Cake Decorating in Ottawa
This is my first blog post. The cake above was made for my best friend’s wedding last April, which was unfortunately before I took a sugar flower course with James Roselle, of Elle Cakes in LA and of Food Network Fame. I am slightly more inclined toward elegant and pretty cakes so learning to properly make sugar flowers was something that I really wanted to do. I searched, but in Ottawa I could only find the Wilton option, and I already tried some of their methods and didn’t find the flowers very life-like. They don’t even touch on dusting in their book on sugar flowers and forget using their gum paste! It’s not easy to work with at all. By the way, doesn’t gum paste sound disgusting? That’s why, I’ve heard, that Ron Ben-Israel insists that it be called sugar paste (Ron Ben-Israel is the Sugar Flower God that mentored James Roselle). Back to my search: One night, very late in the night, while searching for supplies for my friend’s cake, I stumbled across a website for Flour Confections and found that they were offering a sugar flowers course with James. Being an avid fan of The Food Network, I knew who he was and because I had drooled over his flowers during Food Network Challenge, I immediately wanted to learn from him. However, the cost was definitely something to ponder–almost $1000. I had recently gone through some drastic, life-changing events and financially I didn’t think it was the best decision, although emotionally it was really something that I needed to do for myself. I thought about it for over a week until Joanne said to me, “Why don’t you have a bake sale?” She always has been a genius when it comes to making and saving money. She came to visit me from Virginia and took back $80 worth of cupcakes, which luckily did not get confiscated at customs. She sat down with me and helped me push the “Add to cart” button to buy the course and she also made a a hefty donation to my cause. Over the next month I had a Christmas bake sale and received Christmas gift donations and I made nearly every penny of the course fee, thanks to my loving friends and family. After taking the course I promised myself that I would try to take one big course per year as long as I’m still enjoying it and still learning. This year I’m taking the second course by James Roselle offered by Flour Confections and in the future I want to go to an ICES convention. I work a full-time job in neuroscience, so it has to baby steps–for now.
One of the things I hope to accomplish with my blog is to help other cake decorators like me, who started out buying absurdly expensive products because there was nowhere else to buy them in Ottawa. Admittedly I have not visited every kitchen shop or bakery in Ottawa; Artistic Cake Design does have some products. I buy cake drums and other odds and ends there, but I believe that they only supply fondant on special order and it’s not at wholesale cost.
When I took my first fondant course, I refused to buy Wilton fondant because it was expensive and I had seen another classmate with Virgin Ice (really, how did they come up with that name?), which she had bought at the Bulk Barn. While I’ve never tasted Wilton’s fondant, I have read and heard that it tastes awful and by the reactions I got from some of my friends and family, Virgin Ice wasn’t that much better. For more than two years I used VI and thought that my fondant skills sucked, then one day I discovered Flour Confections and took a chance on a little product called Satin Ice (FC offers fondant at Canadian wholesale cost). Many of the pros use Satin Ice, including Buddy Valastro and Ron-Ben Israel and it’s clear why: it tastes great and it covers cakes like a dream. My fondant skills didn’t suck, although I still need improvement, but it was the product that tore and cracked. I’ve since tried Fondx, which I was pretty happy with, and Flour Confections’ own brand, which tastes very similar to Satin Ice, but I’m still not sure if it has the durability of Satin Ice. It could just be my own skills! So if you’re looking for quality products in Canada, check out Flour Confections and if you subscribe to their newsletter, you’ll find out about sale products and occasionally they offer free shipping. My second favourite place to visit is Golda’s Kitchen in Etobicoke, ON. Whether you’re a cook, a baker or cake decorator, this place is a mecca of wonderful gadgets, bakery, cookery and decorating supplies. In a not-too-distant 3rd place is McCall’s, which does not have the most impressive store front, but their shipping services are very good.
Next time: my journey to Global Sugar Art in Plattsburgh, NY. It’s 3.5 hours from Ottawa and I’ve never seen so many cake decorating products in one place in my life!