I was SO excited when I learned that Bronwen Weber was going to teach a class nearby! I couldn’t wait to learn tips and tricks from such an incredible instructor. Bronwen is infamous in the cake industry for pushing things to the limit, for internal structures and supports once only seen in plumbing, and for her enthusiastic love of her job. Bronwen has competed in eight Food Network Challenges, coming away with three gold medals, four silver, and one bronze and noted as the most medaled competitor on the show. She also won one of the most coveted prizes in the cake industry, the Grand Prize in the Wedding Cake Division of the Oklahoma Sugar Art Show. Bronwen started off producing cakes in a supermarket bakery which is sometimes scoffed at in the custom cake business, but it taught her speed and discipline like no other bakery job could. She is currently the executive chef and general manager of Frosted Art Bakery and Studio in Dallas, TX. When I learned she’d be sharing her skills at a hands-on class in Lebanon, I jumped at the chance to take it.
There are several kinds of classes in the cake industry, as I’m sure is the same in any trade. Demos are when the artist is in front of a large group and completes a project, or several projects while explaining what they are doing. These are very popular because they cost less and more people can be packed in to watch. I am not a fan of just demos. I like to get my hands on a project and feel for myself how to make the finished product. That brings us to a hands-on class. It means just that-you get your HANDS ON the project and complete it during class. It’s typically a much smaller group, as everyone needs their work space, tools, and they are typically two days if the project is labor intensive. These are also more expensive classes because the instructor will bring all materials needed to complete the project so everyone is working with the exact same mediums and tools.
Bronwen had an idea in her head years ago to make a structure that stood on two legs. That was unheard of until then, as cakes need at least three legs to make then structurally sound-like a stool. She and her incredibly talented husband, Francois, developed a way to make a cake on two legs and she’s been sharing the system for years. The wonderful thing about it is that she tried several mediums that failed and we don’t have to. We were taught how to do it right the first time and learned about all the things she tried that failed.
Bronwen’s class was to make a standing Santa cake and it was incredibly fun! She would demo how to do the first step and then all 20 or so in the class would go back to our work stations to create. Then we would move on to the next step. It was one of the easiest classes I’ve ever taken, but would not have known where to even begin without her and I’m so thankful for that!
At the very beginning, she asked each of us how much we thought we would charge for Santa, just by looking at him. My initial thought was about $150. I could see that there would have to be several steps and lots of time to make him look so great. Halfway through she asked us all if the price went up. Yep, it did. At that time I decided he was more like $300 and by the end my price was up to $500. This was a 2-day class and we all barely finished by the end! I’m sure I can make him faster at my own speed now but it is still incredibly labor intensive and he uses a lot of modeling chocolate and fondant. The support alone is very expensive.
What I learned is that I can basically make any figure using this knowledge and when I get time (famous last words) I intend to make another custom structure using this same idea but in a VERY different way. This particular cake will only feed about 10 people, so it’s definitely more about the art and awe than feeding a crowd. My job is to convince people they need it! One of my favorite things about the class is that in 20 Santas, they all looked similar but there were not a single two alike. It was really fun to see the differences!
Bronwen, thank you so much for sharing your time and talent with me and 20 of my TN ICES friends! That was a lesson I will never forget and a night of cake chat at dinner that was a real treat!