Week 16: Final Exams & Soda Shop Dessert Table at Bonnie Gordon College


First term exams were scary.
Mid term exams were terrifying.
Finals are a whole different thing altogether! *flails outrageously*

The final week at Bonnie Gordon College came and went so very quickly. Surprisingly, for most part I stayed quite calm. I think it was the fact that I knew in a few days I’d be relaxing in the California sun – there’s just something about the lure of blue skies and In-N-Out burger that calms me like nothing else!

Our final exam was once again split into a practical, a theory exam, and theory assignment. Our practical was to present a dessert (or sweets… to-mah-to, to-may-to) table of any theme we chose – yippee!

Our only stipulations were in what we had to present. The centrepiece was to be a two tier celebration cake. We also had to present 12 eclairs, 12 marshmallows, 12 frangipane tarts, and 12 sugar cookies. Strangely, we’d never made sugar cookies during our course (or decorated them for that matter), so that was something brand new!

I really struggled for inspiration on this one – I think my brain was already switching to ‘heading home’ mode. My homesickness levels were reaching new highs and all I could think about was holidays, and then going home. Eventually I settled on a theme that I knew would be a little tricky to source props for, but one that was very “me”.

Without further ado… here is my “Soda Shop” themed dessert table!

Full view of the Soda Shop Dessert Table

Ice Cream Cone Sugar Cookies and “Milkshake” Eclairs

“Milkshake” Eclairs – Vanilla Pastry Cream filling dipped in Chocolate Ganache

Mini Frangipane Tarts with Swiss Meringue Buttercream Swirl

Ice Cream Cone Sugar Cookies

I actually ended up having so much fun with this exam! Some of my classmates joked that it looked like my “personality threw up on the table”. Of course, these same classmates called me a unicorn on a regular basis, so I’m unsure of the legitimacy of these comments.

My only “freak out” happened when it came time to decorate the sugar cookies. Having never made this recipe before, I had no idea that the type of dough we were using would not expand, but shrink in the oven. Shrink?! I’ve never had sugar cookies do that before! My plan of simply using the same cookie cutter to cut out some fondant to decorate the top was ruined and I had to frantically cut out the fondant by hand – needless to say, they’re far from perfect and nothing how I intended them to look.

Still, I’m pretty proud of how the table turned out as a whole!

Week 15: Wedding Cake Week at Bonnie Gordon College

To say I was excited about Wedding Cake week would be an understatement. I had been looking forward to this week since before I started my four month Diploma Programme!

If you haven’t picked up on it by now, I’ll lay it out for you: cake decorating is my favourite thing EVER! Sure, baking has it’s place, but cake decorating will always have a very tight grip on my heart.

So a whole 5 days of no baking, just decorating? Heaven!

Our wedding cake was an unmarked assignment, but we were given a fake client and a brief of what they wanted. After getting a “male garden and landscape designer” client during my first term exam, I was really hoping for something a bit more girly and I was not disappointed!

My clients were having a “small” 70 person wedding at the National Ballet, and their guests would be sitting through a performance of Romeo & Juliet. They were having a dessert table, and wanted their wedding cake to match their colour scheme of blush pink, peach, mint green and sea foam blue. The only design stipulation was that they wanted it to feel “romantic”.

If you’ve seen any of my work, you would have noticed that my designs tend to be more on the clean cut, simple side of cake decorating. I guess I’m just not generally a “fussy” person, and although this theme could have been taken in a direction full of ruffles, bows, and a garden of flowers, I really wanted to keep in my own style.

Watercolour painted cakes are a current trend that I am absolutely loving in the industry at the moment. I’m big on pastel colours, and the beautiful ombre effects that you can get with the watercolour painting just make me so happy. When I found out I would be working with pastel colours, I knew I wanted to start painting. I’d never done it before, and neither had any of the teachers in the school at the time, so I just made it up as I went along! Luckily it worked out!
I love cakes that have small, unexpected details that you may not even notice until you really look at them up close. The tiny piped hearts were that for me; simple, delicate and oh so cute.

