I began my cake venture before Pinterest was a glimmer in the eye of the modern mom (and thank goodness, because I would have proudly posted and pinned my first mediocre attempts, only to have them perpetually embedded online where they’d outlive me, proving for webternity that I wasn’t, after all, born with this skill). I recall a flat, asymmetrical Darth Vader cake, a sadly drooping Dinosaur head, and a LOT of lumpy, cracked fondant. Nevertheless . . . she persisted.
Yes, persistence is key if you intend to bend cakes/cookies to your will. But where do you begin? Thankfully, my sugar-loving friend, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are many, many, MANY pros who share their knowledge and years of experience. So to help you narrow it down, here are my TOP FIVE PLACES to get started with your new hobby.
Here is one of my early cakes (2009). My five year old loved it, but I knew I had a LOT to learn.
YouTube Of course, you already know about YouTube (and if you don’t, I have no idea how you haphazardly stumbled across my obscure little corner of the internet). YouTube is . . . YouTube. It has free content GALORE, and when you’re just starting out, it’s hard to beat “free.” Some of the tutorials are fantastic, and some are much less fantastic. It can be challenging to weed through the endless content to find quality instruction.
Craftsy Three or four years into my cake venture, s*** (sugar) got REAL when Craftsy hit the scene. Finally, some of the BEST cake artists in the business could be found all in one place, teaching the very skills I wanted to learn. Once you purchase a class, you own it forever and can access it from any smart device. Craftsy even offers some free basic classes, which is a great way to try the format and see if you like it! The first class I purchased there is STILL one of my favorites. Clean & Simple Cake Design by Jessica Harris is the perfect starting point for learning the basics of buttercream, ganache and fondant. My cake skills changed overnight after taking this class. I’m not exaggerating – this was the jumping off point that gave me the confidence to keep going!
The Sugar Geek Show If you haven’t heard of Liz Marek yet, you will have a cake crush on her by next week. She is the creative mind and instructor behind the Sugar Geek Show. Whether you’re dipping your toe into this sea of chocolate and butter, or jumping in with both feet, Liz will inspire you with her impressive cakes and her clear instructional videos. The Sugar Geek Show is often referred to as “Netflix for Cakes.” There is new content every month (at least), and there’s truly something for every level of caker, Newbs – Experts and everyone in-between. Like Craftsy, they have plenty of free content as well, so start there if you want to check it out before subscribing! If you go for the elite membership (like I did), you even get a monthly gift in the mail, which is usually a handy dandy cake tool.
Avalon Cakes School I started following Avalon Yarnes on YouTube a few years ago (before she had this online school), then I met her in person in an embarrassing fangirl moment (that I hope she doesn’t remember) where I ever-so-eloquently said, “Omigod I know who you are!” So when she opened her online cake school, I signed up knowing I would learn a ton (and I have). One thing that makes Avalon unique is that she is a DIY chick (a girl after my own heart). If I can make something WITHOUT spending more money on fancy supplies and equipment, then doggone it, show me how to do that. She is the queen of innovation and makes amazing cakes using tools you (may) already have. Swoon! Avalon Cakes School is also filled with instructional videos from other top cake and cookie artists, so it’s really a one-stop-shop for tutorials of every level from a wide selection of instructors.
In-Person Classes In my experience, there is still no better way to learn than from a real live human, in person. Sure, you may not have the luxury of revisiting the content of the class (like you could with an online course), but the hands-on instruction and feedback are priceless. The classes I’ve taken in person with top cake artists like Michelle Boyd, Sarah Myers, Timbo Sullivan, Sachiko Windbiel, Kim Simons and others have stuck with me and improved my skill level tenfold. If you can swing it, go to a cake conference and take some classes in person! This is, by far, the best way to find several of the top instructors in the same place in one sugar-filled, eye-candy-that-is-literally-candy weekend. If traveling is not something your budget or schedule allows right now, check your area for classes! If you live in the Detroit Metro area, for example, I (wink wink) teach group cookie classes quite often, and I also do private lessons for cakes and cookies. I’d be willing to bet there’s someone in your area who does this too – you just need to find them! And if you don’t find anyone in your area who teaches, then treat yourself to some of those online classes, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE and then go BE that person!
My first wedding cake (2014), with some online and in-person classes under my belt and countless hours of practice.
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