Monday, May 24, 2010

Planet Cake - Decorating Course, Adriano Zumbo, Victoire and Abhi's. All in a day!

        If you've read my previous post on celebration cakes you would see that I have a love/hate relationship making cakes for special occasions. I do enjoy it though and my wonderful boyfriend dearest even bought me Planet Cake's book for my birthday last year. After a visit to the Planet Cake stand at Taste of Sydney festival I knew that I eventually wanted to do one of their courses just to get some tips and tricks on how to decorate with fondant icing (after my poor effort the first time I did it). Whilst browsing through the Planet Cake website and spotting that their Basics 101 Course was on special at a massive 30% off, I thought it was too good to be true. I registered myself  for a Friday course and applied for the day off work (after consulting Ryan just to check if I was crazy). So this is what I got up to on Friday.

        Mum woke me up thinking I had work so since I was up anyway I headed to Balmain allowing myself plenty of time to stop by Adriano Zumbo Pattisserie to pick up some goodies for Ryan (and me). He really liked the popcorn macaron last time but unfortunately that flavour was no longer available as Adriano has released a new range of flavours for Winter. Being first thing in the morning the crates of cakes had only just been delivered and I would suspect that anything out on display (in small quantities) could have been the previous day's leftovers. (Though being a weekday - no queues!) I wasn't fussed though and was too lazy to pry through all the crates so just selected what looked good from what was on display. There were 7 macaron flavours on display so I asked for one each.
        After consulting Belle's (Ooh Look) Tumblr site I see that we missed out on 3 flavours, caramelised hommus, citrus sorrell & mustard, and mont black (chestnut). Ryan said he was actually looking forward to trying the citrus sorrell & mustard macaron. I noticed that the guy serving me had stuffed them all into a plastic sleeve squishing one of the macarons, I was a little annoyed and asked for a box for which he gave me a very slim box and squashed my macarons into it squashing the top one even further =(.

        Couldn't leave without getting a couple of cakes to try too. The one on the right is called "Grains" which is Oatmeal creme, toasted spelt mousse, maple gel, sesame nougatine, almond pumpkin seed cake. This was actually selected from one of the crates on top of the counter, as I had no idea what everything was I asked the guy serving me and I was intrigued he mentioned pumpkin seed cake. Apparantly the original release didn't have all the caramel crumbs covering the cake.
        The one on the right is called "Ginger" which is Ginger beer gel, ginger pudding, chocolate ginger foam eggs, ginger crunch coconut syrup, ginger chantilly, passionfruit banana bavarois. To make sure that they survived for the whole day I brang a cooler box to put them in, I had to buy everything early as the course started at 10 and didn't finish until 4 so they would have closed by the time I finished. I also took a photo of them because I knew they wouldn't survive the long car ride.

        I needed some breakfast and after reading some positive reviews about Victoire I pop in to see what they have on offer. Not alot from what I saw but then again 8am on a Friday morning is probably not their peak trading time. There were alot of loaves of bread on offer and a small selection of sweets. Not needing any bread and not being drawn to anything in the front window I decide to grab a couple of croissants and brioche's knowing that Ryan adores croissants.

        I hop into my car and drive a couple of blocks down to Planet Cake, I sit in my car eating my croissant for breakfast while listening to the radio (and taking photos of my goodies). The croissant is really good. Flaky, moist and very buttery, just the way I like it. When Ryan eats his share he agrees that it's good.
        I still have a good hour to spare (got there early because of my pitt stops plus was worried about parking) so I decide to go for a walk around Balmain. I find myself walking through some back roads and find myself walking adjacent to the water looking at the Anzac Bridge. It was a really cold morning but the walk warmed me up. I eventually find myself back on Darling Street and make my way back to Beattie Street where Planet Cake is.

        I am the second person to arrive at Planet Cake. I walk into the showroom and am amazed at all the display "cakes" on show. Slowly all the other students arrive and we are then led down a staircase through to where the "classroom" is. It's pretty much where all the cake work happens when there isn't a class. I walk into the class to find out that our teacher is actually the lovely Anna Maria Roche, I've heard some great things about her and she made this amazing Alice In Wonderland cake. Correct me if I'm wrong but I think it won a prize at the Easter Show. She was a last minute stand in as our original teacher had a family emergency to tend to.
        There are rows of benches and I place myself on the end of the first row. All our tools are supplied as well as the cake and we get notes to take home too. Tea and coffee is supplied along with some chocolate mudcake which no one touches until after lunch (a light lunch of wraps, salad and fruit is also served later on). The following photos cut through the steps quickly (not very practical to take photos with chocolate and cornflour covered hands) but I'll give you a quick run down of what happens in between when my hands are dirty.

