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A Cakespeare Special Episode: New York’s best bakeries


New York City: land of the high life, people who don’t seem sleep and gastronomic delights. It also has a ton of bakeries. Many, many bakeries.

For some strange reason, patisseries don’t seem to be common here whereas bakeries or hybrid bakery/patisseries are far more frequently found, sometimes in department stores and usually as standalone boutiques. Probably some of the most famous in the bunch (within Manhattan) include Magnolia, Balthazar and Francois Payard. Amy’s Bread is also very well loved and has a fantastic business name if I do say so myself ; )

In the name of research for this special episode, I embarked on the start of quite of a few bakery visits to get familiar with the best bakeries in New York. In my own personal bid to find the best baked goods establishment New York, I visited well about 12 bakeries or “hybrid” bakery-patisseries in the space of a few weeks. I’m sure this is no real record but it was quite an achievement for me and my oversized tummy!

Now after some extensive nibbling, sampling and a backlog in numerous kilometres required to be run before I’m back to an calorie neutral state, here are my top 5 picks for bakery goods or desserts in New York. It was very, very hard to decide and I’m sure plenty of people will disagree with me but this is just my take on it, feel free to comment vehemently if you violently disagree!

In reverse order…..

#5 – Carlo’s Bakery (Carlo’s Bakery Way, Hoboken, NJ)

Ok so these guys aren’t technically in New York. But it’s only a couple of stops away so it might as well be. I had to include them in my top 5 not just for novelty factor but the fact that their lobster tails and cannolis are very, very, very, very good. Very. Marks deducted heavily for pretty much everything else but the lobster tails and cannolis (especially the chocolate ones) make up for the rest of the bad stuff.

Lobster Tails

Cannolis

4. Levain Bakery (167 W 4th Street, NY)

Nestled in the Upper West Side in a tiny basement level shop, this place is definitely one for the cookie monsters out there. Specialism taken to new heights – this is by the far the chewiest, softest and biggest cookie you can buy that is of this level of quality in Manhattan. Hands down winner in the cookie category. Because of the cookie factor alone, it leapfrogs Carlo’s in my book. They also have locations in Harlem and the Hamptons and a cookie cam on their website!


Peanut butter by far the best..

# 3 – Balthazar Bakery and Boulangerie (80 Spring St, corner Crosby St, NY)
This place isn’t a NY institution for no reason. It has very good baked goods! Famous also for its brunch next door, the boulangerie offers a quick afternoon pick me up and the benches outside have provided a comfortable little spot for me to chill out many an afternoon after class and so some great people watching.

Sticky Bun – the caramel is a little too toffee-like but the fantastic gooeyness of the inside makes it worth the toothpicking afterwards!

Chocolate Raspberry tart – I only took 1 bite of this but it was decadent and delicious. Look at those plump raspberries too!

# 2 – Dessert Club Chikalicious (3 E 10th St, between 1st and 2nd Ave)

This funnily name dessert bar has some of the most indulgent yet refreshing desserts I have seen. They also serve a range of cupcakes and macarons with an Asian twist in terms of flavours but their most famous has to be the chocolate pudding and their “Lin-sanity” sundae.. The macarons here (along with every other place I have tried in NY were sub-par though…). I will let the photos speak for themselves.

Cupcakes

Chocolate pudding

Green tea yuzu lava pudding with lime sorbet

Drumroll…………..*cue dramatic music*

My #1 Bakery in NY is………Betty Bakery! (448 Atlantic Avenue,  Brooklyn)

The only thing I could fault about this place was that it was slightly out of the way. Betty is Cake Artist Cheryl Kleinman’s retail bakery in Brooklyn and it serves up just about the best cakes and pies I’ve seen in a while. It’s location did require me to be highly tenacious (I even walked in the rain to get here with nothing but a plastic sheet protector to cover my head carrying my ginormous duffel of school stuff) but it was well worth the trip and perhaps because it isn’t in Manhattan itself, made me like it even more. For a cake lover, plenty of eye candy in the windows and on the shelves inside, extra bonus points!!

I asked the staff to pick their favourites and was recommended the Carrot Cake and Blueberry Pie.

The carrot cake was one of the best I’ve eaten with some surprise coconut shavings for amazing texture. Not too sweet and very moist and dense, just the way I like it. The frosting was lickable and very light and fluffy.

My next favourite was the blueberry pie with a beautiful compote, not too sweet and the blueberries still juicy and plump with a crisp crust that was too thin or thick. No soggy crust at the bottom too – extra marks here!

Next on the hit list – the sea salt caramel chocolate tart…. I have only one word for this. Phenomenal. That’s all.

I told the friendly staff that I was rating Betty #1 and they got excited! Which really just cemented the decision.

On that fine note, I’ll round out with a few honourable (and less than honourable) mentions and my recommendations on what to order if you do go and visit them one day…

Honourable Mentions

Epicerie Boulud:  Raspberry tart, Chocolate tart. Fun for other non-sweet related stuff too.

Empire Cake: Homemade Twix Bar is my recommendation

Bouchon Bakery: Pistachio Croissant (don’t get the Bouchon, it’s a rip!)

Eli Bazar: Fabulous pastries and their bagels look great. They also serve gelato which is an added bonus!

Amy’s Bread: You can’t go wrong in here – it’s all good.

Less Than Honourable Mentions

Francois Payard: Highly overrated macarons and very overpriced. Disappointing. These are supposed to be NY’s best as well!

Laduree: Apart from the pretty factor, this place is pretty much all packaging. Macarons were disappointing and not worth their inflated price – go there and snap your photographs but don’t buy anything!

Magnolia: I think we should all just agree that this place is still living off its SATC fame when it really doesn’t deserve to! Disappointing and average.

Disagree with my top 5? Post a comment below and let’s bash it out!

Cakespeare in the City: Episode 4 – Silicon, Sugar Flowers and some sightseeing!

Well it’s been another few crazy weeks and things have been so hectic with a myriad of new techniques, exams, weekend trips and friends in town that I’ve barely had a spare moment to reflect!

Sugar, Sugar and more Sugar…

Sugar flowers and pulled, blown and poured sugar were the themes of Unit 3 of the course with over a week dedicated to the art of sugar flowers and another week on pulled, blown and poured sugar techniques. This was where the really fun, interesting stuff happened as I’ve never used these techniques before and working with highly technical materials and methods definitely pushed me into my “learning zone”.

