December 5, 2008
Handmade Xmas Part 1: Cakes and cookies
Peggy Porschen is standing in her gleaming Battersea studio and demonstrating how to make perfect squiggles using a piping bag she’s fashioned out of a piece of paper. But I’ve only got eyes for the bowl of edible glitter in front of me, appropriately named, “White Disco Hologram”. Which might explain why my subsequent squiggles are considerably less than perfect.
As London’s Queen of sugarcraft, Peggy’s cakes are sold in Fortnum and Mason and her clients include Elton John, Gwyneth Paltrow and Stella McCartney. In fact, she made Stella’s wedding cake in 2003.
She has just launched a series of masterclasses where students can learn the secrets to decorating cookies and cakes, in Peggy’s irresistibly pretty signature style.
After some initial apprehension about my distinct lack of decorating/kitchen skills, I was relieved to learn that I wasn’t the only beginner in the class. There were, however, a couple of skilled decorators taking part, with one girl travelling all the way from Germany to learn Peggy’s tricks of the trade.
Taking our places around a huge granite tabletop in Peggy’s airy commercial kitchen, we set to work straight away, learning how roll out marzipan and cut out a pile of holly-shaped leaves. These were the main decoration for our traditional Christmas fruitcake.
It didn’t take long to get to the fun stuff – playing with gorgeous
shimmers and edible glitter, and learning how to make veins in our
leaves using a moulded stamp.
There’s no need to worry about cleaning up as Peggy’s staff are on hand to whisk away bits and pieces you’ve finished with. And when it comes to learning the art of piping, we’re presented with our own set of freshly baked gingerbread snowflake cookies, ready to decorate.
Peggy shows us how to hold the piping bag and and demonstrates the correct piping technique. This is where it’s easy
to just sit back and watch Peggy’s mesmerising and deceptively simple
control of the piping bag. She makes it look way too effortless, but
after several botched attempts (which are hurriedly disappeared down my
throat) I start to weave my own little sugarcrafted magic.
After breaking for afternoon tea – delicious finger sandwiches and cake – we’re back in the kitchen and standing behind our own individual (and marvellously alcoholic) six-inch Christmas fruitcakes. We learn how to brush the cake with apricot jam, before rolling out a sheet of marzipan and carefully draping it over the cake.
Next, after brushing the marzipan with a layer of vodka, we’re rolling out a perfectly smooth layer of sugar paste to drape over the cake. This is where cake smoothers become your new best friends in your quest for sugar paste perfection.
With the tricky bits out of the way, we get to the fun part of decorating our (mostly) smooth iced creations with the holly leaves we’d made earlier, creating a simply wreath around the top of the cake. So pretty!
Want to learn Peggy's cake decorating secrets? Ask about the next masterclass at www.peggyporschen.com.
Peggy's beautifully designed Christmas bauble cookies are also available to order for Christmas, with prices starting at £8. To guarantee delivery in time for Christmas all orders must be received by Sunday, December 7. See the full range at www.peggyporschen.com or call 020 7738 1339.