I was never one for flowers. This Valentine’s Day, knowing that I have a strong dislike of the traditional red roses overpopulating deli storefronts and florists on February 14, my boyfriend surprised me with a beautiful bouquet of plum-colored tulips. They were beautiful — they were a surprise, they were gorgeous and they even smelled good. But later in the evening, after leaving pastry class, I said to him, “Next year, if you’re going to get me flowers, I think you should make them out of gumpaste.”

Since I last wrote, that’s what I’ve been doing — making flowers out of gumpaste. At the start of each class, I find myself wondering how we’re going to spend the entire class just making flowers. But four hours later, I realize we have kept ourselves happily busy. The process is as tedious as it is relaxing, and as time-consuming as it is rewarding. What starts as a simple bud, comes to life a little more each day as we add petals, leaves and a final touch of petal dust that adds the perfect amount of color, dimension and magical shimmer. At least, that’s the goal.

Every once in awhile I look up from what I’ve been working on (despite my aversion, I find myself making plum-colored roses) and glance around the room at the beautiful pieces my classmates are making with extreme focus and determination. Jennie is creating a nest that will hold a bird and eggs, all made of gumpaste and hand painted. Denise is assembling her vibrant red poppy lilies. Jen is decorating her seashells and starfish to add to her bright blue rose design. All around me, my classmates are working hard and quietly on the components that they’ve planned for their final cake. Sometimes, something doesn’t go exactly as planned. Petals may fall and flowers may break or green petal dust may accidentally spill on already-assembled pink roses. But, Chef Kathryn monitors our daily progress to make sure we each have a solid and realistic production plan for completing our vision by Lesson 100. When we present our final decorated and flower-adorned celebration cakes, you may actually have to ask yourself if a rose by any other name does indeed smell as sweet. Some of the flowers, like Moriah’s white roses, look so real that you may easily be fooled. Check those Valentine’s bouquets — if you’re lucky, your flowers may be made of gumpaste.

Next up: We have made and filled our cakes, but now it’s time to stack and cover them with fondant. Our last three lessons will be all about finishing our cakes for our final presentation.

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