We began with sugar flowers and learned the Chef Ron’s methods of how to make our own gumpaste and made a whole host of flower centres and petals. We covered a variety of flowers including the classic rose, the peony, tulips, stargazer lilies, calla lilies, orchids and whole host of different filler flowers and buds including the sweet pea and hydrangea.

Sugar flowers are hugely painstaking and extremely time consuming but the results are so worth the work. We spent well over a week on this unit and for me the greatest learning point was how to properly wire the flowers and then the artistry of dusting the petals to really bring them to life. It was my first time dusting and it’s amazing how much time it can take to really layer the colour onto each petal to get the flowers as realistic as possible.


Ron Ben-Israel style roses before dusting

What a difference a little dust makes!

For me, there are so many things about sugar flowers that will takes years of practice to really perfect and get efficient at including small details like how to cut every petal perfectly without furry edges or having just the right thickness of petal so that you achieve the realism of a ruffled edge and delicate beauty of a real petal. The beauty of this section of the course was also how we were taught to use 1 set of cutters to create all the flowers. Being able to improvise and economise is essential in any business and the business of sugar flowers is the same – cutters are expensive and there is a cutter for nearly every type of flower there is. When you think of how many flowers there are in existence, it makes you realise that sugar flowers is a whole other world of cake decorating in itself and you could literally spend years just doing flowers. Some of the best sugar flower artists in the world make their sole living off teaching others and travel the world to do it. What an incredible job!

My first ever sugar flower posy in a pressed sugar vase

Suffice to say that I now look at flowers, flower beds, bushes, gardens and any other type of flora differently when I walk down the street. Sometimes I stop to inspect them closer and I have to confess I’m usually looking at them thinking “now how could I make that out of sugar?”. To a whole new extreme, my Chef instructor even recommended dissecting flowers to really understand their anatomy and composition!

Here’s the posy I made for our final flower exam where we had to make at least 1 full rose, 1 half rose and 2 buds plus any filler flowers we chose.

I decided to go with purple blue moon roses and love how they turned out!

Our exam flowers lined up for grading

My favourite flower by far was the large open peony followed very closely by classic rose. Giant flowers are trending hugely at the moment and they seem to be on every wedding cake I see. I also really enjoyed learning how to make the filler flowers which only require manual dexterity and a very very sharp pointy pair of scissors – the fillers with the yellow centres above were created this way. So amazing how a small ball of sugar can be turned into something beautiful! Blows my mind!

Silicon Moulding (non-cakies feel free to scroll ahead!)

I’ve written briefly before about silicon moulding when Chef Ron Ben-Israel came to school to give a demo on the technique. Whilst it was great to watch a demo actually getting to try the technique and create our own moulds was even better. Using a variety of objects such as beads, brooches and other ornaments that could be moulded into fondant or sugar decorations, we were stepped through the process of mixing and pouring our own food grade silicon and creating our own moulds on plexiglass using clay.

We also learned about how important it is to pour the silicon very slowly to remove air bubbles and painstakingly poked every single air bubbles out of our moulds. The best part of this was unmoulding the next day – so fabulously rewarding to see the interesting shapes pop out of our very own moulds and then to immediately use them to make sugar decorations.

Pastillage castle with poured sugar base and flowers

Feeling hot, hot, hot…

After we wrapped up sugar flowers we moved quickly onto poured, pulled and blown sugar. I absolutely loved this unit – not only because of the amazing things we were able to create but also because it was a whole new medium that I have never dealt with before and in fact feared a little. Often seen as the realm of talented pastry chefs, pulling and blowing sugar is again a whole world of artistry in itself. We learned how to make poured sugar first and also worked with isomalt which is type of sugar from beets invented in Germany for diabetics.



Check out this photo diary on my Facebook page for a more photos behind the scenes!


Blown sugar using a hand pump – incredibly hard!

In between all these great new techniques I managed to also do some sightseeing around New York. We covered the Hamptons, Connecticut and Coney Island over the last three weekends – all poles apart and very interesting places! Recently I also caught a Yankees game with one of my very best friends, Bec, who was in town from London, it was surprisingly enjoyable and I’ll be taking my parents there in July!

Jumping with glee at Ocean Road Beach, Southampton

Bec and I outside Yankee Stadium

*drumroll..* Carlo’s Bakery Visit!

My last post left off with the long-awaited trip to Carlo’s Bakery of Cake Boss fame so for those who have been waiting to read about this, here’s my own two pennies’ worth on the famed bakery.

My friend Marcia and I ventured out across state lines to Hoboken in New Jersey on the New York Metro to check this place out.

Getting into my “Hoboken Baby!” mode

We decided a Friday afternoon after class finished would be best as there probably wouldn’t be any lines and luckily there weren’t!

Carlo’s famous shop front

After about 5 minutes in the queue outside, it was still a good 20 minute wait for service however once inside so we had ample opportunity to take lots of photos as the ticketing system meant no waiting in line.

Here are some of the pics I took of the interior which you might recognise from the show if you watch it:

The infamous consultation corner where Buddy used to meet a lot of his clients

The crowd


The family portrait on the wall of the Valastros

It was interesting to read the articles on the wall and see the pastries on offer in the big glass counters however we found that a lot of the display cakes were quite dusty and tired looking. I felt that an overhaul of these with some new designs would have been great given the foot traffic they get through the doors from visitors near and far means most people come in with high expectations.

This one was a pretty cool design though:

The pastries were by far the highlight of the trip and this for me was the major saving grace. I bought some cannolis, the famed lobster tails and a variety of cupcakes to try and all were very, very good. I even indulged in a little early birthday present and bought a copy of the Cake Boss Season 5 DVD autographed by the whole family for a pretty cheap $20 which I felt was pretty good value! The pastries we ordered came in cute little white boxes and some traditional baker’s twine which was a nice touch.

Holy cannoli!

Marcia and I plonked ourselves on a bench outside the shop on “Carlo’s Bakery Way” and immediately dove into the giant and very rich lobster tails and I had polished off a chocolate cannoli before I even got home. Filled with a smooth creamy custard with a crisp outer shell with layers of buttery pastry, the lobster tail-shaped pastries were by far my favourite. The cannoli was also very good with a very crisp shell and more-ish ricotta filling that wasn’t too sweet.

Lobster Tail goodness

Carrot, Red velvet and Peanut Butter cupcakes

Out of the cupcakes my favourite by far was the chocolate peanut butter – amazing frosting and very flavoursome cupcake without being at all dry or too rich. I found the red velvet and carrot cupcakes both quite disappointing and a little dry. Then again, I’m not a huge red velvet person in general and haven’t yet been able to understand what all the fuss is about with this type of cake.

