Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Portfolio Expansions

My first semester in culinary school at the CIA is just about over (what?!) and I'd like to take the chance to share what I've been up to other than cake. I have learned more in the past 15 weeks than probably the past 15 years of baking at home by myself. We learn how to do, why we do, another way to do, and what we can use to do. I am now an encyclopedia for all things sugary, flour-y, fruity and chocolate-y. Just ask my poor sister, who made the mistake of asking me the simple question of can she substitute baking soda for baking powder in cookies (twenty minute explanation later, I finally told her 'no'). Between my awesome class and my awesome instructors, everyday here is a learning experience and a chance to improve. Here's a small sampling of what I've been up to:

Marble and streusel pound cake

 Sugar cookies

Roulade (aka jelly roll) sponge cake with raspberry jam filling

Buttermilk biscuits

Angel food cake

Pies on pies on pies...blueberry, pecan and apple from top to bottom


Creme caramel - the first dessert we actually sent to the dining hall to be eaten

Croissants and pain au chocolate 

Lemon merengue pie

The "CIA" cake. We have to do this for our skills test and my second term practical before I will leave for externship. You didn't hear this from me, but this is possibly the grossest cake I have ever tasted...

Chocolate pot de creme 

Creme brulee

What our bakeshop looks like after a successful day in rotations. Each row of tables makes about four different things for critique every Wednesday!

My oh-so-talented sisters. I spend just about every waking moment with these beautiful ladies.

Although these products are not cake, I can apply just about every technique I learned making them to making cakes, frostings, fillings and decorations. These products were all made in my Baking Techniques course, which was my production class for the past 13 weeks. My class is two weeks, one final and one skills test away from our second semester at the CIA. Much more deliciousness to come!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Spring Wedding Cake Tasting

Last September I did a cake tasting with one of my oldest and dearest friends for her Memorial Day weekend 2013 wedding. It's safe to say that Molly and I go way back. Like Britney-Spears-talent-show-dance-routine back. It's not every day that you get to reconnect with a friend like her, and to do it over wedding cake samples and sketches was exciting to say the very least. We sat down at her Mom's kitchen table in Charlottesville, Va this past fall to discuss these beauties:

Clockwise from left: raspberry lemonade cake with citrus cream cheese filling, dark chocolate cake with raspberry ganache filling, and lavender cake with raspberry mousse filling. Molly and Michael love chocolate and raspberry, so they knew they wanted chocolate in their cake, but also other seasonal flavors to give their guests a variety. We ended up with a delicious flavor combination that will accomplish both! For the design she wanted to have the cake compliment her wedding gown, so we settled on a design that incorporates delicate lace detailing as well as a ruched banded middle cake layer. 

Without Molly, I never would have made it through glitter eye shadow, glasses, or calculus. I can't even express how excited I am that she chose me to make her wedding cake, and I can't wait to be there now when she gets married! At the risk of extreme embarrassment, here's a picture of us circa 1999:

And to redeem myself a little, 2008:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Piping, Piping, Piping

My homework has been  looking a little different these days since I joined the ranks of baking and pastry students at the CIA. I'm frequently asked how a culinary school assigns homework and the truth is, for the most part it's pretty similar to any college. We get lots of reading, writing (Suprised? I was.) and researching. On top of that I watch a lot of videos of chef's demos to prepare for class, write out what I'll need for mise en place for the day and we get to fill up this bad boy before every single bake shop class:

I usually practice piping if I have leftover frosting from a cake on hand, but nothing as serious as this. We do loops on loops on loops, and they are all [supposed] to be all the exact same size and shape, including the connecting swoop in between. 

Different filigree designs.

We also have to make a marzipan rose for each class - made without ANY tools, completely by hand.

Definitely a slight departure from the norm, but I'll take a piping bag in my hand over a highlighter any day.