       Anna Maria demonstrates to us each step before we all go back to our benches to do it ourselves. We are all given a round chocolate mud cake which we will decorate. The first step is to cut off the crust and slice the cake into 3 layers, a lot harder than it sounds. We're given a turntable and a large serated knife which helps the task immensly. The layers are then brushed with syrup and then sandwiched together with chocolate ganache. Again, all sounds easier than it actually is. The middle layer becomes the top and the top layer becomes the middle.
        Somewhere along I manage to accidently flip the top of the cake so that the uneven surface is underneath. It should have remained facing upwards and the gaps would have been filled in with ganache. I also accidently ganache my top when told not to so the whole cake has to be flipped upside down with the ganache side sticking the cake down onto the board. This makes it tricky when it comes to cutting the cake as it gets stuck to the board.

        The next step is to ganache the sides of the cake. It's easy if you don't have any gaps in between your cake layers. Alot of ganache is spread onto the cake before we use a scraper to smooth it out and scrape off the excess. You just keep smoothing it out, then fill in the gaps and smooth it out again, keep repeating until there are no gaps left. (I failed at this but didn't really have enough time to get it perfect). The top does not get done at this stage.

        The excess ganache is sliced off the top edge (once set) and then the top of the cake is then covered in a thick layer of ganache and scraped off. You have to remember to to apply too much pressure or else you end up scarping off all the ganache and exposing the cake underneath.

A quick snapshot of what the "classroom" looks like.

Our wonderful teacher Anna Maria Roche.

        We were given two blocks of icing to colour, any two colours of our own choice. As the course was coinciding with a baby shower at work on the Monday after I thought I would take the cake in to work (as long as I did a good job). As we didn't know the sex of the baby for either of the expectant mothers I decided to go neutral. Even neutral was a hard choice!

        It was hard work kneading the colour into the white icing. My arms received quite a work out! This is where a stool was given to me as I needed to be a little higher up so that I could apply pressure down onto the icing. I ended up choosing green for my base and ivory for the accents.

        First off we make out stars/shapes on wires to go on the top of the cake. We then cover our cake board in a thin layer of icing and leave it to dry/set while we have our lunch break. While on lunch Paris Cutler, the owner, comes out and has a chat to us and asks us how we're going. Some of the other ladies ask her some questions about the business and she gives us a little bit of insight. She was so lovely to have =).

        After lunch we watch Anna Maria demonstrate the main part of icing the cake. The cake is then brushed with syrup and the icing is then rolled out and placed on the cake, the inverted colouring is done by placing 2 discs of the contrasting colour underneath the main colour and then crosses cut into the first 2 layers then each tip was pulled back to expose the colour undernearth. The icing sheet is smoothed and pushed onto the cake by hand and then we use some erm "smoothers" to smooth out the icing and create the sharp edges (I ran out of time so didn't get to finish my sharp edge). If you look closely at the left and the right you can see that the left edging is sharper and the right edging is more curved.

        Close up of the middle. We then do the ribbons for the sides and stick some cut out stars and cachous onto the sides (and use them to cover up any ugly bits!).

       The cake is then lifted off our working board and placed on the covered cake board. The tissues are used to hold the "ribbon" up while it sets. We make a long "sausage" to go around the base and the stars on wires are then wound around the edge of a paintbrush to make the spirals and placed into the cake.

       My finished product. And to think that took me 6 hours to do! Just the decoration though, would have taken me another day if I had to bake my own cake.

        Close up of the middle of my completed cake. I don't think it's perfect yet, lots to learn. I also think my expectations of myself are way too high but I guess it's what makes me strive for perfection.

        All the cakes together for a group photo. It was really good to see them alltogether at the end of the day. Our hard work paid off!

        All the students together for a group photo. I think we had to stand and smile and say cheese 13 times for all the cameras. That's one camera per person for a class of 12 and one camera from Planet Cake.

        At the end of class we get handed certificates of completion. There is also a "passport" which gets marked everytime you do a course with Planet Cake, you need to build up from the most basic courses to be able to do the more advanced ones. Once you do one course you also get a returning student's discount of 10% which is really good. Having done floristry before I think that it helped with the fine intricate stuff. I guess you could call me an artistic"ish" person. I definately have a creative streak but my creativity doesn't seem to show when it comes to food presentation though. I am still learning that food can be art on a plate (or cake). I really enjoyed myself doing the course even though it was such an intense day. I do wish that the classes were a little smaller as I found that when I did struggle it wasn't easy to get help. But overall, great course. I now have a greater appreciation for what I originally thought were very expensive cakes, all the time and effort and training to get them looking so immaculate.

        So I arrive at Ryan's with my cake and goodies and am absolutely tired and hungry. We decide to have a few "tester" macarons but find ourselves eating all 7 macarons - all before dinner! Some flavours were more favoured than others but they were all pretty good. They made fantastic pre-dinner treats though. I also give Ryan his croissant and brioche to try - thumbs up.