Now I must confess that one of the things on my NY bucket list was to eat Carlo’s pastries whilst watching Cake Boss on the giant projector screen in our apartment. Sounds a little tragic but it’s true. Good news is I ticked that one off the list the very next morning after my Carlo’s Bakery visit with Mr Cakespeare! It was such a great way to kick off a weekend. For the more health-concious out there, you’ll be pleased to know that we went for a jog in Central Park afterwards in an attempt to burn off some of the calories!

With less than a month to go the journey so far has been incredible – exhausting but incredible. Our graduation is fast approaching and there are 4 big cakes on the cards in the next 3 weeks with 1 big final exam cake where external judges will be coming in to grade our work on the day of graduation. Scary but true!! I’ve learned so much already and the experience has certainly had it’s highs and lows but pushing myself outside my comfort zone time and again, learning how to work with greater discipline and making new connections have really been the best parts of all.

Can’t wait to share my next few cakes with you all…. we have a topsy turvy, carved doll, handbag and wedding dress cake coming up – all in the next 2 weeks! Stay tuned!

Cakespeare in the City: Episode 3 – Celebrities, Chefs and more cakes!

It’s been another few weeks and I’ve had a whole new collection of crazy experiences – crazy good and crazy busy. Which means posting has been a challenge. Throw in a couple of bouts of illness and jetlag from a trip to London and you have one very tired Cakespeare!

As I sit here and reflect, it’s nice to take a moment to really savour all the surreal moments I’ve been having on a daily basis here in New York.

All the while, my own personal Jiminy Cricket sits on my shoulder constantly reminding me that no matter how tired I feel and no matter how challenging it can be to get up at 6am every morning to churn out cake after cake, this is all a huge privilege and luxury and that in the not too distant future, I will have to crash land back to reality and normality. It certainly has been strange living in a bit of a bubble!

A brief aside….

Now I know that I haven’t really talked a lot about my actual cakes or New York experience in the last couple of posts and have neglected to post photos of these up. Even my mother has complained that I don’t tell her enough about my New York experience! So I feel I should explain myself.

We’re nearly up to 1.5 months in the Big Apple and I’m only just starting to feel a lot more settled in a regular routine of a 6am wake up, hopping on the subway to class (all the while thinking I’ve left something important at home which I did this week- my chef pants!), climbing a bajillion stairs up and down subways and at the FCI, manically changing in the morning to mise en place before class starts and then carrying my massloads of equipment and tools down to class like a saddled donkey.

An average day usually means a lot of baking or prepping cakes for decorating before lunch and then we settle into decorating in the afternoon. By the time we’ve had lunch at Family Meals cooked by the FCI Culinary Level 4 students, the afternoons feel very short as we have to have the place cleaned up by 2:30pm and be out of the kitchen. Today was the first day we actully spent the whole day just doing decorating and no mixers came out from the storage room.. It was total bliss and yet crazy hectic in a totally different way!

Classes have become a lot more intense in terms of content covered and the schedule every day is totally manic so there really is a lot less time for me to whip the camera out and snap photographs during class. And my hands are usually covered in some kind of sugar or grease which makes photography difficult. I generally have to cart my cakes home to properly photograph them in my rather dark apartment where lighting is not the best.

So here’s a mini gallery of the cakes I’ve made in the last couple of weeks – they were all fairly straightforward in terms of decorating and it’s not my best work but bear in mind that most of my cakes I’ve done in the past I usually spend 3-4 nights doing whereas these cakes were done in around 1-1.5 hours on average! Maybe 2 hours of solid decorating time at most. So given that, I am actually pretty pleased with the results. They represent the foundations upon which we will be building much larger, more complex cakes as the course steamrolls ahead into Unit 3.

After class each day, it’s usually a brief jog or home to just relax for an hour or so before heading out for dinner or cooking dinner at home. I also hop online to catch up on the days emails, facebook messages and weekend planning to maximise my time in New York. Not checking my emails during the day is in itself is a stark change in reality considering that, back home, I carried a blackberry with me everywhere and would check emails pretty much every 10-15 minutes. With no cell phones for the majority of the day in class, it’s certainly been a nice partial disconnection from the mobile world.

Connecting with the girls in class has also been a really interesting experience with a whole range of talents and personalities to really get familiar with. The environment can sometimes feel like a pressure cooker with high intensity, quick pace (Chef constantly rides us about timing and getting cleaned up on time) and often even small things like waiting to use shared resources can seem to add that much more complexity to the day. What I’ve observed is that there isn’t a single person in our class who is fabulously talented in their own way and every person has a story – I don’t know them all extremely well yet but I’m starting to and bonding with the girls has been a really interesting experience. We unite over a common experience and working in such close quarters every day makes this a very unique and strong bond. Naturally there have been some that I’ve bonded with quicker but we get rotated in terms of teams (pairs) and superteams (fours) every unit which means I’ll get to run the whole gamut of personalities by the time this class is through – more life experience to clock up! I’m also the second oldest person in the class which is a little different for me as I’m used to always being one of the youngest at my day job. None of these girls have worked a corporate job before and most are just starting out and working out what to do with their lives. Whilst I’m never one to feel old, I definitely think that my life experience has helped me to connect with nearly all the girls in the class.

Back to Cakes and Celebrities…

Ok so I’ll now get to the real point which is what I’m sure most of you have been waiting to read about: famous people.

No doubt those of you who follow my facebook page would have realised that I had some encounters with two legends of the pastry world in the last couple of weeks. The first was a demonstration that Ron Ben-Israel did on wedding cakes and silicon moulding (which I’ll talk more about later).

The FCI has a unique student volunteer program where if you’re quick enough, you can usually help out some of the most famous chefs in America or assist at some of the most prestigious culinary events around including the James Beard Awards, even if just for a few fleeting hours. A few weeks ago I was allowed to assist Jacques Torres one week later at his croissant and bomboloni demo which was pretty much AMAZING. Having now been on both sides of the demo experience at the FCI, it was actually more fun to be in the audience but I absolutely loved being behind the scenes and having rare, privileged access to work with a total master for just a brief few hours – every single minute of which I’ll remember for a lifetime!

