I visited Bonnie Gordon’s School of Confectionary Arts in Toronto, Canada about this time last year, to teach not only my first classes in Canada but the first classes in the new school premises – what a privilege! I had a fantastic time and met a whole host of very talented sugarcrafters. The story of my visit has just been published in the Cake Craft & Decoration Magazine – the April 2009 issue.
Chalk and Chocolate – my first classes in Canada
My article – Chalk ‘n’ Chocolate – gives a little bit of an insight into my interesting teaching trip. Now with full transcript below (added April 2018):
I have found that most of the exciting things I do as a cake designer start with an email. My trip across the pond to teach in Canada was no exception. The initial email explained that Bonnie Gordon Cakes was moving into new premises and that they wished to expand the range of classes they currently offered, so would be interested in exploring the possibility of inviting me over. What they didn’t know at that stage and I wasn’t to discover until I arrived, was that I was actually going to be the first tutor to teach in the new school. Wow, my first classes in Canada and Bonnie’s first classes too!
Bonnie Gordon’s Cake School
The school is ideal. A converted spacious art deco apartment, flooded with natural light, above the main shopping street in midtown Toronto. If any of you get the chance to take a course do visit the washroom as it has the original art deco black and green tiles – great inspiration for a cake.
Good preparation is usually, but not exclusively, the key to everything running smoothly, so I was more than happy to go through the supplies and equipment with Bonnie before the classes. It was then that I discovered that she could say whole sentences without me understanding a word!! We all speak the same language but our pronunciation can be so different and we tend to say our words very fast so that they can seem impossible to comprehend, to begin with. One of the best examples was the confusion over the word chalk. I pronounce it Ch-or-k whereas when Bonnie was saying ‘chalk’ I was though she was talking about chocolate…..! By the end of my stay, however, my ear was more attuned and I think I understood most of what she was saying.
My cake decorating classes
The classes were a mixture of cakes, techniques and modelling with topics chosen by Bonnie from my ‘Storybook Cake’ and my ‘Cakes to inspire and desire’ books. The first class was fairy modelling. When I teach this class in the UK I like to use Artista soft as its easier to model with than sugar. Also, students have a lasting keepsake of the day that won’t break on the way home! I knew that Artisa was known as Hearty in the US. I assumed, therefore, that it shouldn’t be too difficult to also find in Canada. An Alternative was found, but only at the 11th hour! It was called ‘Delight’ and seemed to be very similar. It was certainly something new for the students to work with. They all did very well and produced fairies that they were pleased with.
Colouring sugarpaste – the norm in Canada
Where would we be in the UK without our ready coloured sugarpaste? What we don’t always remember is just how lucky we are to have such a wonderful array of colours available to us. Cake decorators in Canada are not so fortunate as they only have white and ivory currently available. The most popular class that I taught was the one based on my eastern ornament cake. For this class, the students were using ivory, gold, burgundy and red paste. Yes, you’ve guessed it, all the burgundy and red paste had to be coloured beforehand, even Bonnie mucked in. I showed the students the techniques used to make my original cake and then they interpreted this to create their own versions.
Cake Jewellery excitement
Cake jewellery was a completely new topic for Canada and one that seemed to really excite everyone. To get supplies before the class I was taken to a fantastic street in downtown Toronto full of different bead shops. I could have spent an absolute fortune! The stores had everything from cheap plastic beads to semi-precious stones on floor to ceiling displays– wow! Jewellery wires were a bit more problematic as we didn’t find the range and colours that we have in the UK. However, we managed to find sufficient. The class went extremely well and everyone’s cakes looked glamorous, sparkling and gorgeous.
My favourite workshop
My favourite workshop was the falling leaf design. I think because I love the cake it’s based on and because it’s such fun to do. There’s nothing like pressure to get students motivated so I gave them 60 seconds to design their leaf. Some did admit to me later that they did change theirs as they went along. The class is all about creating patterns and textures – I can’t wait to teach this topic again.
When looking for cake decorating classes in Canada, I think the cake decorators and cake designers of Toronto are very lucky to have Bonnie Gordon’s school of cake design on their doorstep. I’m sure the school will go from strength to strength thanks to the dedication and hard work of Bonnie and her staff.
A little Extra Content…
Of course, publishing is publishing and it is only possible to fit in so many words and pictures onto one page. Here are some extra bits I thought you may also find interesting:
Teething problems, what new venture is free of these?
In the case of Bonnie’s cake school, it was the old pipework. Pipework from the toilets not being able to cope with the amount of use it was now being subjected to. For the students and I, all this meant was a short welcome break out into the sunshine and down to Starbucks to use their facilities, top up on a latte and perhaps a cookie or cake and back to work. Of course, for everyone else at Bonnie’s cakes and the shop below, it was a little more dramatic!
What I learnt from my classes in Canada
I am sure that I often learn as much from the students, when I travel, as they learn from me. Not just about the similarities and differences in the way we design, make and decorate cakes. But also about how they live their lives, there perceptions, priorities and values. In Canada, I learnt about the huge impact that the American Martha Stewart has on the wedding cake industry in Canada. From what I understand many Canadian brides see the Martha Stewart wedding magazines and want similar cakes. This is often not what talented cake designers from Toronto want to create.