Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Workshop week!

Apparently Switzerland has a whole new (to me) set of rhinoviruses, since I've come down with my second severe cold in as many months. In related news, I've now been here for two months!! Where does the time go? Craziness...

Despite being sick, however, I have been able to take advantage of Workshop Week by the American Women's Club of Zurich (henceforth known as AWCZ), of which I am a proud card-carrying member. Ok, they don't really have cards, but I do have a nifty laminated name tag that I get to wear whenever I am in the clubhouse (if they have a secret handshake, I haven't learned it yet - but how cool would that be?). They also have the largest English library in the city, and it's FREE! This is important, as the five boxes of books I shipped over may only last me another six months or so, judging by my current consumption of books (which I now obsessively track on Goodreads).

Anyway - Workshop Week is eight days' worth of classes that range from cooking to self-help to card readings. It's quite the dizzying array - I was amazed when the email first arrived. I signed up for three classes total, and was disappointed I couldn't sign up for more due to conflicting times with German class.

Cupcake with sugarpaste topping.
On Saturday morning, I attended a cupcake decorating class that was run by two lovely women from Ribizli. Over the course of two hours, we learned to roll out and play with fondant and also tried our hand at piping buttercream frosting; I was much more successful at the former. I've seen a good friend (unfortunately the blog is abandoned, but it's worth checking out!) produce some amazing cake creations from fondant that she makes from scratch, and I always was intrigued by the concept - unfortunately her recipe involves marshmallows, which are scarce and absurdly expensive here. So I was pleased to find out that a pre-made form of fondant can be purchased in Switzerland. The woman actually called it "sugarpaste" and I was unclear if this was simply the British terminology, or if it is actually a different item (this confusion actually arises more often than one would expect - I spent wayy too long on the internet last week attempting to compare molasses and treacle).

Sugarpaste items, most from stamps (not the rather sad looking blue rose - first attempt, oh well). I can't wait to try out some freeform rabbits/carrots for Easter. Coz I am excited by such ideas.

Buttercream + sugarpaste shapes on the left (the shapes are hiding where I went too fast and messed up the piping), finished sugarpaste-only on the right.

The class felt a tad basic - the women mentioned that it was an abridged version of their normal 4 hour decorating class, which I would've loved to have done - but I had a great time. They said bring an apron, so - obviously - I showed up with my Star Wars one, although it hadn't made it into the 7 laundry loads over 2 days last week, so it was embarrassingly flour-y (that makes me look authentic, right?). But I did learn several useful tidbits that I would not have known if I had attempted this on my own (including: use cornstarch, not powdered sugar, if the sugarpaste starts to get sticky).

The table, hard at work! The array of supplies was quite impressive, and we each got 3 cupcakes to decorate as we saw fit.
They had an impressive selection of stamps and cookie cutters for playing with the fondant, which they had in every color imaginable (some purchased, some made). I would have liked to learn more about playing with the icing as free-form, but they did teach us how to make a rose by hand, as well as many interesting suggestions for making stamps/cutouts more three-dimensional. I admit, as soon as my fever broke yesterday, I ran out and bought both white and colored fondant from the store, although I need to visit a kitchen specialty store (probably Sibler) for the recommended cutters, rolling pin, and plastic tools.

Finished products, including the cute spotted dog that didn't really fit any of my cupcakes, but I took him home and ate him anyway.

This morning I attended a "Road Rules" workshop led by a Zurich police officer. It was very helpful - for most of the 90 minutes, she fielded questions that we all had, and she had a brilliant setup with Google Earth on an overhead projector that allowed her to show us actual examples of intersections, signs, etc. I'm still nervous about renting a car and having my first driving experience here, but I feel a bit more prepared now.


  1. Looks great! I've always wanted to learn how to use fondant, too.

  2. I think the secret handshake for an American club in Europe should be a chest bump.