Last weekend, my friends, Aimee and Mia, and I squeezed in a 24-hour-round-trip flurry of a visit to New York and New Jersey. We went to see my bestie, Liz, who’s recently relocated up North for work.
Liz invited us to the NYC Wine and Food Festival. We decided that Sunday would be the best day to check it out. We left Maryland around 5 p.m. Saturday evening and got to New York City in record time – 3.5 hours! We had a great dinner at District Local – I recommend the whipped goat cheese, oysters with shrimp ceviche (yum!) and the octopus crostini…YES! – then headed over to Liz’s place in Hoboken.
On Sunday, we hit the festival at opening (right around noon). We checked out the Capital One lounge first – a clutch move. Capital One account holders were allowed to sign up for one of four hour-long cooking demos. We signed up for what we thought was a simple cake decorating class.
Little did we know we had stumbled into an Explosion Cake decorating class taught by Amirah Kassem of Flour Shop bakery in NYC. In researching this post, I learned that explosion cakes are “a thing” on Instagram and elsewhere. These big, beautiful cakes start at $150 on the bakery’s website. Kassam is also a confectionery celeb – aside from her successful business, she recently published the book The Power of Sprinkles.
At class time, we walked into a cute test kitchen and grabbed a seat. Each station had a six layer cake – each layer a different bright color of the rainbow. We also had a piping bag full of frosting, an offset spatula, a scraper tool (the only other time I’ve used one of these tools was in pottery class. So different using it on a cake!), a scooper … and sprinkles. LOTS of sprinkles.
We removed the top layer of the cake to discover that there was a hole in the middle of each lower layer. The layers aligned to make perfect cylinder that we filled about 1.5 lb. or so of assorted sprinkles. Then we piped two rings of icing around the outside of the opening that layer and topped with the last, hole-free layer.
The next step was to apply a thin layer of icing to the whole thing. It sounds like an easy step, but this, by far, took the most time in the class. Cold icing slowed the process down. We’d have been able to frost faster with room temp icing.
Then came the fun part. The sprinkles!! This actually required focus and some arm strength. Six layers of cake, thick layers of cream cheese icing and all those sprinkles in the middle – this thing was heavy. You had to balance it all on your dominant hand, and use your gloved non-dominant hand to apply handful after handful of rainbow nonpareils.
The result: A buttery, absolutely candy-covered, cream cheese icing slathered, super celebration cake! At the end of the class, we got to pack up our cakes and take them home. Though mine more closely resembled the Leaning Tower of Pisa by the time we got back to Maryland, the boys were thrilled when they found out what I’d brought back.
Because of its post-drive architectural challenges, the cake didn’t so much “explode.” It, more accurately, “tumbled” or “collapsed.” Regardless, it was DELICIOUS.
I come from a long line of expert cake bakers and consider myself a cake connoisseur. This was honestly one of the best tasting, non-homemade cakes I’ve ever had. There was no weird food-coloring related chemical taste despite the clear and copious use of food coloring in the cake layers and sprinkles. Eating the cake was an enjoyable experience all around. The cake crumb was tender, icing slightly tangy and not too sweet and all those crispy, crunchy sprinkles gave the best texture.
This Rachael Ray Show segment shows how Kassam makes the cake. William Sonoma also sells all the things you need to make the cake at home. If you do try this in your own kitchen, put down a tarp. Trust me. Those sprinkles go everywhere.
The cake class was a sweet end to a fun 24 hours. We packed a lot into a little bit of time. We laughed, made memories and learned lessons. (e.g. Messy baking projects are fun for some but VERY stressful for others. Ahem, Mia. Ha!)
It’s so hard to get away these days, so I’m happy we were able to see each other, even if just for a quick overnighter. Staying connected to your people is so important. This was the exact weekend recharge that I needed. #LivinMyBestLife, definitely.