Thursday, September 4, 2014

Everything Old Is New Again, And You Didn't Invent It.

I know that every craft has its controversy, and cake decorating is no different. There seem to be two main sources for cake arguments. One is the veteran decorator who's cranky that times have changed, and the other is the new decorators who think they know how everything "should" be done because that's how they were taught.

For people who are relatively new at doing cakes, I assume that this is the "new convert" thing where someone who's just started doing something is enthusiastic to the point of making those of us who have been doing it longer roll our eyes. It's just a general happiness run amuck.

For people who have been doing it for a long time, it's more of a "these young whippersnappers think they know everything" kind of thing.

For my purposes I'll divide new and old decorators using the cake tv explosion that started about 5 or 6 years ago. If you started decorating around that time or after, you're new, If, like myself, you've been doing this for longer than that, you're ooooold. Like me.

I'm firmly in the old guard category, and I definitely have things that I think every decorator SHOULD know how to do. Most of that involves buttercream. A lot of new decorators have never used buttercream to pipe because they had fondant and all of its accessories to use. If you can use molds, candy clay and fondant you don't need to know how to pipe.

This enrages many older decorators, who are offended that someone can use a mold to use a zipper or a veiner on flowers instead of doing it all by hand. Well, molds save you a heck of a lot of time, and I call that progress. I could sit and cut out a million tiny zipper teeth with an exacto, but why waste your time?

On the other hand, there are the newer decorators who insist that you have to have sharp edges on cakes, or that you have to dowel a cake to within an inch of its life, and ONLY with bubble tea straws because everyone knows that wooden dowels aren't secure. Well, no, none of that's true either, it's just what someone taught you.

I was curious, and I dug out my copies of the 1970 and 1981 Wilton yearbooks. Those are the oldest ones that I have, and guess what was in them? Sugar molds, edible glitter, cupcakes decorated with elaborate piped flowers, patterns to trace, 3-D effects, gumpaste cutters and veiners, blah blah blah.

The tools that speed up the decorating process have been around for quite a while, they just weren't made from silicone. I remember the first lace molds that came out, they were awesome. I still pipe most lace, but I can use a lace wrap a lot faster if I don't need a specific pattern. I also remember when we used Play Doh fun factory molds for things because they had some cool shapes that we couldn't get at cake decorating supply stores.

So older decorators probably need to relax and try out some of the newer tools. Might save you some time. After all, sculptors use molds all the time, so if you're concerned about losing your "artist" card if you use a veiner, don't worry.

On the other hand, if all you know how to use is molds, you might want to try some other methods. It never hurts to know how to do a technique even if you prefer not to use it. That way you don't have to pretend to be able to do something if a client asks you for that type of design on a cake.

And newer decorators really don't need to be so sure that they know how everything has to be done. Because you don't, there's no one way to do anything. And I guarantee you that the "new" technique you're so thrilled about has been around longer than you think.

To sum up, everybody needs to relax. Saying that someone is doing it wrong because they don't decorate the same way you do is pointless. Just be open to learning a new technique every now and then, whether that something "new" is 45 years old or not.


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

1 comment:

Carol said...

Great article. Don't know why "I am doing it right, and you are doing is wrong" is so prevalent in cakes. What really got me about a week ago, though, was a couple of young women selling their how-to videos at pretty steep prices. They couldn't string a complete sentence together. They didn't appear to have an outline and did not have all of their supplies available. A cellphone on the table range four times. Now, that I find offensive.