Whether you’re a full-blown bake-a-holic or more of a Betty Crocker, after two hours in a master class at The Grounds of Alexandria, you’ll be walking away with a cake that’ll blow the socks off of the lucky people that get to eat it.
The Grounds is holding just four cake decorating masterclasses as part of its Easter celebrations – they involve two hours of drinking wine, icing cakes and eating all the edible sweets you didn’t use as decorations (hmm maybe we weren’t supposed to do that, but who can resist mini meringues and mini macarons?!).
It’s 6.30pm on a weekday, the garden is quiet and the crowds have finally gone. You’re welcomed into the café, through to the Bakery, the newest expansion that has seen part of the kitchen expanded into a French countryside kitchen, complete with Aga stove, painted tiles above the stovetop and a big long kitchen table. There’s wine, sparkling, sodas, trays of moreish tarts and arancini. We’ve got the Grounds to ourselves and it’s like being a kid in a candy shop. We open the custom-build Bakery fridges to take happy snaps of the cute cupcakes and sneak a peek into the giant kitchen cold rooms.
That’s all before the main event even starts. We’re here to learn how to decorate one of The Grounds’ signature styles – a white choc naked cake. Beloved by brides, idolized on Instagram, the naked cake is a study in less is more. A careful scrap of icing that we quickly learn is harder to pull off than it looks. Icing hides all kinds of sins. At least it does in our kitchen. Here it’s pretty hard to make a mistake.
Chef Paul, head chef and patient teacher (very patient, remember, we all had wine), carefully demonstrates how to slice a cake level, how to spread the icing in layers and how to use a palette knife to perfect a smooth finish. We’re given freshly baked cakes, all we need to do is lop off the top lumpy bits, lay down the icing and repeat, until all the cake layers have been stacked. Chef Paul pops his excess cake top into the bin – there’s a collective gasp as the cake disappears. When it’s clear every single one of us is planning on keeping our cake tops, and snacking on them right then and there, out come very thoughtful takeaway containers so we can take our excess cake home – Chef Paul says it will make excellent trifle. Ours is gone pretty much by the end of the class but we’ll take his word for it!
Sous Chef Erica is on hand to help the rogue cake icing-ers get back on track – she’s got some great tips on baking too and we’re all soon trying to steal her away to teach us how to get a perfectly smooth cake surface. “Don’t get teased by the oven! Leave that door closed”…
Once the hard part is done, the fun begins. We leave the kitchen and walk our cakes over to the Bakery’s private dining room, and head stylist Therese Moussa gives us a few top notch decorating tips. We get over excited and start cramming piles of caramelized popcorn on our cakes, and get gold dust all over the place turning standard Easter chocolates into spectacular golden eggs. There are flowers, and raspberries, fresh figs, meringues, macarons, chocolates. Luckily Therese is there to diplomatically provide tips around building your decorations up, using height, never arranging anything in pairs.
We watch as Therese creates the perfect mise en scene for an Easter cake photo shoot – vintage suitcase, old scales, tea lights, more gold dust, foliage and flowers bring the scene to life. What follows is a flurry of fun phone photos where we pop our cakes into the scene, snap a few shots and then let someone else swap their cake in.
It’s a fun night that shows you from start to finish how The Grounds brings its special magic to life. It may look effortless, but it’s clear that attention to detail is king here. There’s nothing too small or too big they won’t tackle – and they’re not afraid to have fun at the same time.
The Grounds Easter Cake Decorating Masterclass
Wednesday 12th April, Thursday 13th April, $147.29 per person, bookings essential
Price includes tuition from The Grounds’ Pastry Team, all tools and equipment provided on the day, a professionally finished cake to take home with you, as well as a beautiful selection of The Grounds signature canapés and beverages on the evening.