Students in Jeanne Gray's Advanced Techniques of Pastry Arts class at Virginia College in Ft. Pierce recently created novelty cakes inspired by Alice in Wonderland. The novelty cake challenge is part of a new curriculum for the Pastry Arts program, and the students were admittedly a little nervous about the task.
“The idea of doing a novelty cake was stressful and yet very exciting,” says Kathy Hollinger, who previously graduated from the Culinary Arts program and has returned to complete the Pastry Arts program. “I was not in my comfort zone. Chef kept saying, ‘Some of you will run to it and others will be coming kicking and screaming.' I was the one kicking and screaming. It was very difficult and scary. Then, after seeing some of the finished products we worked on, I started feeling better.”
Hollinger's classmate Sammantha Metz shared those fears about working on her first novelty cake.
“I was scared because I was not sure if we would have partners or not. The idea of making one alone was scarier than anything else,” she says. “My partner and I communicated to figure out what the idea of the novelty cake would be. I was so scared that I was going to mess something up or the ideas that I had wouldn't be good enough. When we had our plan, the idea became more and more exciting.”
The students worked in pairs over two days to complete the cakes.
“I learned that teamwork and time management is very important to have when you are to become a pastry chef,” says student Victoria Raines.
Ultimately, determination and tenacity prevailed and the students gained something that even their instructors can't simply teach: self-confidence.
“I spent hours one night making just the fondant roses for the cake, which took a lot of patience. But I now feel more comfortable making fondant roses,” says student Victoria Mangiapani. “I could not have faced the challenges of this project without the instruction of Chef Gray. With her support, I was able to learn the skills I needed to complete my vision for the cake. It is really amazing to see the idea in your head come to life. I will hold this amazing experience in my memories for all of my career as a pastry chef and for the rest of my life.”