Flowers also came into play with some peach roses, a pink feature fantasy flower with gold and pearl centre button, sea foam blue berries and mint coloured leaves. Gum paste flowers are definitely a new skill I’ve learnt at Bonnie Gordon College that I’m really enjoying and looking forward to expanding on.

The full cake. Photos just don’t really do it justice – or maybe it’s just my photography that doesn’t! The colours just seemed to pop more in real life while being softer at the same time, and the details such as the piping and gold crimped edges were far more enticing.

My photography has definitely improved this year, but I still have a long way to go.

This was our last big assignment before final exams, and what a fun one to finish the course on!

Bonus class: Wafer Paper Flowers with Susan Trianos

The Diploma Programme that I was taking (yep, was – that’s right, I have now finished!) at Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts was a very intense 16 week programme.

There was a lot of studying to do, physically draining days, and assignments & reading that needed to be completed out of hours. It was exhausting. It was also incredible.

So on those precious weekends that I had to relax, and recover, and take in some tourist sights of Toronto, what do I do? Sign up for an extra class of course!

Bonnie Gordon College recently launched a range of “short and sweet classes”, and this particular class on Wafer Paper Blooms taught by the incredible Susan Trianos was just 3 hours!

Susan Trianos teaching Wafer Paper Blooms at Bonnie Gordon College

Never heard of Susan Trianos? I admit, before coming to Canada I hadn’t either. Shame on me though, for Susan has been in the industry for over 25 years and has many achievements to her name.

More importantly though, Susan is an incredible teacher and oh so lovely!

During the short 3 hour class she taught us about the benefits of using wafer paper for cake flowers as opposed to gum paste (easier, quicker, cheaper, lighter!), along with the downsides (too much water = disaster), and how to use the medium.

We learnt 3 types of flowers during this short class, including simple hydrangeas, ranunculus and a rose.

Wafer Paper Ranunculus, Hydrangeas & Rose taught by Susan Trianos

Unfortunately for me I was coming down with a dreadful cold this particular weekend, so as enjoyable as the class was I was glad it only lasted 3 hours! It also allowed me the rest of the day to do whatever I pleased – in this case, stay in bed with soup. There’s just something so enjoyable about a short class, especially after the usual long days of the Diploma Programme.

I cannot wait to use these techniques on a cake in the future, and practise more wafer paper flowers!

Bonnie Gordon College Week 14: Bread Week!

Oh boy – bread week. Just the name sounds delicious. It was delicious.

Multigrain Bread

I wouldn’t go as far as saying it was the most fun week at Bonnie Gordon College, but it was pretty up there! Not everybody likes desserts (shock horror!), but everybodyyyy likes bread.

I don’t normally eat a lot of the stuff, but it is pretty much my favourite food in the world. I could eat it all day every day… and being a poor student, I did! Free food? Heck yes!

Unsurprisingly, I also gained a couple of kilo’s during this week.

Mini Croissants

There was literally so much bread I gave some of it away, and froze the rest… I’ve only just finished eating my freezer stash now, 2 weeks later.

So what did we make during this wonderful, amazing, fabulous week of bread?

It was actually a very interesting week because the breads had to be made in different stages. We were working on so many different types at once that even I forgot what we were making sometimes! One minute we would be making a “Poolish starter” for a baguette, the next we’d be making a “soaker” for multigrain bread, and then we’d be whipping up some croissant dough! Crazy times!

Chocolate Croissant

During the week we made the following;

  • Honey Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf
  • Ciabatta
  • Pita Bread
  • Baguettes
  • Multigrain bread
  • Brioche
  • Danish Pastries
  • Croissants & Chocolate Croissants
Some students also made some cinnamon buns, but I passed and stuck with chocolate filled brioche. Mmm-mmm!
Chocolate Filled Brioche
Doesn’t it all look so delicious? If every week was bread week I think I’d have to roll myself home!
We had instructor Michael Smith for bread week, and as always his very calm approach to teaching made it an incredibly enjoyable experience. I can’t wait to get back into a kitchen and make these delicious breads again!

Pies, Tarts & Choux Pastry at Bonnie Gordon College

After Haute Couture cakes finished up recently, we were thrown into four days of pastry.

