Monday, August 4, 2014

Craftsy Class Review: Innovative Buttercream Cakes

Craftsy LogoInnovative Buttercream Cakes was taught by Valeri and Christina of Queen of Hearts Couture Cakes. They're known for their buttercream cake designs, which are colorful and complicated pattern-wise. I like their cakes but I wasn't as enthusiastic about the class.

The problem that I have with reviewing classes like this is that there isn't a lot that's "new" about colored buttercream, and painting with buttercream has been done for ages. Most of the cakes that I do are buttercream, and I've done plenty of cakes that have piped designs and cakes that have painted buttercream patterns on them. So for people like myself, the cakes that Queen of Hearts makes aren't anything difficult, they're just detailed and it makes your hand hurt when you're thinking about how much piping is involved. The impressive thing about them isn't the technique, it's the time that goes into piping a billion tiny dots.

For most people who have started decorating cakes within the last ten years or so, however, buttercream isn't necessarily the first thing you've probably learned. I'm always shocked at the number of people who have never picked up a piping bag and who work totally in fondant. For people like that, this class would be new and interesting, and might make you want to try some buttercream designs.

So the value of this class is 100% dependent on whether you've piped a design onto a cake before or not. If you haven't, it would be worth watching. If you have, there isn't much that you'll learn that you can't figure out by looking at a cake with a buttercream design on it.

I also checked with someone who didn't have a huge amount of buttercream experience, and she said that there was a lot of weirdness in the way that they were doing things, which I have to agree with. Keep in mind that they're located in England, and their buttercream techniques are "interesting" to say the least.

They go over how to make their buttercream, which is a confectioner's sugar, 50/50 butter/shortening buttercream. The deep colors that they use won't work as well with meringue buttercreams, but you could adapt them if you want to use those instead. They show how to mix red and black icing colors, and they demonstrate how to ice a cake. They use the old method of using a fabric interfacing to smooth out the icing, so that took me back to culinary school...We also used to use pieces of clean pillowcases since that's a smooth fabric with no lint.

The three cakes that they demonstrate are a floral pattern that's made with dots, a "lace" pattern that's basically piping straight lines, and a cake painted with buttercream that's applied with palette knives using an impasto-type technique. The dots cake is basically a miniaturized version of a star tip cake...Draw the pattern and fill it in with dots. The lace cake had some tips about icing consistency that could be useful, and the palette knife cake is the one that I predict we'll be seeing bad knockoffs of for a while.

As an aside, you can also use foam art brushes to apply icing to a cake and do this kind of style. Impasto is a painting technique where the paint is applied to the surface using thick strokes, and is often mixed directly on the canvas. I used to paint with oils and using icing this way is very much like painting with oil paints. Foam brushes can be cut into different shapes at the tip and can be used to blend colors without worrying that they'll drop hairs (like a paintbrush could) onto the surface of the cake.)

If you're interested in painting on cakes, you might want to look into some other Craftsy classes that deal with paint specifically. Here's a free class to watch that can give you some tips: Painting Flowers in Acrylic

My final review:

Skill Level: Buttercream beginners
Equipment you'll need: icing, piping bags, food coloring
Sleep-Inducing level: Very snoozy, they took long periods of time to show a pattern being traced etc.
What it assumes you already know: Basic piping skills
Unnecessary Level Of Difficulty For Techniques Shown: Not much.
Annoying Host Habits: Nothing on their end, but the class had some bugs, kept stopping, had the music louder than the instructor at a couple of places etc. technical stuff, not the instructors' fault.
Level Of Helpful Hints Learned: Not much if you know how to pipe colored buttercream, probably a lot more if you've never done a star-tip cake before. I'd say this one would be best for buttercream novices only.

Click here for my Craftsy pattern shop, which has a bunch of freebies in it: A Cake To Remember On Craftsy


Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC,  online cake supplies at  www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com

2 comments:

carrie7891000 said...

Thank you for this review. I was considering it to improve my piping skills, but you saved me from paying for an introductory class.

Kara Buntin said...

This class has nothing to do with piping skills!