Jacques Torres can probably be best described as an extremely energetic Frenchman – a real character. He exudes a crazy vibe in every sense of the word – from his quirky  quips to oddly screwball jokes and almost child-like level of energy about even the smallest of things. He literally bounces around everywhere and is constantly on the move and yet with certain small things, he is very precise and concise. For example, when he asked me to lay out some pre-made croissants on a sheet pan to bake, he wanted exactly 4 rows of 5 evenly spaced and the sheet pan had to be landscape, not portrait in orientation.

I arrived at the FCI theatre 1 hour before the demo was to start and no mise en place had been done – I mean nothing. It was a totally different setup in the kitchen and about 1/10th of the size of the kitchen I was used to working in. No organisation whatsoever and I had no idea where to find anything.

Jacques then asked me to make 3 quarts of pastry cream (just under 3L) and asked if I knew how to and even though I nodded the expression on my face must have told him otherwise as he then proceeded to write down all the ingredients for me to run 3 floors up the stairs to get. The best part was the instant nodding and obliging that happens when you mention what you are doing or getting is for Chef Jacques – nearly everyone just clears out of the way or helps out. It was pretty cool. Even when we had to invade the evening pastry class’s oven to bake extra croissants to take home after the demo, Chef Jacques popped his head into the class to see how I was going with the ovens and nearly every head whipped around to say “hi Chef Jacques”. Pretty damn cool.

After numerous trips to the bread kitchen to fetch flour and sugar, checking the ovens and bread prover (which by the way looks like a giant wine fridge and actually just speeds up the gluten formation process in doughs) I then helped to fill around 120 amazing bomboloni (essentially Italian doughnuts filled with pastry cream), I was allowed on occasion to stand behind Jacques during the demo to assist him with cleaning up different implements and bringing him simple things like an egg wash to then glaze the 60 or so pre-made croissants for the audience.

By the time I got home I was pretty much spent. I literally had to sit on the couch for 30 minutes before I could move. My reward? a box full of croissants and a fist bump from Jacques Torres. Oh and he did make special mention of us little oompa loompahs out the back after the demo was done and the audience gave us a nice round of applause to say thanks for our hard work. In two hours we turned out 60 croissants, 80 chocolate croissants and about 120 bomboloni. All in a kitchen the size of my bathroom. After the crowd dissipated, Chef Jacques apologised for making me run around so much but said that I did “really really good – excelent”.  Maybe if I liked baking en masse more I could work for him one day! Pity high volume work is not really my thing…

For my full gallery of pictures at the Chef Jacques demo, click here.

Chef Jurgen, me and Chef Jacques Torres

The Sweet Genius

So Ron Ben-Israel is a famous man now. Mostly in part due to his rather eccentric characterisation as the host of the Food Network show “Sweet Genius” where he is portrayed as a bit of a mad Willy Wonka-esque pastry chef/cake master of a “million dollar cake empire”. I’m not sure the show really does him justice but it apparently just signed a 3rd season and he has garnered a huge following from it.

So much so that Chef Ron commanded a packed house at an unadvertised event and even a small child of one of the Culinary students came along bearing gifts of colourful erasers and an older lady who smuggled a bottles of Everclear alcohol (Aussies read this as up to 95% alcoholic turps) from across the border in New Jersey for mixing with decorative lustre dusts and applying to fondant. This stuff is so strong that it’s illegal in the state of New York.

In what ended up being a 2 hour long demo, I really got to experience Chef Ron at his finest from a dead centre front row seat. There were moments where his strict adherence to his “no talking whilst I am demonstrating because it’s distracting” rule felt a little confronting to watch but overall, it was still a marvel to watch him at work. He exudes a sense of rigour and control which I can only really explain by his background as a ballet dancer which would have been extremely regimented and disciplined. At points we were asked to wait til he was ready for questions and he asked for no talking from the audience a few times whilst he was demonstrating as he found it too distracting. However he is also extremely funny and knows how to make the audience laugh which is probably part of the reason why he’s gained such a big following.

Whilst stacking this cake, Chef Ron asks “Is it straight…? The cake I mean..”

Chef Ron walked through the entire process of a wedding cake from construction to dismantling it for service. There were so many interesting pointers that I took away from the demonstration but in the interests of keeping you awake, I’ve chosen the top 10 most interesting points.

** Non-cake decorators feel free to scroll ahead to the next double asterisked comment!! **

  1. Granite is the best surface to roll fondants and doughs out on. Stainless steel has bumps so it is less preferable.
  2. Ron still uses the old-fashioned technique of using a piece of string to work out how large to roll out fondant to cover a cake
  3. Ron never uses cornstarch to prevent his fondants from sticking to a counter surface – only powdered sugar. And he has a mirror in his bakery to see the back of cakes whilst they are being covered or constructured
  4. Ron uses a mitre box for cutting dowels which can be purchased from craft supply stores – he never uses shears as this can splinter the wood and always sandpapers dowels before inserting into cakes to remove all traces of splinters
  5. The only non-edible materials on Ron’s cakes are ribbon to trim edges of his masonite boards and adheres these with non toxic kids glue
  6. Ron’s paper scissors kept separate to fabric and fondant scissors – each have their own little ribbon!
  7. Ron uses a smoked fish slicer from Bowery to cut the cake because it has no “teeth” like serrated knives and is super sharp
  8. How to cheat if you get cracks! Chef Ron uses a little confectioners buttercream to fill in the cracks
  9. Ron believes all cakes (especially those with buttercream) must be refrigerated and that fondant that sweats is a myth – it only happens if you have a bad fridge or no air conditioning! (I must say I’m not a 100% convinced on this one – in my experience it definitely still gets sticky)
  10. Lastly…. *drumroll*… Satin Ice is apparently now developing a new formula which makes it more resistant to tears and cracks which a lot of people have apparently complained about in the past!

Fundamentals of Silicon Moulding

This is a complex topic which requires a whole post in itself but I’ve just noted the quick points here for the most enthusiastic of decorators and those who wish to compare techniques. Overall, it was exceptionally interesting for me to observe the types of innovation and interesting decorations that Chef Ron has created or discovered himself, whether through walking through a store that sells vintage door handles that make pretty swags for cakes or creating the most amazing hand sculpted replicas of the most intricate brooches from sugar before creating a silicon mould to make identical replicas a hundred times over.

