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Cake baking and decorating with Juliet Sear

Last Saturday I went to an Easter baking and cake decorating class at Borough Market. The teacher was Juliet Sear, one of the UK’s leading cake designers and baking experts. She sells to some of the country's most prestigious department stores, Fortnum and Mason and Harvey Nichols, and has baked cakes for numerous celebrities. She is also a food writer, consultant, has done stints on TV and teaches baking master classes. Anyone else feeling a little incompetent? 

I felt very lucky to attend this event at Borough Market’s invitation. It's the first cooking class they have done in their event space, The Cook House, which until now has mainly been used for tastings, dinners and photo shoots. It is a lovely space; tastefully furnished and full of light. It's great for cooking lessons with a well equipped demonstration kitchen on one side and a dining area, which can also be used as extra workspace, on the other.

First on the agenda: gluten-free brownies, which we would later turn into Easter egg nests. To get us started Juliet showed us how to make the mix while we drank coffee and ate some breakfast pastries. For the next task, we got more involved, making a sponge cake mix for cupcakes in pairs.

While they were baking Juliet showed us how to make a meringue buttercream icing. I was intrigued to taste this, as I'm not a fan of traditional buttercream icing. I think this is linked to a vivid memory I have of a cake I baked as a child, lavishly decorated with pink icing and hundreds and thousands, which several hours later ended up decorating the living room floor. Juliet promised me the meringue buttercream would be less sickly, and it was, though I still found it very sweet.

When the cupcakes were ready Juliet showed us how to pipe the buttercream into various patterns and how to make edible roses and a bunny bum for Easter. I got better at the roses after a little practice, but I didn’t have the skill or patience for the delicate handwork involved in making the feet for the bunny. With it’s oversized feet and smudgy paw prints, mine looked more like a deformed hare than a cute Easter bunny.

After lunch there was still loads on the agenda – decorating the brownies, baking and decorating Easter-themed biscuits with royal icing and decorating an Easter cake. I was absolutely hopeless at piping the royal icing and gave up after three botched attempts at decorating the most simple of the biscuit shapes, a flower.

Easter nests were more up my street. All we had to do was cut the brownie into rounds, roll the edges in melted chocolate and then chocolate sprinkles and stick some Easter eggs in the middle. Even a botched job still looked nest-like.

When it comes to decorating, it seems the one thing I'm really good at is making a mess so I was well suited to the Easter cake decoration, which involved icing a cake and then flicking chocolate sauce at it with a paintbrush.

This course cost £95, which is great value given Juliet's wealth of experience and expertise, the amount of topics covered and the sheer volume of cake I took home with me. I would easily have paid £40 for the Easter cake alone if I bought it from Harvey Nichols, and it looked like I did.

My only criticism is that I think Juliet tried to do too many things. We overran a bit, which didn't bother me, but I would have been just as happy if the class had just covered a couple of recipes or focused only on decoration, as I clearly need a lot of practice in that department.

So what did I learn from the day? Namely, that patience is a virtue that I don’t have and I will never be contestant on bake off. But I took away some great baking advice, fun memories and enough cake to feed a family of five for a week.

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Reader Comments (1)

This looks like so much fun!
Do you remember enough to teach me how to make those roses? I like the roses!!
I love that story about the buttercream icing....the poor living room floor!

March 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie Brown

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