A few weeks ago, I signed up for a cake decorating class offered through a major craft store chain. Four two-hour classes to become a master of buttercream. When I registered for the class, I got a 50% discount. Then I was told I would need a special course kit. The kit cost about four million dollars and included a bunch of stuff that I already have and/or might not ever use again.
The day before the class was to start, I thought: I wonder if I need to bring anything else to class? I thought someone mentioned a syllabus… I drove to the craft store so I could get some clarification. The sales associate furrowed her brow.
Salesgirl: Didn’t anyone give you The Sheet of Paper?
Salesgirl: Well, you definitely need The Sheet of Paper. And did you buy The Kit? You need The Kit.
movita: Yes. I got The Kit. I’m glad I asked about the other requirements. The Sheet of Paper seems pretty important.
Salesgirl: (trying to determine my level of sarcasm) Yes. The Sheet is invaluable.
I wait for her to find the sheet. She hands me the wrong sheet.
movita: Should this be for the course I’m taking?
movita: Because this is for a different course… in September.
Salesgirl: Oh my! That would be terrible! We’d be all messed up!
movita: Yes, we sure would be.
The salesgirl hands me a new sheet. Sitting in my car, I learn that I need The Kit, icing produced by the cake decorating company sponsoring the course, food colouring, a damp cloth, pen, paper, sticky notes, scissors, and six plain cookies for decorating.
SIX PLAIN COOKIES FOR DECORATING? Goddamn it. So, I spend part of the afternoon making perfect sugar cookies. I want to set the bar high. You know, show them how seriously I’m taking the course.
The next day, First Class Day, I was ready. My supplies were packed and organized, including a package of extra cookies in case someone else didn’t get The Sheet of Paper. I arrived for class a few minutes early, set up my station at the back of the room, and waited.
The instructor, as it turns out, takes buttercream pretty seriously. I’m a full-time instructor of crap so I know where she’s coming from, but we’re talking about icing here. Class Instructor explained that the start time of the class would be 6:30 pm. Not a second later. She. Will. Start. Without you. I looked up at the clock. It was 6:36 pm when she started the class.
Class Instructor warned us that first class would cover a lot of basics, but assured us that the course would move at an “adult pace.” I don’t mind a good review — you always learn something new. Like, for example, that a large number of people in my class had never made icing before. Or a cake. And some had never used a stand mixer. Or Google.
Everyone seemed very enthusiastic about the buttercream journey we were about to embark on. People scribbled in their notebooks as Class Instructor discussed icing consistencies and various decorating tips. There was a lady at a table up front who seemed to know nothing about everything.
Class Instructor: Now, take out your couplers.
Up Front Lady: Wait. I can’t find it. It’s not in my kit. It’s not in my kit!
Class Instructor stood about 6 inches from Up Front Lady, holding a coupler in her face.
Class Instructor: It looks like this. (moving back to front of room) So, you take out your coupler…
Up Front Lady: Is this it?
Class Instructor: No. That’s not it. There are four in your bag right there.
Up Front Lady: Wait. I found it!
The class breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Class Instructor: So, you’ve got your coupler…
Up Front Lady: Did you say that it’s called a coupler?
Class Instructor: Yes. (her teeth are now clenched) Yes, I did.
That’s how the class progressed. Class Instructor would explain something, Up Front Lady would ask several questions, and then we’d continue. I was really impressed with Class Instructor’s patience. You could hardly tell that she wanted to punch Up Front Lady in the face.
In the last five minutes of class we were told to practice making stars with our #18 tip on our practice sheets, and then to decorate our six cookies. I got one cookie decorated. One. Luckily there was a lady sitting next to me who was there to job shadow our instructor. So I had the benefit of a Practically-An-Instructor right at my table. Practically-An-Instructor gave me some great tips for making the stars, and because I had a lot of naked cookies sitting around, I gave her one to munch on. (I hope that wasn’t against any of the class rules.) Then Class Instructor showed me some special tricks to steady my piping bag because my hands shake SO much. Pretty nice given that she clearly thought I had some sort of alcoholic tremor going on.
As the class drew to an end, Class Instructor told us that in the next class we’d be decorating an entire cake. We were told to bring a prepared cake (2 layers, with a crumb coat of icing) so we could recreate the cake pictured in our syllabus book. The top of the cake in the photo was decorated with a piped buttercream ice cream cone. We were also given a list of an additional four million dollars worth of stuff we’ll need for next week, so I guess I won’t be buying new underwear anytime soon.
As we left the store I turned to a classmate and said, “I didn’t really decorate any of my cookies.”
Classmate: Maybe that’s because we started late and then only had about five minutes to do them. The one you did is very pretty though.
movita: Thanks. My partner will be very disappointed when I get home though. He’s expecting six decorated cookies.
Classmate: Is that his initial on top?
movita: Uh, no. It’s mine.
Classmate: Maybe you could could tell him that the R stands for, “I really ruff you,” and say it in a Scooby-Doo voice.
It’s nice to know someone else in the class is taking things just as seriously as I do..