What makes a great cupcake? Pink glitter and spangles or great-tasting all-natural ingredients? If you ask Bea, she'd say the latter. Bea's of Bloomsbury is built around the principle of taste over looks, although the cupcakes (just one of the many delicious treats Bea sells in her coffee & cake place near Chancery Lane) look pretty good to me.
Last Thursday I tried a cupcake decorating class at Bea's. I'm pretty comfortable with making cakes but had never really got the hang of piping at home, finding it difficult to master the technique from following a book. Under Bea's watchful eye though, it all became clear.
We started by learning to make Italian buttercream - a cooked-meringue-based frosting that can be flavoured or coloured any way you like. It's lighter than the traditional American buttercream (made from icing sugar and butter), and easier to pipe. We also learned the correct technique to make a beautifully shiny ganache from chocolate and cream. While the frosting was whisking we tried piping intricate liquid chocolate motifs using handmade parchment piping bags. Bea was there to give helpful hints and turn my dyslexic toddler's handwriting into (almost) perfect swirls and letters.
We then moved on to pipe the buttercream or ganache onto our ready-made cakes to give that professional finish. It was surprisingly quick and easy once we got the hang of it and we had 24 cupcakes (included in the price of the class) finished in no time.
Frosting mastered, we moved on to sugarpaste flowers. Even though Bea prefers fruit to day-glo spangles, she did indulge us with a treasure trove of edible lustre and glitter. Again, I was surprised by how easy it was to get a professional finish with the right tools. You can see my efforts above.
For the grand finale, we were let loose on our cakes to decorate them any way we liked. Then, cupcakes boxed up and heads brimming with new ideas we went home with our creations. I took mine into work the next day and was told I was in the wrong job (in a good way, I think....)
Bea's cupcake decorating classes cost £100 for two hours tuition.
She is running halloween cupcake decorating classes and has a couple of spaces left for Thursday 29th October. Maybe you could make some treats like these?
Bea's of Bloomsbury
44 Theobald's Rd, London, WC1X 8NW
020 7242 8330