And they also offer baking classes!
That was my destination recently, thanks to a birthday gift from Rick back last summer. He got hooked after taking his baguette class (which created a bread-making monster, thank goodness!) I signed up for Tea Cakes and my time to bake had finally arrived!
Ann Arbor is about an hour from my house and the class started at one. I knew I'd need lunch first so I contacted blogger Mae, one of my favorite foodie bloggers, to see if she was available. We'd never met in person and had "talked" about it for years. Finally it happened at Ann Arbor's Cafe Zola.
Those of you who have had face-to-face time with a fellow blogger know what I'm going to say -- it was great! Mae was the same warm, engaging and authentic Mae she is on Mae Food -- and we had plenty to talk about! Our conversations ranged from birds (Mae and her husband Len are avid bird watchers and show some great photos!), food, travel and yes, even Agatha Christie mysteries, the subject of some of her latest food posts.
All that, plus Cafe Zola's wonderful crepes made for a four-star start to my day!
|I had the champignon (mushroom) crepe. Yum!|
Then came class!
Our instructor, Nikki, was lively, well informed, fun and a good teacher. She took us through the recipes of three different tea time cakes. We began by making the yeast dough for an Icelandic coffee cake so that it would have time to rise while we worked on other things.
Then we dug into an aromatic "New Deli Crumb Cake" which was heavy on the brown sugar and butter, two of my favorite ingredients along with spices that included cardamon, cinnamon and ginger! The topping -- with coconut, pistachio and spices was to die for!
The classroom layout allowed the nine of us students plenty of room to work while the overhead mirror let us see Nikki's mixing from all angles.
The third treat was a raspberry ricotta cake. This was an extremely delicate cake using ricotta cheese and frozen raspberries. Nikki's tip -- when folding in fruit to a cake, frozen is often best because it doesn't break down the way fresh does, changing the color of your batter. If you are using fresh fruit, be careful when folding in!
We returned to our yeasty Scandinavian cake, rolling out the soft dough and making a mixture heavy on the almond paste and piping it inside.
|With a soft dough like the Icelandic ring, Nikki recommended using a pastry bag to distribute the filling as the pastry was more likely to break when the filling was spread with an offset spatula.|
Then it was rolled up like a jelly roll or pumpkin roll and the two ends joined together on parchment to make a circle. At this point, we cut into the circle with scissors every few inches and then twisted the cuts toward the outside and center alternately. An egg wash, a little more rising and baking and it was ready for its glaze.
|You can see how Nikki made cuts in her ring and then twisted the sections toward the center and outside. I had a little trouble with this but am eager to try again.|
This was one of my favorite tips! Nikki made a large bowl of glaze (enough to cover all our cakes, the only part of the day we didn't do ourselves). She mixes it with her hand, lifting it up to check consistency. Then she drizzles the glaze with her hand, the fingers making perfect, non-lumpy spots as she moves her hand over the cake.
|Nikki basically just moved her dripping hand over the warm cake and let the icing dribble on in several streams from her fingers. This was much more successful than the uneven, clumpy look I get when using a spoon.|
We ended the day with tasting the three and then received our own baked cakes ready to take home.
|As you can see, my Icelandic ring got a little off kilter when I was doing the twist but it didn't change the taste one bit. It was fabulous!|
That night and the next day I shared with Rick and friends. My two favorites are the Icelandic ring and New Deli cakes. I will definitely make both these again, though I might substitute pecans for pistachio in the New Deli. Jan was Icelandic ring all the way. I think Mark and Rick went with New Deli first and the ring being second. Same with Kate.
|The three cakes -- raspberry ricotta, New Deli Crumb Cake (front on blue plate) and Icelandic ring in the background.|
For me the most disappointing of the three is the raspberry ricotta. This might be because it is more delicate and when you are tasting them all together it doesn't have the flair. I also think it could have used a lot more raspberries and some lemon zest. I'll try this again with those adjustments and maybe with blueberries. It would also be delicious with a coulis or a side of fruit.
I was the only person in our class who was there for the first time an some came from at least 100 miles away. The workshops aren't inexpensive -- the four hour class (we got our cakes, instruction, supplies, a beverage and coupons for Zingermann's creamery and bakeshop) was $100. Many classes are more. Some are full day or even weekend.
But for me it was worth every penny and I would gladly return again, messy hands and all! What's next? Appetizers? Cookies? Pretzels? French or Italian dinners? Pizza? The possibilities are endless!