It’s January and I’m having a cuppa at my friend, Mel’s. She’s trying to persuade me to do a cake course where you learn to make cupcakes that look like a bouquet of roses. Lovely idea but this is way out of my league. I politely decline.
Thing is, some friends know you better than you know yourself. She’s surprisingly persistent and two things swing in her favour: 1) when I started this blog I made a pact that I would take any food-related opportunities that came my way (however much out of my comfort zone they were); and 2) my mother-in-law’s 60th is coming up and true to tradition, I want to make her something homemade. I’ve done the photo albums, the collages, the cakes, and more recently, the knitted scarves (scarves are the extent of my knitting skills); so I am looking for something new.
Fast forward two months, and I find myself on a Saturday night at Cafe 7 in the centre of Norwich with seven others. We are greeted with hot drinks, delicate pieces of cake, and a slight horror story of a drunk man who loomed at the glass door and tried to get into the class the previous night.
First we learn to put together the bouquet box with cellophane, tissue paper and fancy ribbon; then as an interlude we ice biscuits using different techniques to create sunflowers, daffodils and even hyacinths. It doesn’t matter that I’m a complete novice, I’m loving it.
Next comes the icing of the buns to make then look like roses. Here we go, I think, the moment where I really show myself up. But Lynne – cafe owner and teacher – is wonderful and patient and even goes so far as to hold my hands (or maybe I hold hers?) while I use the icing bag for the first time. You need strong hands and mine are surprisingly little, but I make up my own method, and they look…..alright!
By 8.30pm our time is up – we’ve been here for three hours and all my cakes and biscuits are sitting in boxes ready to go. Lynne has had the patience of a saint and her husband is standing at the door; they’ve been working since 6am and I imagine, would love to get home. In my new found icing-enthusiasm I am buying some last-minute cake nozzles from Lynne.
I turn to get some purse and then everything happens in slow motion: my cake boxes are falling and falling to the floor; I have let out a scream; my friends are open-mouthed. It’s a scene of carnage. Thank goodness for Lynne. I can only imagine what she was shouting internally (I JUST WANT TO GO HOME!!!), but to the outside world she is a pillar of calm. She picks up the wrecked cakes and biscuits ( I can’t look; I have my eyes shut), and she goes off and whips up more pink icing while I scrape all the old stuff off my buns then begin the icing process again.
It is slightly stressful icing under such circumstances – everyone in their coats keen to get home – but the pressure produces pretty good cakes, and even my wonderful mother-in-law is fooled a few days later, thinking they are just a pretty bunch of flowers.
I’ve definitely been bitten by the icing bug, and much to Lynne’s delight, I’m sure, I’ll be frequenting other of her cupcake courses. In the mean-time, I have much to thank Mel, who have me the push I definitely needed to try something new.
- Use the Vanilla Cupcakes and Vanilla Icing recipe from The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook to make these cakes.
- Buy the best vanilla essence money can buy. Something like Nielsen Massey’s Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean Paste (£5.99 for 118ml at Morrisons).
- If you live in the area, get down to Cafe 7 and book onto one of their very reasonable cupcake courses: http://cafe7surreystreet.co.uk/page2.html