Do you remember when I met Holly Bell and interviewed her a few months ago?
Well, Holly was kind enough to invite me to review one of her cupcake decorating classes on the back of that interview. Although I am absolutely fine with baking cupcakes, I have the artistic skills of a petrol station and decorating them tends to be a bit of a problem. Don’t believe me? I have proof. I made these for my mum’s dancing group this Christmas.
Yeah. I know. Holly was going to have a bit of a challenge with me.
So, I rolled out of bed at 7:00am one Sunday morning and drove to Leicester for a full day of cupcake fun (the classes are from 9am to about 5:15pm). More specifically I drove the Bridge Sixty Seven Cookery School, which is a farmhouse in the village of Smeeton Westerby just outside of Leicester. It is an utterly beautiful building inside and out. Almost as beautiful as the breakfast which awaited me when I entered…
Fruit, gorgeous pastries, tea and coffee, juice and cool water were all laid out for us when we got there. Being a greedy guts, this impressed me greatly. As the class arrived we were able to grab some breakfast and get to know each other before heading downstairs to get started.
The class starts with basic baking of cupcakes — Holly apologised for those of us who already knew how to bake, but some people who came to her classes didn’t. I’ve been baking since I was tiny but I still picked up some ideas on how to improve my cupcakes.
Starting the day by doing something most people can do easily was a great way of getting us relaxed and chatting to each other a little bit before we start the hard stuff. And, y’know, baking is fun. Especially in the Bridge Sixty Seven kitchen, which is so beautiful I was wondering if it would be possible to tow it home with me and install it in my own house.
After the cake baking came the decorating. All of us, Holly included, sat round a big square table with our modelling tools and our sugarpaste. Holly would show us how to make something and then we’d all attempt to copy her, whilst she came round and gave help to anyone who needed it.
There was a huge range of colours available to us and we were allowed, nay encouraged, to experiment with our new skills and make whatever we wanted. Although being a scaredy cat, I just stuck to the basics at first.
Simple, huh? All we’re doing at this point is choosing our colours, rolling our the sugarpaste and using the cutters to make shapes. Anyone can do it, it’s so easy. And it’s amazing how quickly you can move from doing basic things like that to making these…
I made them. Me! The person who couldn’t even cut a star out in a straight line before this class had learnt to make snails and birds out of sugarpaste, all before lunch. I was astonished.
We broke for lunch at this point. Even if you have no interest in cake decorating at all, I recommend these classes for the lunch. The most delicious range of sandwiches (weeks after I still dream about the cheese and pickle ones), more tea and coffee, wine and Holly’s delicious homemade banana and chocolate muffins. Heavenly.
After lunch we moved on to covering cakes in either buttercream or fondant. Holly showed us the proper way to make buttercream (it tastes like Cornish vanilla ice-cream. I was honestly eating the leftovers with a spoon) and how to cover cupcakes in textured fondant. I really recommend learning how to do this as it can make your cupcakes looks like this:
Finally we got onto piping. I have never been able to pipe. Ever. I can’t use piping bags, I can’t make the piping look pretty, I can’t get the buttercream to come out properly, I can’t get the nozzles to work, I just can’t. Or, at least, I couldn’t until Holly showed me how to do it properly.
In less than an hour I had used gel to colour my buttercream, fitted a nozzle on my piping bag, filled it and, on a sheet of greaseproof paper to practise, created these.
The last bit of the day was just putting all these skills together. Piping on some cakes, covering others, adding our little creatures/buttercream to the top and adding sparkles and glitter from Holly’s extensive collection. By 4:45pm, I had made these.
And just in case you’re thinking that I was previously being modest about my cake decorating skills and that these look good because I’m naturally talented, let me firstly assure you that I’m not and let me secondly direct you to Holly’s Facebook photo album with lots of photos of cakes from the day.
As well as our beautiful cakes we were given an instruction booklet with reminders of what we’d done today, recipes and a few other ideas for decorating to take home with us. I haven’t tried recreating anything yet, but a few other members of the class have (we follow each other on Twitter — they were all so lovely!) and their results have been stunning. This class isn’t just a case of monkey-see-monkey-do, you genuinely learn how to decorate cupcakes and work with the materials/modelling tools.
I genuinely think that if you have any interest whatsoever in baking or cooking, you should take Holly’s class. As you can see I learnt a lot and have gained some fantastic decorating skills, but it’s more than that. The classes were fun. Holly, as I said in the interview, is completely lovely but she’s also fun to be around. Most importantly, she is very good at hosting classes.
At the start I’d somehow managed to manoeuvre myself so that I was baking on my own in the corner, and she made sure she came up and spoke to me so that I wasn’t on my own. If conversation lulled she’d say something to start us all chatting and laughing again. If we were chatting too much she managed to pull us back and keep us on schedule — all whilst keeping everything light, making us feel like we were hanging out with friends rather than being taught.
Plus we got some absolutely fabulous bits of Great British Bake Off gossip…
If you’re looking for a present or to treat yourself, sign up to one of Holly’s classes. The classes are suitable for all skill levels, cost £125 (including breakfast, lunch and all materials) and are utterly brilliant fun. One of the best days out I’ve had in a very long time.
You can find more about Holly’s cupcake, bread and Bake-Off classes on her website.
Love, Hells Bells x