I have been slaving away for three days this week on a Professional Chocolate Wedding Cakes course at the Barry Callebaut Academy in Banbury, Oxfordshire (courtesy of Squires Kitchen School). My classmates and I were ably instructed by the Academy's lovely UK head, Beverley Dunkley, who took us from complete novices on Monday morning to the proud parents of some very respectable two-tier chocolate wedding cakes by Wednesday evening. We baked, melted, tempered, curled, twirled, moulded, ruffled and primped our way to chocolatey perfection, and absorbed a good dollop of interesting theory along the way.
Day 1 was a pre-course and covered the basics of the history of chocolate, different cake and filling recipes, syrups and ganaches. We faced the arduous task of tasting seven different cake formulations, talked about shelf lives and alcohol syrups and baked our chocolate sponges.
On day 2 we were joined by some more experienced classmates and began to practice tempering the chocolate, plus fill and cover our cakes in ganache and sugarpaste. The trickiest part by far was tempering the chocolate, this is the process by which you get chocolate with a lovely shiny surface, that great “snap” and a silky mouthfeel. The basic idea is that by manipulating the temperature of the chocolate, the crystalline form is stabilised and the chocolate made ready to use. I think it's a case of practice makes perfect and I will be persevering some more until I get a feel for what is right and don't have to rely on a thermometer anymore...
Finally, on day 3 we coated our covered cakes in chocolate glaze and produced all manner of fantastic decorations to finish off our designs. Particular highlights for me were the modelling paste roses and chocolate butterflies, which were surprisingly easy and very effective. Forming chocolate on a frozen granite slab a la the Hairy Bakers was also great fun.
Our class was a great mix, from those who had been decorating cakes for years and professional caterers to keen novices like me, and I was very impressed with what we came up with in the end.
The techniques could be easily used on birthday cakes or others, and the course was intensive (I even got a blister!) but great fun. I will definitely be putting what I've learnt to practice very soon.
Watch this space!