All the complex silicon moulding technique aside, I had to make a mention of this particular point for my teacher in Sydney – (Lorinda!!). For quick jobs, Chef Ron uses amazing mold putty to make moulded decorations because it is FDA approved for food. This is the quick putty of choice for Lorinda too and I loved that he pulled out the same box that I’ve seen her pull out in her class! Just makes me realise that she is definitely world class! This stuff is pretty much as the box says – amazing! It consists of two play-doh like compounds that when mixed together and pressed onto an object takes exactly 3 minutes to react and bond then 20 minutes to cure before becoming a bake-proof, wash-proof and fully food safe non-toxic silicon mould. If you think about all the things you could make from a mould the possibilities are totally endless.

Chef Ron shared tray upon tray of his most interesting moulds with us from some of his past projects.

The best part of Chef Ron’s demo was when he whipped out some pre-made petals and started assembling a black sugar peony right before our eyes whilst he spoke rapidly about sugar flowers. This is really when he was at his “ooh ahh” best. He then pulled out a travel steamer to gloss up the petals and then sprinkled on rainbow dust to give the flower an ethereal and almost eerie feel – the effect was totally, totally stunning. Each petal had been textured with silicon imprint mat and individually wired before being wound tightly with florists tape… it took him a total of 5 minutes to create this amazing flower. Now THAT is sweet geniusness at its best.


** Non-cake decorators feel free to stop scrolling here!! **

Here’s a pic of the final cake:

Testament to his level of rigour and discipline, Chef Ron also dedicated time to explaining how to properly dismantle a cake:


And to top it all off we all got a few slices of cake – a deliciously moist vanilla and chocolate butter cake with peanut butter filling. Talk about YUM – for a hater of buttercream, this stuff was GOOD.

Layers of Chocolate and Vanilla buttercake with peanut butter filling. Yum. (Notice too how thin the fondant is at only 2-3mm).

Me with the man.

A great lady named Dorothy

The average person would probably never have heard of Dorothy Cann Hamilton. But this lady has done so much good in the culinary world, she is pretty much connected to every famous chef known to man in some way or another. As the founder of the French Culinary Institute (now re-branded to the International Culinary Center), Dorothy has been knighted by the French Government for all her work in the culinary arena.

As an international student, I was invited to a cocktail evening at Dorothy’s apartment which allowed us a glimpse of New York from a high rise apartment in the Upper West Side.

She welcomed us as family – recalling during a short speech about how when she was an international student, she found the experience overwhelming without support and that sometimes having family away from home can make the experience abroad that much better. Her goal was really just to let us know we had a family on tap through the FCI and that long after we graduate, we could always return “home”. Sounds cheesy when I write it – much more inspiring when she said it!


Dorothy is also someone who can command a room just by being present and yet make every person feel like they’re her best friend – she is a true master in the art of conversation. I was in awe observing her as she worked the room and gave every individual unique attention. She also had an uncanny ability to remember every one of our names and she never forgets our face. I had a great chat to her about the food scene in Australia and the program I’m in. Since then, she’s been back in our class a few times bringing VIPs through on school tours and each time she stops to say hello and ask how I am, addressing me by my name.  All because I met her once and shared a couple of champagnes with her in her apartment. That’s pretty a special skill.


Just in case you haven’t seen enough celebrities in this blog yet…

Part of the hectic after school planning means I find out about as many culinary events as I can and then try to go. I managed to score a last minute ticket to a sold out event at the DeGustibus Cooking School in Macys Herald Square to see April Bloomfield do her thing. April is best known as a female version of Jamie Oliver in the States, best known for her love of all things porcine and for her three amazing restaurants – the Spotted Pig, The Breslin and The John Dory Oyster Bar.

In fact the first weekend we were in New York, we had already organised a table of ten to share in a whole roasted pig in a 3 hour feasting extravaganzy (my version of a crazy extravaganza):

Here were some of the dishes we were served at the great tasting demonstration:

I don’t eat usually chicken livers but this chicken liver toast was amazing..Sweet and delicious

I make split pea and ham soup a lot but mine never tastes as good as this one!

A filipino rice dish adapted by April – very flavourful and hearty.

April’s banoffee pie with Dulce le Leche made from scratch (ie boiled for 5 hours!)

Me with April

To round off a mammoth blog post, I thought I’d finish off with one last famous face from home.

Testament to the power of the FCI brand, many famous mega-stars walk its corridors on a daily basis. Bumping into Curtis Stone at lunch was pretty special too! ok so maybe my classmate Marcia and I dropped our lunchplates and practically ran down the corridor in our whites to get a photo with him… but I just couldn’t resist sharing this special picture with you all! As the new host of “around the world in 80 plates” on the Bravo channel in the US, his face is plastered pretty much everywhere in the city. I think this guy is probably one of the most successful chefs around having conquered both the US and Australia.

This man requires no captioning..

Until next time…

I will have to stop here and blog about my Carlo’s Bakery experience in my next post on the best bakeries in New York City… I fear that the majority of readers have probably fallen asleep but I had so much to say this week, I really couldn’t contain myself to just one topic!! In my next update, I’ll cover internships, midterm madness week and more cakes of course!!

Cakespeare in the City: Episode 2 – Buttercream, Blowtorchin’ and more Baking

Maybe because I’ve never been exceptionally fond of washing up, I found the second week of C-school a little more challenging because of the amount of baking (and hence washing) we were doing. Don’t get me wrong, we are pretty spoiled as culinary students at the FCI as we have full time dishwashers for the big stuff but I’d like to now also state for the record that I do not, will not and never will enjoy washing up buttercream from mixers, spatulas mixing bowls, paddles, whisks or any other type of kitchen implement. It’s just plain gross. Give me royal icing which washes off without any grease any day! Probably means I am not cut out to work in a bakery or use a lot of buttercream in my cakes…hmm.

Anyway I digress.

First of all, let me apologise for the lateness of this post, it’s been a very hectic week with 3 exams (1 prac, 2 written) and our first grading on general skills in the kitchen. First time I have been graded on anything for about 6 years so it was a bit of an out of body experience getting my results. In case you are curious about how I did, I was very happy with the grade but didn’t place a huge amount of importance on doing super great, I just didn’t want to flunk out and kicked out of the school and the passing grade at the FCI is a minimum of 70%!

So what did I learn this week?

Whilst the first week was very much about perfecting the art of La Genoise cake and making every type of buttercream that exists, the last couple of weeks was more heavily focused on piping work, foundational decorating skills and a whole lot more baking.

Ready, set, mise en place!

