Posted on November 20, 2018 at 6:00 am
I’ve made a few cakes and cupcakes for birthday parties over the years, usually from a box mix and a tub of frosting. Inevitably, my cake turns out lopsided, my cupcakes are dry, and the frosting is half-melting off the side. I realize that the last one happens because I start baking too late and the cake hasn’t cooled by the time I need to apply the frosting. So basically, I am admitting that baking and decorating baked goods aren’t talents of mine.
Luckily for me, anyone like me, and anyone not like me—in other words, with baking and decorating talent—Catee Ng is sharing her talent and know-how with all of us. Catee, a self-taught baker and decorator, is the Creator in Residence in December at The Lab at the North Spokane Library. She began cake decorating 7 years ago and now teaches classes around Spokane County at libraries, senior centers, and wherever anyone wants to learn the art of making delicious and beautiful creations.
I was able to ask Catee some questions about cake decorating, including her favorite decorating mediums and projects. She also shares recommendations for inspiration for anyone trying out cake, cupcake, and cookie decorating.
You’ll find more information about Catee’s Residence Days and workshops after the interview. There’s a lot to explore and indulge in this December!
Erin Dodge: What inspired you and how did you get started decorating cakes and baked goods?
Catee Ng: I have been baking for a long time. When I started out I used my Grandma’s cookbook. She was an incredible baker and cook. I have had a love for the Food Network since I got married and started watching all of their cake competitions and baking shows. One year, when my boys were little, they asked for decorated cakes, so I thought I would give it a try. I created cakes for each of their birthdays and I just kept going!
Erin: Fondant vs. frosting… What’s best for decorating and eating? What do you recommend for beginners?
Catee: I love how clean a fondant-covered cake looks, but I do not care for the flavor of traditional fondant. I make marshmallow fondant to use on the cakes I decorate, which does taste better. It makes for clean lines that help make cake creations look more professional, in my opinion. Embellishments made with fondant are much easier to achieve as well.
However, I prefer the flavor of frosting much more. I mean, frosting has butter or cream cheese, or both! It’s so much tastier. I work mostly in buttercream frosting, so I would recommend it over fondant. I find it’s easier to correct my mistakes if I’m working with buttercream. I use buttercream on all of my cakes and create small figures, flowers, or other embellishments with marshmallow fondant.
Erin: How much experimentation do you do for a design? Also, my colleagues want to know if you eat your mistakes (and need any volunteers to help with the eating).
Catee: This really depends on what the design element is. If it is a piping technique, I will do a little practice before I start a cake but not much. If I am needing a larger piece that I cannot replicate quickly, I will make it ahead of time. In that case I will make more than one of what I need. I am pretty organized in my planning so that I do not have to scramble during my decorating times.
I, honestly, have only made a few mistakes (knock on wood). I have two teenage sons and a husband that are more than happy to eat leftovers and extras. I rarely eat what I make, except to taste test for quality control when I am trying new recipes. I also have friends that will help with taste testing. Though, I am always looking for more taste testers!
Erin: What’s your most memorable decorating project? How about the strangest or most difficult project?
Catee: It is really difficult to choose just one! There is something special in everything that I create. I recently created a cake for a friend whose daughter was celebrating her 16th birthday. I have created many fondant roses over the years, but I had not tried many other flowers. Mt friend’s daughter’s name is Lily, so I created my first lily for her cake. The entire cake was gorgeous. It had a watercolor drip down the sides and lots of flowers covering the entire cake.
Erin: Are there baking and decorating shows, YouTube channels, or social media sites you would recommend to those just starting out?
Catee: When I started cake decorating, I watched a lot of ‘Ace of Cakes’ on the Food Network. I figured I would never create cakes on that large of a scale, but the inspiration was what I was after. I use YouTube videos as a guide when I’m looking to learn new techniques, but there aren’t any specific channels that I watch.
I do follow a bunch of different decorators on Instagram. My favorites are Wilton Cake Decorating, Ron Ben-Israel Cakes, The White Flower Cake Shoppe, Leslie Vigil, and Julie Simon Cakes, LLC. These cake decorators often post projects they have created on Instagram and give tutorials too.
Each week during her residency, Catee plans to begin a new project and complete it. Drop in during these open sessions, when she will have the medium she is using available for you to touch and try, along with tools.
THE LAB AT NORTH SPOKANE
Tuesday, Dec 4 & 18, 4–6pm
Friday, Dec 7, 14, 21 & 28, 1–3pm
Wednesday, Dec 12, 4–6pm
Thursday, Dec 27, 6–8pm
Basic Cupcake Decorating
Discover basic techniques for cupcake decorating, including different decorating supplies, terms, and piping tips you can use to create beautifully decorated cupcakes. You will get to practice your new skills on three cupcakes to take home with you. Registration is required. For Adults & Teens
THE LAB AT NORTH SPOKANE
Monday, Dec 10, 6:30–7:30pm | (event is full)
Creating Cake Embellishments: Fondant & Chocolate
Learn how to make your own modeling chocolate and marshmallow fondant at home to create beautiful flowers and figures for your cakes and cookies. This class is suggested for those who have some experience with baking and cake decorating. All supplies will be provided. Registration is required. For Adults & Teens
THE LAB AT NORTH SPOKANE
Monday, Dec 17, 6:30–8pm | (event is full)
See all of Catee’s days in residence and workshops on our online calendar.
Registration for classes and workshops on our online calendar typically opens 30 days before each class. You can also see upcoming programs and events in Engage, available online and in our libraries.
Tags: adults, art, baker, baking, buttercream, cake decorating, chocolate, classes, cookie decorating, cooking, creator in residence, cupcake decorating, DIY, edible art, fondant, food, frosting, hobbies, teens, The Food Network, The Lab