MORRIS – The aroma in the room was unmistakable – cake and frosting – as the University of Illinois Extension in Morris hosted a cake decorating workshop Friday afternoon.
Although no one got to lick the spoon, everyone there did get to frost their own cupcake after Carol Hougas of the R-Place bakery and formerly of Morris Bakery showed them some tips.
“You can freeze the cake for easier handling,” was one tip Hougas gave.
Hougas showed the 15 women in the workshop how to construct, frost and decorate a four-layer white cake with strawberry filling and buttercream frosting.
The annual workshop is open to the community and had 4-H members and community members participate this year.
The very first tip Hougas gave was to put a little dollop of frosting right on the cardboard circle before the first layer of cake was set on it. It helps hold the cake in place, she said.
The women watched how she slowly swiveled the cake around on its lazy Susan-type stand to get the frosting smooth. She brought the cake around to the tables now and then during the demonstration so the participants could get a close-up look.
“It was cool,” Saratoga eighth-grader Megan Feldges said of the workshop. “I like watching ‘Cake Boss.’ I think the best tip was how to do the flowers.”
Maren Bashor, a Morris Community High School junior, said she likes to make cupcakes at home and learned how to layer a cake at the class. She said it was interesting to learn that a special frosting tip isn’t necessarily needed to make flowers or leaves. Hougas had shown them how to cut the tip of an icing bag to get similar effects.
Each of the participants in the workshop got to decorate their own cupcake. They experimented with the icing bag and the flower nail and leaf tip.
Extension Youth Development Educator John Davis said the extension has offered the class for at least 10 years. It’s a popular one, he said. People love learning how to frost and decorate cakes. It’s something they can do at home with their kids or grandkids.
“We’ve gotten away from that,” he said of families baking together. “People don’t do much of that anymore.”
The class attracted some 4-H members who also did a cake decorating 4-H project. Those competing presented their cakes for judging a week before the fair, which is this weekend. Before the class, Hougas judged the 4-H cake projects. Gabby Club, with the Mazon Verona Kinsman Community 4-H group and a Mazon Verona Kinsman School eighth grader, and Abby Gernenz with Coal City Community 4-H group and a Coal City High School freshman, earned blue ribbons for their cakes.
Club’s double-layer white cake with buttercream frosting was decorated with three yellow sunflowers. It’s the first time she’s entered a cake competition.
“My cousin decorates cakes,” she said, “and I just thought it would be something we could do together.”
It wasn’t exactly easy, though, she said. She had intended to design a frosting sun, but it looked more like a flower, so she changed designs mid-stream. But that wasn’t even the most difficult part.
“The hardest part was trying to get the right colors,” she said.
Gernenz’s cake was a two-layer funfetti cake with white buttercream frosting, yellow roses and “Congrats Grad” written on the top for her brother Drew, a recent high school graduate. It wasn’t her first cake project. She and her mother Amy took a cake decorating class in Joliet, where they learned some tricks of the trade.
“I like decorating,” Gernenz said. “There’s a lot of different things you can do on a cake.”
She said the most difficult part of making her blue ribbon-winner was the roses. Her hand wasn’t gripping the bag well that morning, she said.
Her next project will be more ambitious. Her grandfather has requested she make the cake for his wedding anniversary. It will need to feed around 150 people, her mother said. For the party, Gernenz hopes to replicate her grandparents’ original wedding cake.