Spring arrived early at Spring Lake Park High School’s creative foods class last week in the form of turtles, ducks and flowers – made of icing.
Sharon Hintze, cake decorator and part owner of P.J. Murphy’s Bakery in St. Paul, deftly frosted cakes in a quick demo for about 28 students in teacher Lori Henry’s second-level creative foods class.
As if by magic, Hintze fashioned ribbons, leaves and roses to glam up the white frosted, round cakes set before her.
Need a special cake for someone who likes to scuba dive?
No problem. Hintze adds blue frosting, spreads it across the top of the cake for an oceanic effect and background. She adds green icing for seaweed and more.
“What’s the most difficult part?” a student asks about decorating cakes.
“Confidence and creativity,” Hintze fires back as she continues to add ribbons and borders to the cakes.
The motor skills movement she uses are not unlike cursive writing, she says.
Looks ‘so easy’
Hintze grabs a pastry bag and using a special pastry tube tip, she constructs a yellow rose, petal by petal. She gingerly lifts it from a small metal base with a scissors and places it on the cake.
“She makes it look so easy,” Henry says, smiling in amazement.
Hintze asks Henry for a cupcake, cakes the kids baked as part of an assignment a day earlier.
Hintze first frosts the cake with bright yellow icing. She adds dabs of green frosting on the sides, a larger dollop near the top, and, shazam! The cupcake turns into a turtle, his long neck and head poking out the top of the miniature cake.
Then, Hintze turns the class loose on cakes and cupcakes. They are to have a go at frosting their own masterpieces.
“I think it’s fun,” said senior Jessica Gunderson. “You get to actually decorate and use your creativity.”
Said India Bembry, a junior, and Jessica’s cake-decorating partner, “I’m learning some skills I would be using in my future if I want to be a cake decorator.”
Ninth-grader Kayla French made a chick from a cupcake and yellow icing just in time for Easter.
She was thinking of duplicating the turtle idea, but “I thought a duck would be easier,” she said.
With her newly learned skills, Kayla plans to decorate a cupcake for her five-year-old cousin’s upcoming birthday.
Students in Henry’s class learn advanced food techniques. Among other projects, they have created a pasta salad from five different pastas.
In a garnish unit, they sculpted roses from radishes, made baskets from oranges and sharks from cucumbers.
Henry also teaches basic knife skills in the course – how to julienne vegetables, potatoes, for example, to make french fries.
Hintze worked at P.J. Murphy’s Bakery as head cake decorator for 10 years. Five years ago she was offered a partnership with owners Joel and Michelle Lemanski.
She became interested in cake decorating when she attended Northland Technical College in Rhinelander, Wis. She went into hospitality management and had attended a food show featuring cake decorating.
“I said, ‘teach me how to do that,’” she said.
She later enrolled in food-decorating courses taught by Rich’s Corporation, a national company.
Every once in a while Hintze, in her job, admits to coming up against a creative block, one she likens to a writer’s block. But the creativity always finds its way back to her.
For Hintze, the best part of her job is the look of joy on a child’s face when they see their birthday cakes. Or the emails she receives from brides saying the cake made for a perfect day, Hintze said.
Even more appealing is the feeling of family and community her art brings, she says. Not a far stretch from one who comes from a family of eight (she’s the youngest), where the kids cooked together and ate together.
And the best part of demonstrating in Henry’s class?
“It’s the kids. It’s the interaction,” said Hintze, who happens to be the mother of ninth-grade SLP language arts teacher Gretchen Hintze. “Everyone gets involved with the creativity.
“We took this whole group and pulled them all together,” she said.
And, yes, the students enjoyed the fruits, or, in this case, the sweets of their labor.
At the end of the hour, they consumed the cakes, frosting and all.
For more information on Sharon Hintze, call her at P.J. Murphy’s Bakery at 651-699-9292 or look her up on Facebook.
Elyse Kaner is at firstname.lastname@example.org