My days usually start with a crazy “mise en place” of about 15-20 minutes bright and early at 8am. Mise en place refers to having everything (equipment and ingredients) prepared, in its place and ready to use on the Chef’s instructions. So this means studying the recipes the night before and ensuring I have little recipe cards ready to weigh all my ingredients and knowing which tools to lay out hand on large trays from our mammoth toolkit. I historically haven’t been great at this and part of the reason why I wanted formal training at the FCI was because of the discipline they instil in you. When I’m working on my cakes at home, I’m a mess, there’s usually tools, equipment and cake crumbs everywhere (especially when I’m carving a cake). So one great thing so far is that my discipline has definitely improved in the last couple of weeks.

Having said this, the class sets a frenetic pace with 4 pastry arts grads who have worked in restaurants and bakeries already so rapid mise en place is a piece of cake (pun intended) for them. It’s so easy in class to get caught up with being the fastest, the most prepared or the creating most perfectly finished product. On the first two counts, I have to say thank you to my good friend Marcia from Brazil for reminding me about the importance of living the moment and really enjoying the process – not getting caught up or worried about being left behind or slow. She sings in class to remind herself to enjoy the moment and when she does, it also reminds me to enjoy my moments! On the third count, I will not compromise the quality of what I do, even if it means taking a little extra time. I believe that this is what differentiates you as a decorator – yes you have to work fast to make money but you also have to produce a great product. Rushing to save a bit of time or money is not really worth it if you aren’t happy with the results. This training experience has been a great test for me in terms of catching myself every now and then in class to really stop and savour the moment or the experience. Sure I get annoyed and irritated at times with myself or am always wondering why I’m usually one of the last to finish up, but then I remember that I also take on extra tasks to help out the Chefs – this may be in part because I’m used to taking on more workload than is probably healthy for me and I always have a problem saying no when someone (usually at work) asks for help. Anyway, enough ranting from me and back to cakes.

“I can’t believe there’s so much butter!”

Having an exam this week meant we had to actually internalise some cake theory which was also tested in our practical exam. We got tested on genoise, buttercreams and numerous terms and temperatures for different recipes. I must admit I have struggled with this American Fahrenheit business. Makes zero sense to me!! Celsius is far more logical in my book…

We made every kind of buttercream under the sun this week. So much so I’m totally sick of the stuff… and I also pretty damn averse to butter now. There I said it. Now every French chef can spit on this blog! In a slight tongue-in-cheek tribute to how crazy the butter levels were this week, I even made some of my classmates do “I can’t believe there’s so much butter!” poses which was a bit of fun whist we waited for our mixers to whip away at the stuff…


Glove-ing up to prevent buttery hands

Marcia “I hate buttercream so much but I look slightly scared of it here” Junqueira

Marti “I can’t do non-angry buttercream faces” Nardo

On a slightly more serious note, there are 4 types of buttercream and they pretty much cover half of the European continent by name! The buttercreams are: Swiss Meringue, Italian Meringue, French (pate a bombe) and German Mousseline.

The Swiss method requires cooking of egg whites with sugar over a water bath whereas Italian meringue (as used for the italian macaron) is adding cooked sugar syrup at the “soft ball” stage to egg whites. The French buttercream is essentially french meringue (uncooked sugar and egg whites) beaten with butter and the German mousseline is as the name suggests, more ‘moussey’ in texture and more akin to a filling than a hard-setting buttercream as it begins with acreme patissier(a stirred custard pastry cream).

My personal favourite is the mousseline as it’s the least buttery of the four. I also like the swiss buttercream because the exclusion of yolks means you can achieve a snow white buttercream which is nearly impossible with all the other types of buttercream. I also learned that what we call buttercream in Australia is actually frosting (equal parts butter and icing sugar).. so all my previous misconceptions of frosting have now been corrected! 🙂

Burn baby burn!

We also learned all about custards last week…. this has been one of my favourite components by far because we got to bake a beautiful vanilla bean creme brulee following a great recipe from the famed Le Cirque restaurant – the smoothness of this custard was totally to die for.

One of the best part about creme brulees is getting to handle a giant blowtorch. The one I have at home is about 1/10th the size of this one and you do feel quite powerful and dangerous when you have one in your hands… The only upside of buttercreams is when you have to rework them from the fridge, you also get to wield the almighty blowtorch to heat up your mixer bowl… woot woot! I’m sure if I was  seasoned chef reading this, I would think that I am totally lame but please do indulge me in a couple of culinary newbie moments…

Can’t really beat the satisfying crack of a creme brulee crust!

More baking…

We made quite a few different cakes the last couple of weeks but I’m almost ashamed to admit one of my favourites was a plain white cake. We made a delicious passionfruit mousseline filling for it and the cake was apparently devoured very quickly when Mr Cakespeare took it to the office – 200 bankers + 1 2 tier cake = happy campers.

Assigned baker for the week Seraphina does a quick pose with our white cakes

We also did a lovely angel food cake which tasted very similar to a spongy meringue cake and decorated it in a traditional basketweave and topped with fresh fruits. Marzipan modelling was also covered with a fun fruit making session and lots of plaques to practice chocolate writing. I’ll post photos up on facebook soon!

Celebrities chefs galore…

One of the really brilliant, brilliant, money-can’t-buy sides of being in such a legendary school is the daily exposure you get to fantastic chefs of the highest calibre. Jacques Torres dropped into our class the other day to make marzipan flowers, Ron Ben Israel was in the theatre yesterday to do an amazing 2 hour detailed demo on silicon moulding and wedding cake basics and bumping into decorated chefs every day is so normal that everyone is super-nonchalant about it (except wide-eyed newbies like me).

In the next episode of Cakespeare in the City…

For those who follow my status updates on Facebook you’d already know that I found out a couple of days ago that I’ll be assisting Chef Jacques next week in a pastry demo (chocolate croissants and other yummy baked goods). I am so excited about this amazing opportunity!! I can’t wait to blog about this one and I’ll also be covering a visit to Dorothy Cann Hamilton’s home, even more exciting tips and tricks from  the Chef Ron demo and my first visit to Carlo’s Bakery! So much to blog about it’s overwhelming!

Cakespeare in the City: Episode 1 – Getting into the culinary groove

Walking the halls of the French Culinary Institute (FCI) in your first week as an official student, you definitely feel the aura of prestige and history that surrounds this place. For a 6 storey-building in the middle of Soho, it looks quite non-descript from the outside. But on the inside, it’s a totally different world. Walking up the stairs to the theatre for the first time was a little surreal. Mainly because it was my first time back in a learning environment for over 6 years but mostly because the stairs were lined with photographs of the most impressive chefs in America and it feels like they are looking at you with great expectations as you proceed up towards the theatre!