First up was pies & tarts with instructor Charmain Baan.

Having never worked with pastry before (except for pulling sheets of puff out of the freezer!), this was all new and a bit overwhelming at first. It ended up not being as difficult as I expected, and turned out to be a very enjoyable week. An added bonus in pastry week, was that we got to make a quiche – and eat it for lunch! Mmm-mmm!

Don’t tell my mother this but this was pretty much my first “home-cooked” meal since I’d left Australia in March! Oops!

My favourite mini project for the week were these tiny bite-sized chocolate tarts. They were both adorable and delicious! I think I ate at least a dozen of them in one sitting. Double oops!

Bite-Size Chocolate Tarts

There was something satisfying about making pastry from scratch, although I’m not sure I would bother with home made puff pastry in future. I know it tastes better, but geeze – at what cost?! So much rolling, and turning, and waiting, and rolling, and turning, and waiting! Exhausting.

The week also introduced me to the Canadian specialty of Butter Tarts. I’d heard a lot about these little treats that were apparently terribly bad for you, yet deliciously worth it.

Canadian specialty – Butter Tarts

I wasn’t convinced at first, but after 2 or 3 I began to come around and understand the enjoyment. Still, in future I think I’ll stick to the chocolate tarts. That’s where my heart truly belongs.

After pies and tarts wrapped up, it was onto Choux Pastry with Michael Smith. I admit I was a little terrified, but Michael is such a calm teacher that it was all okay.

We got to play around with profiteroles, pastry cream & caramel and created these cute little french desserts called “Gateau St. Honoré”.

French dessert “Gateau St. Honoré”

But of course, the show stoppers for choux pastry are the decorated eclairs that you see all over the Bonnie Gordon College advertising! It’s no wonder, when they’re so pretty and so delicious!

Pastry cream filled eclairs

All in all, I think pastry week was a success! I’d really like to play around with the eclairs some more and try some different decorating techniques with them. I’d also like to make more chocolate tarts. Lots and LOTS of chocolate tarts.

Haute Couture Cakes at Bonnie Gordon College

After exams wrapped up last Thursday, we were introduced to Haute Couture cakes at Bonnie Gordon College on Friday.

The fabulous Marisa Blackburn from MarissKiss was our instructor for this two day class, sharing her expertise in these stunning cakes.

I was first introduced to the Haute Couture Cake style by Lori Hutchinson, aka The Caketress, back when I first started decorating 2 years ago. While I missed out on learning from Lori herself, I was very much looking forward to this class and I was not disappointed.

The whole class did an amazing job!

Haute Couture Cakes by Pamela, Myself, Rosa and Lily

While I’m not a very “glittery” person generally, for some reason with this project I was drawn to sequins and everything sparkly!

I eventually settled on this dress as my inspiration. While it may not have been considered as “haute couture” as most inspirations, being a more affordable dress I felt it would be something a bit more realistic that a bride might ask me to recreate in cake form.

Unfortunately the photos don’t quite do the sparkles justice, but I have been covered in ‘disco dust’ for the entire week!

Nothing wrong with being a bit sparkly, right?

BGC Weeks 10, 11 & 12 AKA the case of the missing blogger

Three weeks with no blog updates – don’t worry, I’m still alive!

July has been one crazy month. Do I “eat, sleep & breathe” confectionary art? This month I definitely have been! This past week was mid-term exams, and I must admit my stress levels reached a new height.

Not only did I disappear from blogging, I also disappeared from Instagram for 2 weeks, and when I wasn’t at college I barely left my bedroom. There just wasn’t enough time in the day to study all the things I needed to!

Let’s just say it was very lucky that a slight amount of sanity remained for me to venture out and do grocery shopping and laundry every now and then. Phew!

But what did I get up to during these past few weeks?

Week 10 was all about figure modelling. For the whole week we worked on a bride and groom wedding cake topper. If I haven’t mentioned it before in this blog, although I’m sure I would have, here’s something you need to know about me. I have an extremely short attention span. To work on one thing for a whole week? Torture.

As my mind wandered, the less inclined I was to make a “happy couple”.

Things got weird.

