If you’ve been following this blog or my instagram feed, you’ll know that I love travelling, but I also love cities and cake. Therefore, I love NYC. Who wouldn’t love it, when they’re the home of Carlo’s Bakery, Magnolia Bakery and Rainbow Bagels?
On New Years Day, we headed west from London to New York City. The usual stress happened of course, heavy snowfall at JFK airport, bitter cold weather with a real feel of -24c and flights being delayed but had plenty to look forward to when we got there. Nothing would put me off our trip, especially when I love the cold.
I struggle to sleep on long-haul flights, whereas Adam can sleep absolutely anywhere, and this time was no exception. It didn’t really help having a 2 hour delay on Heathrow runway, but lucky for us, the delay did mean we got to see the Northern Lights around 4 hours into the flight. It was beautiful to watch but none of our cameras could take a picture, so I found one online that looks like what we saw. Amazing huh?
Any who, on Christmas Day, my Mum surprised me with the best gift ever.
A bakery class. In NYC. At my favourite bakery… Carlo’s Bakery.
Carlo’s Bake Shop, famed by the TLC channel and the program Cake Boss with Bartolo Jr. “Buddy” Valastro and his Famiglia. They’ve been running a traditional family run Italian bakery in Hoboken, New Jersey since 1910. Buddy is now a major face in the American baking world, with his Cake Boss show as well as The Next Great Baker (a Project Runway style competition, but with cakes instead of fashion designers).
I booked in for a class to learn more about fondant and piping techniques. I’ve always been so impressed with how smooth others could cover their cakes in icing/fondant and desperately wanted to find out the secret. Typically, I’d stick with buttercream and a trusty plasterer’s trowel. Yep, hardware stores are the best place for cake materials!
After a frosty morning in Brooklyn and the Dumbo, we walked towards Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge picking up the PATH rail network to take us to Hoboken. My class started at 5pm and we arrived with plenty of time.
In an old warehouse on an empty snowy street, there was Lackawanna, the main bake house location for Carlo’s Bakery. Well, they had to relocate after making it big. Here they pre-bake thousands of cakes and pastries to ship to the many Carlo’s Bake Shops popping up all over the USA. This warehouse is also where they prepare all the show cakes you may have seen on ‘Cake Boss’ as well as the location for ‘The Next Great Baker’ also on TLC.
In the reception, there were many other visitors who had travelled to take part in a class. There were students from other American States as well as Brazil and Australia, all had a keen interest in Baking. As the main Bake House, of course you’d catch a glimpse of Buddy and his Famiglia wondering around – to which some of the students became giddy with excitement.
Due to the time of year, the class was quieter than normal, allowing additional room for partners and friends to join. Although they couldn’t take part in the activities, it did mean they wouldn’t sit bored in the reception area for 2 hours.
After a ‘no photos’ tour of Lackawanna, we were taken to our classroom to begin. We just had to choose a worktop and wash up. I was so excited when I received my Carlo’s apron and work station.
We had 2 Bake House staff showing us the tricks of the trade, starting us off with Fondant. They introduced me to a new product called Satin Ice, something that we can by in the UK but only on professional sites but I did find this product on Amazon. It behaves differently to roll out icing from the UK; it’s much stiffer to work with initially, requiring some Paul Hollywood style bread kneading and some vegetable shortening to loosen it. It was completely pliable and had a satin feel to it (hence the name!). It even tasted different, a bit like condensed marshmallow.
To save time, we used an industrial roller instead of rolling pins to get the icing to 3mm thick and covered a pre-dirty iced 8 inch chocolate fudge cake. When adding the fondant, the Satin ice stretched like lycra – meaning there wasn’t a single crease in my cake!
The Bake House Staff showed us some traditional Italian icing techniques, something I find somewhat old fashioned myself but you need to learn the traditional ways to appreciate the more modern look.
We were set up with a bag of ‘buttercream’. In America they use vegetable shortening more than butter hence the brilliant whiteness but is also great for those who are dairy intolerant.
We then went wild with different icing techniques, and as such I decided to ice a cake that would remind me of the day. Here it is – I used all the techniques the Bake House Staff showed me and at the end of the day, they took a picture of my cake! I was so proud!
Being the end of the session, I picked up a deal of cake decorating goodies and headed to the original Carlo’s Bake Shop in Hoboken. From Lackawanna, it’s just 15 minutes walk and here you can pick up cookies, cakes and other naughty treats.
Here’s the truth.
The classes can be expensive but totally worth it, especially as all the tools are included and you get to take your cake home. If you’re planning a trip in NYC and fancy something different to do, I fully recommend doing a baking class. They can get booked out quickly, so book in plenty of time.