classes. I'm debating between taking the Wilton classes at The Cookshop or the classes at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. I'd love it if you could tell me more about your experiences with Cookshop, and if you have any general advice regarding cake decorating classes. As well, which place do you think would offer better instruction -- Cookshop or PICA?

Thanks (and sorry for asking so many questions)!

Cakebrain said...

Hi Jackie,
I'm glad you have decided to go for it! It is so much fun! At the time that I took the course at The Cookshop, I didn't realize that Michaels (the craft store) also offered the classes. You can get some sort of a cheaper price through buying the kits there or using coupons or something...I don't remember. Though the Cookshop course ended up more expensive than the Michaels one, I like the atmosphere and the professionalism of Kathy. She knows what she's doing and she's done it for a long time.

I too have eyed the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, but I realized really quickly that being a pastry chef isn't my bag. I'm a high school English teacher and I'm going to stay that way. Pastry chef hours, physical labour and low beginning wages are a real put-off for me. I don't want to put in the long and back-breaking hours to change careers. In order to do their program, I had to be willing to quit work or take a personal leave. It just wasn't worth it. The time, tuition and work involved was prohibitive for me. Besides, this is just a hobby for me and I like the control I have. I'm learning at my own pace. In general, all you need to do is practice practice practice...that is after you learn the proper techniques.

If you really want to go for it and you're considering doing this as a career or if you want to be using the skills in a side-line business, I'd totally recommend PICA. They have a rigorous, structured curriculum and you're "examined". If you're just doing this for your family and friends, the Wilton classes are fine. There's absolutely no stress and no "exams" involved. You just do things at your own pace. Plus, it's cheaper.

So, it depends on your needs and your aptitude. If you're a fast learner and you have aptitude and creativity, the Wilton Classes will be good enough. That being said, not everyone in the course produces beautiful cakes right away, I'm afraid to say. It takes some people a little longer to achieve a professional-looking cake. Drop flowers, cornelli lace and basketweave was good but I had problems with roses. I had to practice a whole week at home before they looked okay to me.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hi cakebrain,

Haha, I wasn't thinking of signing up for PICA's professional programs -- I was only intending to go for their short programs (! Like you, I definitely do not want to become a pastry chef; baking (and hopefully cake decorating, too, in time) is just a hobby for me.

I have considered taking the Wilton classes at Michaels in Richmond, but it's too far away for me. I'll probably just use the 40% coupons to purchase equipment there and take the classes either at Cookshop or PICA.

Anonymous said...

I just found this blog and your pics are adorable. I just wanted to say that if you live in the US the Wilton class at Michaels is $20 for a set of 4 classes on a topic (ex flowers) plus supplies (which they sell in kits in the Michaels stores). Of course I bought more than the little kit because I couldn't resist the cake isle (so so fun!) but in theory, they definitely don't break the bank. Plus, the schedule is very flexible because the classes were offered once a week in the late afternoon.

Amanda said...

Glad I found your review! I'm starting Wilton Course 1 tomorrow and I'm probably equal parts nervous and excited. :)

Palidor said...

I read through your whole blog, and you've got a great one! Love all your recipes, especially the cakes, and there's quite a few that I'll be trying myself. I'll be a regular reader of your blog!

Little Miss Meringue said...

I looked at both the classes offered at Michaels and the Cookshop. It looks like the Cookshop offers all 3 levels for$299, while Michaels teaches the levels individually. I'm not sure if the other levels are more expensive, but for the month of September they're offering Level 1 for $22.50, plus $34.99 for the supply kit. Seems like a HUGE price difference! If anyone is interested, there's a class starting at the Michaels on Bridgeport (in Richmond) on Thursday, September 3rd that still has space in it.

Anonymous said...

Hello Cakebrain!

I apologize for reviving this old post but I was mesmerized by those pictures of yours :)

I'm really looking into taking those Cake Decorating classes at the Cookshop, do you think it'll suit a person who has only cooked eggs (sunny-side-up) and instant noodles all his life??

Cakebrain said...

Hey Anonymous,
If you can cook eggs sunny side up then you're okay to take the course. It's hands-on and you have a pretty small class so if you need help it's there. The instructor is great! I think though, that the roses are definitely the hardest to master and you need to practice a lot with the "practice buttercream" to get it right. This is pretty much where I started and though I could bake before, it really ignited me to do much more! My friend who went with me had no experience and she enjoyed herself and made some nice cakes too! Go for it!

Anonymous said...

I too just finished the Cookshop Wilton cake decorating courses! I really enjoyed learning everything, but I learned more from our fellow classmates than the instructor whom I thought was really, really lacking professionalism. She also didn't really teach, more of a take over and see how good her skills our. Often she said, just read the book. I learnt a LOT from my classmates, who were amazing! I would recommend just go to Michaels, buy the student kits (you can use the 40% off coupon weekly), read through the books, and search on YouTube! That will be much more economical, and yo will be able to learn at your own pace and schedule. Not to mention 85% of the class had to do that because the instructor was so unclear. We did have a great time in the course and I'm so happy I took it to meet all the wonderful classmates =)


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