Week 11 was much more mixed up, however Monday was all about Composed Cakes which we knew was coming up on our mid-term exams the next week. Talk about stressful!

What is a composed cake? Basically, a cake that is put together with a variety of layers consisting of different flavours and textures. A cake that supposedly looks as beautiful inside as it does out!

We then delved into baking for allergies which I found quite enjoyable to be honest, although I must say I am very grateful to not have any allergies myself. It was definitely a very important topic to cover.

Friday brought us Petit Fours which was an interesting day, and one full of French words. The class was talking about ‘guimauve’ for a good 20 minutes before I finally figured out they were talking about marshmallows. Talk about confusing!

Soon enough it was week 12 and mid-terms. I still have a knot in my stomach just thinking about it. We all know that decorating is my strong point, and baking not as much. This exam had no decorating at all – at least, not fondant decorating. Ack!

We had to present a variety of recipes including Dark Chocolate Fruit Truffles and these White Chocolate Bon Bons which had an Earl Grey Ganache filling.

Checkerboard Cookies from the very beginning of our course were up next.

Followed by the Composed Cake and another Passionfruit Mousse Cake.

It was probably the most stressful week I have ever experienced. I am just thankful that I managed to present all recipes and the chocolates actually came out of their moulds, unlike the last time!

So what do you do to relieve stress at the end of an exam like that? Smash up the cakes of course!

Who needs therapy when you can just smash up a cake you spent a whole day working on?

Montage: June 2014

It’s a week late, but my latest video montage is up on YouTube!

This month found me settling into a bit of a ‘rut’ as I get used to living in this strange new environment (get used to? Psh, I’ll never be used to this crazy weather!), and being wrapped up in my studies and swing dancing classes.

With mid terms coming up in a couple of weeks and this term being more about baking and specialty skills rather than cake decorating (my strength), I am throwing myself into an intense study regime.

Wish me luck! This Diploma Programme seems like it will only get more and more intense until the end!

Bonnie Gordon College Week 9

What a short week!

I enjoyed a wonderful 4 day weekend for Canada Day with a visit from my best friend, and spending a lot of time relaxing. Definitely a needed break with all this crazy studying and school stress!

The 3 day week let us complete our sugar work, and introduced us to a topic I had been very much looking forward to: Macarons!

Sugar Work was a bit less painful this week as I discovered, due to my skins heat sensitivity, I needed to prepare my hands with band-aids on each finger and 2 – 3 layers of gloves on top of that. It also made the medium a bit more enjoyable to work with, although still difficult as I didn’t have quite the same control as you would with less bandaged hands!

To warm up I created a creepy looking duck, and then got busy with this cute little snowman. His hat had to be made twice, as the first time the table I was working on buckled which both gave me a heart attack and also shattered the sugar that was sitting on it. The scary dramas that come with heat lamps!

“Do you wanna build a snowman?”

After that we decided to work on a display piece as a group. An underwater theme inspired by this ‘sleazy’ pineapple that one of the girls had made – because pineapples and underwater themes go together, naturally!

“Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?”

So too, do snowmen and birds apparently.

After my initial dislike of sugar work, I must admit I was a little sad to be finished with the topic. Perhaps this may be a new hobby I can play with in the future.

No time to be sad though, because Thursday was Macaron day! We got to make Coconut Macarooons first, and then some Rocher which were incredible. Nothing could stop me from snacking on them all day long.

“Rocher” from the French ‘boulder or rock’ 

Then onto Swiss Meringue, French Meringue and Italian Meringue Macarons! Fillings for mine included salted chocolate caramel ganache, chocolate hazelnut ganache, and swiss meringue buttercream. Mmm-mmmmmmmmm!

They definitely weren’t as scary as everyone makes them sound, although I think I have Mardi to thank for introducing me to Macarons when I first arrived in Toronto and taking away that scare-factor.

Salted Chocolate Caramel & Chocolate Hazelnut Macarons

Which is my favourite recipe of the 3? Hmm, let me taste test…

Mmm… yummm… mmm-mmm… om nom nom…

The Verdict: I think I would have liked the Italian Meringue the best – but for something a little different we made Hazelnut Chocolate Italian Meringues which aren’t really my thing. I do love chocolate, just not so much when it comes to a Macaron. I think I’ll need to try them again with the normal recipe.