        As Ryan has also had a big day he decides that we're going to go out for dinner. Using my Urbanspoon app on my iphone we land on Abhi's. I'd first heard of Abhi's as a recommendation from a work colleague last year and after reading many great reviews have always meant to drag Ryan there but we always end up elsewhere. Being a Friday night though I was skeptical that we would be able to get a table but we try anyway. Just our luck though we manage to walk in with a table available straight away - on the condition we were done by 8. And done by 8 we were.

        We go straight for the mains and Ryan orders a Lamb Korma and I choose the Prawn and Scallop curry. We have both rice and garlic naan to go with the curries. The food comes out really fast. The curries were gorgeous and I loved the seasoned rice. Ryan said that the Lamb Korma was a bit more savoury than the ones we've had at other places which are more on the sweeter side. The lamb was really nice and tender. I also loved the prawn and scallop curry. We were both very full with just 2 curries, rice and naan. Service was good, waiters attentive. The only annoying thing was the mood lighting. It was so dark in that place. Perhaps to deter food bloggers? =D I'd definately come back here but would definately plan it in and book ahead.

        So we head back to Ryan's and catch up on all our favourite TV shows (including foodie ones). I love watching food on Ryan's HDTV =D. After a few shows and dinner digested we dig into dessert. As you can see the "Grains" cake has toppled over so in order to save it we had to eat it first. It was an interesting cake though I wasn't overly impressed with it. It was... nice, but nothing that makes me go "oh my goodness yumm". I enjoyed the "Ginger" cake better and love the lingering ginger taste in my mouth though Ryan isn't entirely fond of ginger in cakes. Apparantly bad childhood memories associated with overly spicey ginger bread experiences.

        So the cake gets taken into work for the baby shower and everyone absolutely loves it. People were in shock when I say I made it or someone tells them I made it... and I explained that no I didn't make the whole thing but just decorated it. I got told I should have just taken all the credit and said I made the whole thing =D. And here I am thinking about what I could have done better. There were 3 of us "organising" the baby shower, one of the other ladies made cupcakes and chocolate crackles and the other made fairy bread. Also ordered some mini quiches and other savouries from the cafeteria. I think the cake went down well considering that it was very rich and there was so much food. I've cut up the leftovers for home and giving some to Ryan to take to work. Even though it was a 3 day weekend for me I am absolutely exhausted and feel like I need a day just to recover!

Abhi's Indian on Urbanspoon


A cupcake or two said...

Your cake looked amazing. Ive always wanted to do a course but planet cake is so expensive. I will do a course there one day.

Amy @ cookbookmaniac said...

Your cake looks fantastic! It sounds like you had an amazing day. I love this post!

foodwink said...

Wow, someone's been very busy! Great effort, Angie. I'm thinking of signing up for a cupcake decorating course.

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

What an action-packed weekend! Your cake looks amazing and yes, take photos during a cooking class is always difficult so double kudos on your photos and your cake :)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Wow what a day for you! Your cake looks amazing :) I'm guessing there's no more anxiety about making celebration cakes right? ;)

Mark @ Cafe Campana said...

Great looking cake. I love the step by step explanation of how these are decorated. Good work!!

linda said...

Your cake looks totally awesome, haha I agree with your friend, you should have taken credit for making the whole thing, not just the decorations. Ooh zumbo, haven't been there in ages, I see they've released new creations.

Betty said...

what a day! :)

Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said...

Hi Kath: Thanks! Yeah they are quite expensive, I don't think I would have done it if I had paid the full price.

Hi Amy: Thanks! Hehe it was one hectic day - full of food!

Hi foodwink: Thanks! Yeah the cupcake courses look really cool too, I was thinking that maybe I should have ndone a cupcake course before jumping into something like this.

Hi Helen: Thanks! Hehe, I managed to ganache my shirt sleeve and had sticky streaks on my little camera =D

Hi Lorraine: Thanks! Hehe oh I don't know about that, I think I am okay with cakes... just not too confident with fondant icing, took home all the leftover icing so I might have to make some cake/cupcakes soon to practice =D

Hi Mark: Thanks! I tend to write too much but glad you found it informative =)

Hi Linda: Hehe Thanks, I am just too humble of a cook. Yeah, I'm not a huge Zumbo follower but won't pass up the opportunity to try something if I am in the area =D

Hi Betty: Hehe yes it was quite a day!

cyberiagirl said...

Your cake looked pro! :D

Never been to Zumbo's... what time/day do you think would be the best for a visit?

Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said...

Thanks Rachael! =)

Hmm best time? Anytime that not's the weekend! Haha I was there at 9am on a Saturday once and the queue was already out the door. I think you should be pretty safe any day of the week though I've read alot of stuff sells out by the afternoon (they close at 4). Perhaps between 9-2?

Sarah Vino said...

Stunning cakes! I want to do that sometime!!!

Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said...

Thanks Sarah! The courses are a little dear but are definately worth it, makes you appreciate the art!

foodie-central said...

Your cake looks awesome!

Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said...

Thanks Daphne =)