There were so many highlights this week I’m not quite sure where to start! And I’m only 1 day into the program.

So I’ve decided that I really needed to boil it down to my top 10 otherwise I’d be here for quite some time rather than outside enjoying the amazing city that is New York.

#1 Watching my first culinary basics demo by culinary legend Jacques Pepin. One of the great things about this school is the numerous demos that the faculty give – the Dean of Special Programs just so happens to be Jacques Pepin who is most famous for winning an Emmy with Julia Child (of Julie and Julia movie fame) and publishing a ton of culinary books.

Pepin covered a whole host of culinary basics from how to secure your wiping cloth to your apron strings properly to how to debone a chicken in about 10 minutes (don’t ask me how to do it though… it looked super hard and Pepin might as well be a magician!). One of the more interesting tips I picked up was that beating egg whites in a copper bowl has the same stabilising effect as adding a little vinegar.

Pepin showing his latest culinary textbook.

Packed theatre

#2 Finding out that my instructors are the c’est magnifique Chef Tai Chopping (who not only has the coolest name in the world but it’s also her real name) and super lovely and amazingly helpful Chef Judy Lai – both top notch cake and pastry stars in their own right. Chef Tai has worked in some of the most famous kitchens in New York and Chef Judy owns an incredibly successful cake business and has won tons of awards from a whole host of American bridal magazines. Didn’t get a pic of Chef Judy but I’ll post one up next week.

Chef Tai

#3 Bumping into Jacques Torres in the lift after family lunch on Day 1. If you haven’t heard of Jacques Torres before and you’re into your sweets then let me assist with getting you up to speed. All you need to know is that this man is a legend. He owns a chain of famous chocolate shops in New York but is probably more well known in the culinary world for being the youngest ever MOF or Meilleur Ouvrier Patissier de France (master pastry chef) which is a very difficult title to obtain as the competition is only run once every four years and some chefs have tried and failed to get it 3-4 times – thats over 16 years of training and is probably equivalent to the olympics for pastry chefs!

#4 Turning out my first genoise cake successfully and discovering the different types of buttercream that exist. French pate a bombe buttercream is pretty amazing stuff – made using a “whole egg foam” method it’s essentially egg yolks with a dash of egg white and cooked sugar syrup beaten with a ton of butter… not too sweet and has an amazingly velvety texture.

Genoise: a highly temperamental and deceptively simple looking cake. A couple of students’ genoises collapsed so I was relieved when mine turned out looking pretty ok!

I’m not a buttercream fan at the best of times but this pate a bombe-beurre was crazy good..

My two pillows of buttercream – all labelled and wrapped for Monday’s class

#5 Opening our amazing professional brand new toolkit. This felt like Christmas Day had arrived early! We’d been told that at orientation that it was “amazing” and “way cooler than the other programs’ kits” but this was beyond what I expected… Like seriously incredible. Any cake decorator knows just how much investment in equipment is required to achieve spectacular results – especially really good quality equipment. The stuff we got was top notch and probably the single most exciting part of our first day.

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves..(non-decorators feel free to scroll ahead…)

#6 Meeting my lovely classmates and realising one of them is Brazilian and her brother used to date one of my colleagues in sydney… this world is insanely small sometimes!!

Getting my first “Family Meal” – a daily occurrence at lunchtime where the culinary students prepare buffet style food for the whole of the FCI.

the lovely Martina and Ryan

Lily and I

Fabulous Marcia from Brazil

#7 The Bread Program. This is a great initiative where the excess bread baked by the Baking Program students is left on a shelf outside the Bread Kitchen and anyone at the FCI can take home as much as they want as long as they make a nominal donation to the Friends of the FCI which helps to fund needy students. Getting my first free loaf of delicious bread and a couple of croissants was definitely a highlight – especially when it saved me a trip to the supermarket that night!!

Shelves were a little empty by the time Marcia and I got there!

#8 Getting acquainted with the insanely awesome FCI library… ok so this one makes me sound like a ridiculous nerd but I could seriously sit in here for hours. Imagine every cook book or culinary book, food magazine or DVD all in one place and free to borrow! Even if you’re not a culinary student and just love food, this place is pretty amazing for the depth of resources available to get some fantastic inspiration.

A small part of the library – every cake decorating book ever published!

#9 Getting changed into my uniform for the first time and getting used to the “brigade” system of addressing the Chefs as “Yes Chef” “No Chef” – kinda like “Sir” or “Miss” in school except much weirder and more formal!! …. Changing into our whites for the first time was also a bit freaky and fabulously fun at the same time. We had no idea how to tie our neckties and I’m not the biggest fan of the beanie (mainly because I have a big head)but the uniform code is strict and spot inspections are made all the time to ensure everyone looks nice and presentable always. The more seasoned students that saw us newbies remarked that they could tell we were new because we still had the fold creases in our uniforms from beanie to apron!

And then last but not least…..

#10 Checking out NY Cake and Baking Supplies in Manhattan for the first time… this place is incredible! There was pretty much every decorating or baking item in one store and the best part was it’s only a few blocks from our apartment in Manhattan! I’ll try to get some pics of the inside next time..

Until next Episode, this little Cakespeare in the City is off to enjoy a night out on the town over Easter long weekend! Coming up next week… more baking action and hopefully a visit to the famed Carlo’s Bakery!

A monumental announcement…

This week I have a big announcement to unveil which I have been hinting at for quite some time! In very, very exciting news this little Cakespeare is taking a big bite out of the Big Apple!

That’s right dear readers, this little Cakespeare is going on the road for 3 months and travelling to New York to train at the French Culinary Institute!! I’ll be studying Master Pastry Chef Instructor Ron Ben-Israel’s expertly designed cake and pastry technique curriculum. In about 5 days, my journey of learning from a couple of the best cake artists and pastry chefs in New York and finally making my empire state of mind a reality begins!

Why New York?

I’ve been to New York quite a few times before but never longer than a week or two. A few years ago, I travelled there every two months on an amazing global project where I learned so much and grew immensely as a professional and as a person. It really did open my eyes to a city that never sleeps and an amazing energy that cannot be replicated in any other city in the world. So I suppose I could probably point to that project for really planting the seeds of the biggest cake adventure in my life but I must admit – the dream was always about New York first and the culinary school part came later in the piece when I realised it might actually be possible to live TWO dreams at once!

