February 22, 2012
By TRISHA VAUGHAN - Bulletin Accent Writer
There was a war going on recently at Spencer-Penn Centre, but instead of battle cries and machine guns, this war involved laughter — and buttercream frosting.
The Battle of the Cupcakes decorating class was designed to allow participants to have fun while they learned about cupcake decorating. After learning to decorate, the participants entered a competition to see whose cupcakes reigned supreme.
Professionals Ashley Courtney of Courtney Cake Shop in Pleasant Grove and Amy Shavers Perkins of Must Love Cakes in Charlotte, N.C., headed the two opposing teams. Courtney was assisted by her sister, Amy Lieteau.
Three judges milled about watching events unfold earlier this month.
While the 10 students were gathered around a table, learning to properly fill a pastry bag with buttercream frosting, grumbles and giggles erupted as it quickly became apparent that filling the bag is not was easy as it looked.
After each pair of students had successfully put icing in a bag and secured a slanted tip to it, Courtney began demonstrating how to make a buttercream rose. She showed the group how to hold the bag, shape the petals and remove the rose from a flower nail (a small hand-held tool for sculpting buttercream flowers).
Kenya King, 14, and her cousin, Norma Broadhurst of Martinsville, set about making their flower and quickly realized that holding the bag with one hand and a flower nail with the other was a balancing act.
King said that when Broadhurst asked her if she wanted to attend the class, she excitedly agreed because she likes to bake and wanted to learn how to decorate cakes.
King’s favorite thing to make is chocolate cake, and she learned to decorate a chocolate truffle cupcake during the class. Her favorite decoration, though, involved icing a strawberry cupcake with whipped cream-cheese frosting and topping it with a decorative sliced strawberry.
After learning the basics, the teams set about learning their individual instructor’s techniques. Perkins had her group decorate cupcakes with a wedding theme, with one bride, one groom and one bouquet of flowers. Courtney’s team focused more on frosting techniques, as well as decorating with strawberries and lime zest.
Brittani Perkins, 12, accompanied her mother, Amy, to the class. Brittani said she was interested in decorating because “I like art” and cooking.
Tamara Johnson, kitchen marketing manager at Spencer-Penn, said she was in awe of the cupcakes.
“It looks complicated, but when you see it (done) step by step,” it gets easier, she said, “like painting.”
“We enjoy cooking together,” said Kelly Handy Baliles of Stuart, who brought along daughter Gracen, 12. Baliles attended a canning class at the center last year and said she now watches for new classes.
Baliles, an experienced caterer, said she is used to cooking in bulk, but desserts are new for her. There is “an art to it,” she said of dessert-decorating, adding that she hoped to learn more about fine-tuning the techniques she learned in class.
Baliles said she couldn’t believe how much skill and patience it takes to do seemingly simple decorations, such as the buttercream roses. She added that she has a new appreciation for decorators and bakers.
After the teams completed their cupcakes, they presented them to the judges. Perkins’ team submitted cookies-and-cream, butter pecan and turtle cupcakes, while Courtney’s team sent over chocolate truffle, berry bliss and key lime-coconut flavors.
Each cupcake was graded on presentation, taste and creativity.
After tasting each team’s offerings, judges Margaret Alderman and Jessica Alderman, both of Bassett, and Lasandra Martin of Martinsville handed the cupcake crown to Courtney and her team.
Each student got to take home a dozen cupcakes as well as a decorative apron and prizes. The class cost $20 per person.
Some of the students were eager to learn more, suggesting to Johnson that the center plan a cake-decorating class and perhaps a cheesecake-making class.
Johnson said she is working on some newer classes. Upcoming classes at the center include cooking with dried herbs and candlemaking.
For more information about the Spencer-Penn Centre and its classes and events, call 957-5757.
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