Cake Decorating Schools and Courses
From the beginning of the year to the year’s close, cakes cater to every important occasion. There are mother’s day cakes, baby shower cakes, graduation cakes, cakes for every birthday, and cakes for every season. If there’s a holiday missing, think up a cake design, and you or a cake decorator can make it happen.
Cake decorators show that this sugary treat isn’t just a food item, but a product of practiced art, learned science, and a lot of creativity. Indeed, skilled cake decorators are in a class of their own, separate from other pastry chef professionals.
Cake Decorating Schools Overview
Cake decorating schools in themselves come in different forms. Generally, an education in cake decorating can consist of:
- Shorter, cake-decorating specific courses: Found in baking schools, these courses target specific topics and cater to amateurs and professionals alike. Regarding the course length, some cake decorating master classes can stretch two weeks or longer; others can be completed in a few days or even a few hours. While hour- or day-long classes teach students specialized techniques and designs, such as modeling figures and flowers out of gum paste, week-long courses can give students a wide base of knowledge regarding cake preparation, design, and décor. Students in these programs typically receive a certificate of completion at the end of the course.
- Cake decorating courses within larger, overarching culinary arts degree programs: Students in these programs receive general cake decorating training as part of their professional chef education. Many public and private culinary schools, for example, offer classes related to decorating cakes, such as advanced patisseries and display cakes and European cakes and tortes. Students in these programs typically work towards culinary certificates, diplomas, or Associate or Bachelor’s degrees.
What Techniques Are Taught in Cake Decorating School?
So what can you learn in a cake decorating school or class? Making a beautifully-designed cake is a multi-step process. Ultimately, a professional-quality cake not only tastes good, but combines the right colors, textures, and shapes.
First, there’s the cake without the frills. Students can learn a wide variety of cake recipes, including white, chocolate, butter, and pound cake, and learn which kinds of cake textures work best for certain designs. Don’t think that cakes only come in circular or square shapes – professional cake decorators can use different pan moulds and, like sculptors, can shear off parts of their baked product. The forms they create can be as intricate as animals, castles, handbags, and teapots.
Next comes the arsenal of different fillings and frostings integral to a great-tasting cake. In the more simple layered cakes, fillings can include custards, fruit fillings, ganache, or fruit. The most well-known icings include fondant, buttercream, Italian meringue, whipped crème and chocolate crème.
Then there are the decoration techniques that define the cake’s design. In order to make the varied patterns along borders and cake surfaces, students learn piping skills using buttercream, royal icing, and boiled icing. Additional decorations include making figures and flowers out of gum paste, chocolate, and pulled sugar. Fondant, a malleable frosting, is a topic in itself: once rolled out, fondant can be cut to make decorative patterns, can be molded into varying shapes, and thanks to its smooth surface, can even be airbrushed with edible colors and powders.
Last thing - don’t forget the display. Cakes can be assembled in ways that make them seem to defy gravity, and can be adorned with lace, doilies, and fabric, making them capable of being the prima donna of any party.
Along the way, students learn the tools of the trade, such as pastry bags, measurement tools, and cake stands and how to transport the cake from the kitchen to the party. Students don’t have to stop at decorating cakes since they can apply their knowledge to a wide range of sugary treats, such as petit fours, cookies, cupcakes, cake pops, chocolates and candies. Importantly, students also pick up hygiene and safety practices. Ultimately, students acquire the masterful culinary skill of thinking three-dimensionally.
What Are Important Skills for Being a Cake Decorator?
A successful cake decorator is flexible and adaptable and can handle a good amount of stress. Additional important characteristics of a good cake decorator are communication skills and hand-eye coordination. Cake decorators must have a thorough knowledge of food production and processing, provide good customer service, and be able to use basic math.
Those wanting to run a business, on the other hand, must also understand business essentials regarding marketing, finances, human resources, and logistics.
What Can I Do With My Training in Cake Decorating?
What you do with your cake decorating training depends largely on your goals. Many people take cake decorating classes as amateurs in order to indulge their creative instincts, develop a hobby, or make a loved one's wedding cake. Some amateurs become skilled enough to sell their decorated cakes as a side job.
Others take cake decorating courses to work professionally. These individuals may be the owners of their own cake design business or bakery or may work for a catering company, supermarket bakery, or hotel pastry division. Individuals on this career path can take cake decorating courses to develop a specialization or to add to previous baking and pastry arts skills.
Regarding earnings, the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median annual salary for bakers in 2010 at $23,450. This number, however, can vary widely based on experience, employer, and education level.
Want to Learn More about Baking and Pastry Arts Careers and Schools?
A guide to baking and pastry arts schools can supply curious prospective students with answers regarding baking and pastry arts careers, skills, education, and more.
Additional Resources on Cake Decorating Careers
Bureau of Labor Statistics information on baking careers and education