Chef Shawn Matijevich demonstrating sifting over a piece of parchment which makes adding the dry ingredients
to a stand mixer much easier.
I’m not one to be up on hipster vernacular (80s girl here still stuck on “duh,” “stoked,” and “awesome”), but let me just say this: red velvet cake has been my jam since I first tasted my mother’s Christmastime red cake when I was a wee child (I think I've been watching too much of the Starz series, "Outlander" as I'm thinking with a Scottish accent these days!). The cake is seriously yum and it was a tradition we all looked forward to every year. And, uh, no cream cheese, if you please, it was topped with a fluffy whipped frosting (known as "ermine frosting") which mom's recipe book called "snowdrift" frosting. I love my mother’s red velvet cake to this day. It’s a tender, tangy, stunning, dramatic cake that I’ve written about before. Nonetheless, I’m always looking to see how other people make red velvet just in case there’s a tidbit I can take from their version to make our family’s better.
Clean, large, beautiful professional kitchen at the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of California San Diego
Learning, growing, experimenting is what life is all about. No matter our area of expertise, the moment you feel you have nothing left to learn is the moment your work starts to suffer. Closed off from the universal creative well, you get stuck in a rut, rehashing what you already know and the work becomes stagnant. It’s why I love to spend time in the kitchen cooking with family and friends (like here, here and here), why I love to collaborate with other photographers both on set and running workshops, dissecting how other photographer’s tackle similar projects, why I am always reading other food and design blogs, looking at other artists work, reading how other writers structure their words, and when time and finances allow, taking workshops from seasoned professionals just as committed to sharing and learning as I am.
At the start of the month, I was invited to take a GetCreative! Culinary Class at the San Diego campus of the Art Institute of California. I was beyond stoked to get the invitation. Looking over the course schedule and comparing it to my availability, it just so happened that the day I could attend was the very first GetCreative! course on campus: Red Velvet Cupcakes and More!
My sister takes her turn sifting.
Chef demonstrating how to fill a pastry bag and how to control flow to fill cupcake liners. Then it was our turn. Look at that gorgeous red!
Dressed in long pants, long sleeves and closed toe shoes as instructed, we showed up bright and early and waited in the lobby until the rest of the attendees arrived. Once we were all assembled, we were led upstairs to the culinary wing of the main building and entered what would be our classroom for the day: a beautiful, restaurant-sized professional kitchen with 6 workstations and a demo table.
The culinary arts students prepped all the ingredients for the four desserts that we'd be hands-on learning, labeled and separated by lines drawn on the parchment liners. Each workstation had a complete tray.
And away we go! Our team cooking marathon begins. First up: Arborio Rice Pudding.
"A lot of the instructors are excited about teaching these one-off workshops (which take place in the evenings and on weekends and are in addition to their normal classes) because they can teach without having to worry about grading," said John Sexton, GetCreative! Program Coordinator on the SD campus.
Teams would each have four recipes to produce: a peach cobbler, a blueberry quick bread, sweet rice pudding and Chef's take on a banana bread pudding with caramel. It was left up to the teams whether to tackle each recipe as a group or assign a recipe to each team member. Our team, as did most of the others, opted for the team approach much to the disappointment of both my sister and I. Having grown up in a family were gatherings are always food-centric, we are both so particular about how to do things and are very comfortable in the kitchen. Our other two team members were not so we took one for the team.
Learning the difference between French and Italian meringue.
We also had demonstrations on making meringue frosting, meringue for a flourless chocolate cake, pastry cream, filling cupcakes with said cream and cupcake decorating (two additional types of cupcakes were made prior to the start of class due to time constraints so as to give us as more decorating experience during the four hour workshop).
The white cupcakes were made by the culinary students and chef prior to our arrival for class so that we'd have plenty of time
to practice our piping skills.
As our creations came out of the oven and we finished the decorating, chef brought out display platters and pedestals to place our creations on and marched us out to The Palette, the student run cafe that apparently is closed on the weekends.
He lined the platters up on the counter and gave us his closing thoughts. He wanted us to see the fruits of our collective labor in an Instagram-friendly environment.
I thought that was a great way to end our day's adventure.
Five takeaways from the class
- Cake flour creates a more tender crumb.
- To help combat dry cakes, use vegetable oil instead of butter.
- Don't over-mix cake batter. Doing so will develop the gluten and make cakes tough.
- If you need a more stable meringue, use an Italian meringue which cooks the sugar as a simple syrup. While slowly adding the cooled simple syrup to the egg whites while whipping, the egg whites are gently cooked and over-whipping is nearly impossible. (Over-whipping French meringue will cause the whipped eggs to break).
- Don't get hung up on time when it comes to baking. Learn to rely on your sense of smell and touch: you should first be able to smell the cake and second, a cake that springs back when gently touched is ready to be removed from the oven.
Learn more about the GetCreative! classesSexton, the program coordinator, told me that for years, people having been asking if the Art Institute offered classes or workshops to non-institute students. They realized that there was a demand for classes that would feed community interests. Currently, Philadelphia and San Diego are the campuses testing out the GetCreative! program to see how it goes over in the communities they serve. San Diego is the first to get the program underway.
Course areas of interests are:
- Art Foundations
- The Business of Art
- Creative Writing
- Culinary Arts
- Recording Arts
- Software for Designers
- Textiles, Fashion & Jewelry
Special: Classes are 50% off if you enroll by October 31.
(I have my eye on a Wordpress class that this discount will make fit into my budget.)
See the San Diego campus course schedule here.
The Art Institute of California in San Diego
7650 Mission Valley Road
San Diego, CA 92108
Chef Shawn recommends weighing ingredients rather than measuring volume for more accurate and predictable results. "Digital scales in the kitchen are a must," he emphasized. That said, this recipe is measured in weight, not volume.
9 ounces cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground ginger
2 ounces butter, room temperature, plus more for buttering the pan
5 ¼ ounces sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
½ cup whole milk
1 pound fresh blueberries
3 ½ ounces sugar
1 ½ ounces cake flour
½ teaspoon nutmeg
2 ounces very cold butter, cubed
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 9x12 cake (or lasagna) pan.
2. Sift together the dry ingredients. Set aside.
3. Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg, mix until incorporated.
4. Add a third of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Mix until incorporated then add ⅓ of the milk and mix well. Continue alternating and mixing after each addition until all the flour and milk is incorporated.
5. Fold in the blueberries.
6. To make the topping, sift together the sugar, flour and nutmeg. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients using a pastry cutter, two knives or your fingers (if using your hands, work quickly so as to not soften the butter). The end result should be crumbly and sandy not like a dough.
7. Place the cake batter in the pan, sprinkle with topping and bake for 35 minutes or until topping is golden.
Recipe courtesy of Chef Shawn Matijevich, International Culinary School at the Art Institute of California San Diego. Reprinted with permission.
Until next time friends! Happy baking.
Until next time friends! Happy baking.
Disclosure: I was contacted by the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of California San Diego and invited to take a culinary class of my choosing. I was not asked to do a post or compensated other than the comp'd class for myself and my sister for this editorial write-up. As always, all opinions are my own.