Cake Masters is a new site for online learning that focuses solely on baking and cake decorating related skills. Does that sound like an ambitious idea? It is! And considering how new they are, they have a fair number of topics and teachers. One of the teachers is the well known sugar sculptor, Carlos Lischetti. He teaches classes in Europe and has published an extensive book on the subject of sugar figure creation.
First off, I would like to point out that I very rarely have the luxury of taking classes or learning from someone else. Usually I figure out how to make a new item when there is an order for it, and quite often I have to do it fast and off the cuff. Here at Pink Cake Box, I do the majority of the more complex sculpting, so it is always interesting for me to watch someone else at work.
Mr. Lischetti has a distinct style that may or may not fit every cake decorator’s needs, but his technique is solid and can be adapted to all sorts of figures. One thing I noticed right away is he explains how to deal with the medium (in this case gum paste) rather than simply assuming his students are familiar with it. In the rabbit figure sculpting lesson, he goes to great lengths to explain how to roll the paste in one’s hands to eliminate creases and have a smooth base. The only problem I have with this is my own: I have cold-hands-of-death that wouldn't melt butter, much less warm up gum paste. But his is a method that will help 99% of the people who drop in to view one of his classes on Cake Masters (I know from personal teaching experience that most people have warmer hands than I do and I applaud Mr Lischetti for using that to an advantage).
He also explains that one should measure each part of the figure based on the part they make first, rather than using metric or standard rulers. This way, his approach can be adapted for multiple sizes — in other words you can make the item that fits your cake by learning to “eye” it. This is a great technique, because students often wonder how to size figures accordingly.
There are two classes on Cake Masters with Carlos Lischetti: the Rabbit and Pinocchio. Pinocchio looked more challenging but I like rabbits, so that seemed like a good place to start :)The rabbit includes accessories — a flower pot and some blossoms. Here is where having my level of experience makes me a poor reviewer: I skipped the blossoms. I’ve been making little flowers like these for over thirteen years and I really feel that if you are advanced enough to make the bunny, then at the very least the flowers could have been wired or slightly more complex. This is serious, first-timer territory.
Mr Lischetti does a great job explaining how to make a template for the pot -- and I think everyone should learn how to make templates. Seriously, if you are a beginner, definitely watch this part of the video and listen to what he says. On the other hand, you don't really need a template to cover a styro base with gum paste for a flower pot. Good information, not necessary for the project.
My personal experience making the rabbit was a favorable one. Mr Lischetti is a great teacher, easy to follow and engaging. I watched the video through once while I made hydrangea for a wedding cake and then took a break, rewound to the sculpture-specific parts of the video and had a more-or-less finished figure in well under fifteen minutes. I liked my rabbit so much I threw together a tea cup and made my own tableau.
So let’s talk about learning styles for a moment, because as I pointed out in the beginning of my review, I'm hardly the student type. And I'm not really a fan of video teaching as I am not used to working at someone else’s pace! This is my preference only -- loads of people do better with a “live” experience. I’m visual, and I like being able to see the entirety of the project at a glance, so I do tend more towards books than videos or even live classes (unless they have an open curriculum). Luckily for me, Mr Lischetti was nice enough to publish a huge book on figure sculpting and cake decorating. And wouldn't you know it, the book is far more expansive than the online classes. While you will not have the advantage of his lovely personality and being able to see him in action, the book is a wealth of information from all angles.
But we’ll talk about that later, when I review it!
Bunny is good for the beginner student who doesn't have a firm grounding in sugar sculpture but wants to produce a professional product. It also functions well for the intermediate sculptor who wants to learn to express more character within their characters, or has a need to neaten up their technique.
Very quickly, I would like to discuss Cake Masters specifically: If your only online learning experience so far is Craftsy (or another big, online learning site) then you may bump up against a few kinks here. The only browser that gave me proper full screen, HD viewing was Safari running on a very powerful MacBookPro with up-to-date OS. Chrome worked exactly once, and viewing on a PC was a less than stellar experience. I should note that Anne tried on her PC and didn't experience any problems. So it's possible these issues may have been specific to my environment, but the good news is there help available through the platform.
In addition, the design of the Cake Masters site is not exactly intuitive – it did not appear to be precise when making my way through the classes, or even when simply looking for my next destination. On the upside, the classes offered by Cake Masters are aimed more toward the professional. There are a lot of interesting subjects and teachers to choose from, so if site design is not a big ticket issue for you, there is a lot to enjoy. I expect the technical side of the site will get worked out — they are fairly new — and the other, admittedly minor, complaints I found wouldn’t discourage me from recommending classes on their site.
The next part of this review is the Animation in Sugar, a comprehensive cake decorating book by Carlos Lischetti, stay tuned!
CakeMasters Class: Carlos Lischetti :: Bunny Rabbit
Skill Level: Beginner/ Intermediate
"Must Have" Tools for CakeMasters Class
- Small Knife
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Anna is a classically trained sculptor and illustrator who started her career in cake decorating with Ron Ben Israel in 2000. Since then she has worked for a number of well known cake studios in the New York area doing complex sugar work and design. Her specialties include freehand painting,...