Oh, and just as a by the way: here’s another look at what is a Macaron and what is a Macaroon…

Macaron vs Macaroon – get it right!

A Macaron has a smooth top and ‘foot’ at the base, sandwiched with a filling. Macaroons are more rustic with no filling (although sometimes dipped in chocolate).


Bonnie Gordon College Week 8

This past week flew by so quickly, it was almost a blur!

So much was jam-packed into the 5 days it feels like Monday was forever ago. I can’t remember too many details so here’s a quick run down instead.

Monday and Tuesday introduced us to Egg-Foam Cakes & Mousse Cakes. What’s an Egg-Foam cake you say? Well, if you’re in Australia you might be more familiar with the term Sponge Cake. They contain no leavening agents and just use the eggs ability to retain air.

I must admit I’m not the hugest fan of Egg-Foam cakes. I am a die hard mud cake fan, I want my cakes to be dense and moist. Egg-Foam cakes which are very light and fluffy just aren’t my thing.

This Passionfruit Mousse Cake, a combination of an Egg-Foam cake and Mousse cake, was a hit with everyone who tried it though!

Passionfruit Mousse Cake

I also made a chocolate sponge roll with both hazelnut buttercream and whipped chocolate ganache. It was heavenly – although not so pretty!

Wednesday and Thursday brought us sculpted cakes – woohoo! I love a good sculpting session. There’s just something about hacking into a cake that takes me to a happy place.

I had planned to sculpt a simple shape, like an apple. However, feeling uninspired by the simple designs, I ended up taking on a project that could have been a bit too much for a short 2 day class.

Luckily, I managed to finish in time. Phew! Introducing Walter the baby Unicorn!

Walter the baby Unicorn – Sculpted Cake

One major thing I had issues with this week was the humidity. Firstly, if it were up to me I would never, ever, EVER make a sculpted cake with buttercream. It just doesn’t make logical sense. Having to sculpt for 20 minutes, then refrigerate for 30 minutes and keep repeating until done? Ugh – no thank you. Ganache is not only a much easier medium to work with, it provides a much better structure since it sets hard and is much easier to get a smooth finish in my opinion.

Sadly a couple of cakes from the class did not survive the trip home (never fear – Wally is still going strong!). I feel like using ganache may have helped this problem.

In terms of this crazy humidity, by taking the cake in and out of the fridge all the time it begins to sweat resulting in the shiny look you can see in the picture above. Definitely not ideal.

I could rant about ganache vs buttercream for hours but since it’s not a very interesting debate… onto Friday!

Friday introduced us to sugar work. What’s sugar work you say? Well, ever seen candy makers pulling sugar? Ever seen a glass blower in action? Sugar work is both of these things – pulling and blowing sugar to create decorations, or display pieces!

The one major thing I learnt in this class: I have heat sensitive skin. HOLY MOTHER OF SUGAR! I thought I was just being a pansy whinging about the hot sugar, but no. When I took off my two pairs of gloves I discovered I had blistered my fingers. After lunch I had to wrap my fingers in band-aids and wear THREE pairs of gloves, and still it hurt to pull and work with the sugar. Not the most enjoyable medium to work with, I must say.

It took me a while to get past the pain, but once my fingers started to numb a bit I was able to put together a few things. One of those was this “sugar rose”.

Isomalt Rose

Although, technically we were actually working with Isomalt which is a sugar substitute that’s an easier medium to work with than actual sugar. Apparently sugar doesn’t hold up too well in humid climates.

I also made a super cute fish, however whilst moving him to take a photo he took a nose dive into the table and was no more. That’s the thing about sugar pieces – they’re more fragile than glass. The above iPhone photo, while not a good one, was all I was brave enough to take. Moving the sugar pieces into better lighting and getting my DSLR was too terrifying a thought!

This weekend is a long one for Canada Day and I am not back into class until Wednesday, when we are spending another day on sugar work. Thursday and Friday we tackle Macarons! Yippee!