Sunday, March 28, 2010

Shake Your Tailfeathers...the Peacock is Done!

On Thursday, I finally completed my last practical exam for culinary school. The assignment was to design either a wedding cake or a celebration cake in the design of our choice (chef suggested we do a simple design, but I like a challenge), no larger than 12 inches for the cake and no more than two-tiers. We had to provide a sketch of the cake and cost out how much it would cost to make the cake and how much you would charge your client. It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun and I'm happy with the final result considering I have never made a wedding cake before.

Not an Easy Feat
During class, we had to present our cake one-on-one with the chef in a separate room for review. Apparently, he judged everyone a bit harshly and was sparse with the compliments. Sure the cakes might look a little rough, but for many of us this was either our first (or one of just a few) cakes to decorate or our first time using gumpaste/fondant. I'm all for critique (that's how you learn and grow your skills), but it helps to balance out criticism with a little positive commentary as well — especially for the fragile confidence of the inexperienced.

My Critique
Based on that, I have absolutely no idea what my grade on this will be. In my critique, it was pointed out that the peacock should have been realistic looking and I should have hand-painted the feathers since I have painting skills. I never intended it to look realistic, I wanted an artistic interpretation of the peacock pattern and colors just as my sketch illustrated. This conflicted with the chef's comment that the final cake isn't exactly like my sketch because the teardrops around the cake aren't pointed in the right direction and the wings are slightly different. So first he says that it isn't exactly like my sketch, then he says that I should have painted realistic feathers (which was not in the sketch). So confusing!

He also pointed out that the royal icing that I used to "glue" the feathers could be seen seeping out of the sides. I agree with that one, it is a little bit messy. However, I've never worked with gumpaste before and the feathers were extremely fragile and kept breaking. So once I finally got them on the cake intact, I didn't dare touch them again. He also commented that the bead piped around the cake are messy. I agree with that as well, but that is partially because the icing that some of us were using wasn't very good and tended to either clump up or  drip messily when piped. We were all out of buttercream at that point and too close to deadline to bother making more so we just used what we had.

Overall, I'm very happy with the final result. It was very close to what I envisioned and I managed to pull off a complex design independently. Not too shabby for being the third cake I've ever designed. Despite the harsh criticism, I did manage to get a reluctant compliment out of the chef, "I guess it looks good....I guess." Considering the situation, I'll take that as praise and as a small victory.

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