Walking the hallowed halls of this legendary culinary school which has produced superstars like David Chang of Momofuku, Wylie Dufresne of wd-50 molecular gastronomy fame and pastry greats like Jacques Pepin and Jacques Torres. To my Aussie readers this may not mean very much but if you’re from the US, you probably already know what an incredibleplace this is!!

As someone who hasn’t stopped working since they were 18 in a full time corporate job at the same firm, I figured this time is probably as good as any other to take stock of life and work out where I want to go. This wasn’t an easy decision to make and I consulted many of those closest to me.

This is where I need to acknowledge my very good pen friend and fellow cakie, Mandy, from the US who was one of the first students to do this course when it was initially developed. I cannot thank her enough for her invaluable advice about the course – her candid nature and complete honesty was what helped me to make this decision my eyes wide open and to set the expectations at the right level.

I have had my moments of total doubt and panic closely followed by moments of extreme excitement but I’ve realised I need to take the experience for what it should be: a whole lot of FUN. After working at the same place for 9 long years, I never imagined that it would be possible to actually make this a reality let alone be in a field so completely different to what I do every day. But here I am, planning for my move to New York this week and fretting about what to pack! My amazing Mr Cakespeare has been so amazingly awesome too – couldn’t really ask for a better husband 🙂

Many people have also asked why not Paris? Which I did ponder briefly given it is the home of the most amazing desserts and cakes in the world but I decided that New York is where my heart has always been (as much as the idea of rocking up to the Le Cordon Bleu in Paris was very, very tempting).  I did also seriously consider working in New York as a management consultant but the life of a management consultant in New York just didn’t seem to promise the same experience when the chances of you being outside Manhattan are about 99.9%!! After many horror stories of people who worked there and got burned out (or worse spent many long months commuting to remote locations in the US) I decided that that wasn’t the right answer.

What next?

This time next week I will be standing at the FCI at orientation: that is a daunting, daunting prospect in itself!! I can’t wait to share my stories with you from the concrete jungle where dreams are made of, so keep checking back cos this blog’s about to get a whole lot more exciting.

To whet your appetite, here’s an inspiring video of cake legend Ron Ben-Israel talking about the course:


What’s floristry got to do with it?

This week we take a slight departure from cakes and stuff made of sugar! I’ve always believed that no single field of expertise is one-dimensional when it comes to further development. Even in the world of management consulting where you have to develop a whole host of skills which aren’t just about great technical knowledge, powerpoint slides or effective client presentations — it’s also about the softer side of building relationships all the way through to the mundanity (is that a word? nope spellcheck just said it wasn’t, oh well, I’m making it one) of managing a job budgets and project economics.

The world of cake artistry is exactly the same. There aren’t a lot of jobs where you have to be about 6 professions at once and in the world of cakes you need to be a Baker, Sculptor, Artist, Engineer, Architect… and sometimes a Florist too!

So the importance of complementary skills is the mantra of this post today and I’m shining a spotlight on floristry.

Learning about the basics of floristry is essential in my book if you really want to understand how to arrange decorations properly (not just sugar flowers but aesthetics and placement of decorations in general). Even understanding how real flowers move and can be manipulated is really important to converting how you use flowers to the sugar realm. The business sensibility in me also cottoned on to the fact that knowing how to use real flowers on a cake is particularly important for brides on a budget and can’t afford ginormous numbers of sugar flowers. I also believe that having this skillset in the repertoire also helps to build a foundation for better sugar flower work too.

So I rocked up to a basic floristry class on a very rainy Saturday taught by the extremely lovely Bec of Fresh Flowers. They’re a Sydney based company who are just starting out but already making waves because of their cost effective beautiful arrangements. They even have their own flower farm which is rare for even the biggest florists in Sydney.

We covered some fundamentals in this day long workshop including basic wiring technique, making a buttonhole for weddings, creating simple centrepieces on a budget and creating a large beautiful bouquet using a simple layering method. Even the tricky wrapping of flowers with giant sheets of decorative paper was made simple.

My favourite part of the class by far was creating the buttonhole and bouquet. It was also great to get some hardcore wiring practice even though my thumbs were pretty raw afterwards. The best part? I managed to buy majorly professional florist secateurs for cutting through cake dowels like they’re sticks of butter – no more hurty hands! Woot woot!

My finished buttonhole

Materials for the buttonhole including cake dowel dominating secateurs

To summarise “Key Learnings” in true Management Consultant style:

  • Purchasing a “T” bar to make a button hole (far left in the picture above) is a really effective way to make a buttonhole safe and easy to create (essentially a small piece of plastic shaped like a capital T with a safety pin attached to the back). You can apparently get these from floristry shops – brides to be take note!
  • Trimming the base of your stems at a sharp angle is important to prevent suction to the base of a vase so that the flowers live longer.
  • Handy Tip Alert! For heavy water drinkers like gerberas (or any other flower with very thick stems for that matter) trimming 1 cm off the stem for every hour it has been out of water is important to prevent air pockets from forming within the stem of the gerbera which is what eventually makes them flop on their side! (such a cool and interesting learning for me by the way!!)
  • Making a simple grid at the top of your vase from clear sticky tape creates a stable base from which to arrange flowers so you don’t get that lopsided uneven floppy effect when someone brings you a bunch of flowers for a dinner party. Takes about 30 seconds but so worth the time!

Sticky tape grid in action!

  • Wiring allows for strength and movement. We wired gerberas by piercing the top of a 22 gauge wire into the centre of the gerbera first before wrapping in a spiral down the stem. This then allowed us to manipulate the gerbera any way we like – it’s a notoriously top heavy flower so the wires give it extra support. Note that there is a huge world of flower gauge wires out there – the gauge refers to the thickness of the wire and generally the lower the number, the thicker the wire. Here’s a floristry wire guide for those interested.
  • “The Sara Lee” method rocks. This pays homage to the famous Sara Lee layer cake whereby you layer flowers on their side in the same order you’d like to see them when upright — a very simple way to arrange very large bouquets (especially if you have small hands!). Walking around the table to see the bouquet from afar also helps to visualise the end product and rearrange as necessary. Here’s a photo of the layering method in action:

 

Interested in floristry classes?

Check out Fresh Flowers on facebook to find out more. They also do periodic Groupon type offers which are very good value. Faye Cahill also holds workshops with Kirsten Boike at her studio and I believe Kirsten also teaches the Sydney Community College which you can google easily for more info.