Rising to the challenge

Steve getting a cake decorating lesson from Michael Hockley of Hockley's Cakes, Brixworth
Steve getting a cake decorating lesson from Michael Hockley of Hockley's Cakes, Brixworth

It was with mixed emotions of excitement and trepidation that I headed to Brixworth ready for my very first cake decorating lesson.

For while I can bake and cook reasonably well, my presentation and finesse are a little in need of fine tuning. This was something I hoped the cake decorating course would help address.

I arrived at Hockley’s Cakes and was instantly impressed by some of the fantastic cakes the firm had made for special occasions. Each of them looked like a showstopper, so was slightly in awe at trying to create something, even simple, myself.

But with aprons on and equipment at the ready, it was time to start. As it was Christmas I decided to decorate a fruit cake with holly and a festive message.

To set the snowy scene, I rolled out sugar paste on to a standard square cake board with a hole in the middle where the decorated cake will sit. I had two bowls of apricot jam and using one, I smothered the cake liberally ready for the next stage.

Having put it to one side, it was then time to roll out the marzipan on the cake with a touch of icing sugar on the work surface. My tutor Michael advised me to keep rotating the marzipan while rolling out to get it into a square shape and leave an overlap. It was then lifted, using a rolling pin and placed on top of the cake. Lifting it carefully and allowing the weight of the marzipan to come down over the sides of the cake.

There was plenty of marzipan overlapping, which I then trimmed down. Cutting the corners diagonally and then trimming along the edges.

After wiping everything down (to avoid any cake crumbs going on top of the cake), it was time to brush the cake with apricot jam from the second bowl and then roll out the sugar paste. Michael said he used cornflour rather than icing sugar for something different.

Similar to the marzipan, I rolled it out and placed it on the cake and smoothed it around using the palm of the hand.

Then came the trickiest part for me. Piping the shells around the outside. I warned Michael I have never been good at piping, and so it proved. I probably needed more practice but it didn’t look too bad for a first timer.

Due to a shortage of time, the holly and berries were ready made for me out of coloured icing.

Some more coloured icing was used to make the final message saying Merry Christmas. This hadn’t gone too badly – and the message was legible at least! It was then covered in glitter and I was moderately proud of the final result.

Anyone looking to improve their cake decorating skills would do well to visit Hockley’s.

For more information about their cake decorating courses visit ww.hockleyscakes.co.uk