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“If you apply a bit more pressure with this nozzle, you’ll get a bigger rose effect. Using two colours can nearly double the value of a cupcake.” Whether it was the sweet smell of a money-making hobby or the cardiac arrest coming on from my self-imposed ‘taste tests’, I quickly perked up.

Cupcakes have taken centre stage as the new corporate branded gift for ANY occasion, an dull alternative hen party activity, or just part of a natural progression in our knack of making mini versions of terrific things.

With cupcake shops and decorating courses mushrooming around town accordingly, and helped along by a voucher, I decided I’d better see what the fuss was all about. This was extra special as my new hobby blogger buddy of Hobby Fabulous was doing cake decorating in May, so we decided to tackle this one together.Walking out of the tube station in Queensbury (I had to search for some time on a tube map – it’s on there, just, clinging to the top of the map in Zone 6), I wondered what to expect in my afternoon of cupcake decorating. I’d spatula’d up a cake before, and tried my hand at piping something when I was younger so was a little sceptical of what could be covered in two hours.

The Sugar Shack (2hrs, £60 without a voucher) is based in a top room within a warehouse, conveniently nestled above a baking goods store. These goods are, as expected, peddled in the course but not in an overtly salesy manner.

We began by making a piping bag with a sheet of baking paper. While this isn’t the first choice from pro bakers, it’s an important skill to know should you find yourself with cupcakes to decorate and no piping bags to hand. This could happen.

Next we snipped a corner off a plastic disposable piping bag, stuck in the medium-sized nozzle, filled ‘er up with butter icing and grabbed our dummy cupcakes (plastic molds for practicing). The first technique we learnt was the ‘star’; one you’d most likely accidentally do if left to your own devices; essentially blobbing the icing out forming single stars due to the nozzle’s zigzagged edges.

With the same nozzle we learnt ‘the shell’ (similar to its namesake with some imagination) and Rita’s (our friendly and confident teacher) own design of interlocking ‘C’ shapes forming a twisted rope effect atop a cupcake, pictured.

We switched to our homemade bags with the smallest nozzle, used to create leaf shapes. These took a little more attention in ensuring the ends didn’t droop.

Finally the bigger nozzle was used for the ‘My Whippy’ soft serve style and the simple-yet-effective rose.

We then advanced to real cupcakes and were given four to have our way with, using colouring and sprinkles and a fancy pearl glossing spray – you know, for that extra je ne sais pas.

I do feel better equipped to decorate cupcakes (with or without piping bags to hand) so in that case it was a success. But as we didn’t venture into the territory of making the cup cakes or the actual icing, I suspect you could learn most of the techniques we did through crafty YouTube videos. I’d also hoped to work with different types of icing and go a little beyond piping.

Tips:

  • For white butter icing use non-salted (President is the best apparently) and the more you whip it the whiter it goes.
  • Buy a clear vanilla essence to use without changing the pure colour of the icing.
  • If it’s a hot day your butter icing might go too soft so try to limit handling it and pop it in the fridge to harden if needed. You can also regularly rinse your hands with cold water to cool them.
  • Don’t chuck leftover icing in the sink – as it’s a fat it will clog the pipes.
  • Not all glitter is as edible as it says so take care when selecting one.

Want to give it a go?

A few to try around London, untried:

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