The Block Island Times

When the beach wears thin, cupcake class beckons

By Judy Tierney | Sep 05, 2012

The scene could be Crescent Beach, or Mansion Beach, or even State Beach. A tan woman wearing a pink bikini is lounging on a red raft beneath a striped umbrella on a sandy beach. Sapphire water laps just beyond her head, and the fin of a shark lurks beyond.

But there’s no need to fear; she and her beach and the water beyond it are merely decorations atop a cupcake. She is, in fact, a fondant figure, a confection made of sugar and water, glycerine and gelatin. She and the entire scene will eventually be eaten, but not by the shark, by humans.

Only, however, after being admired.

The beach scene was sculpted and assembled by my great-niece Kristen Rubenstein at Project Cupcake, a children’s cake decorating class held at the Johnson and Wales Culinary Museum in Providence.

Kristen’s mother knew that two weeks with us on Block Island might just wear the beach out of her kids, so before they came, she told each of them to choose some nearby mainland tourist attractions to visit.

Eleven year old Kristen, who loves to bake, asked to go to the Johnson and Wales Culinary Arts University museum. Just in case it was a short tour through there, I searched online and found out the cooking school was sponsoring a cupcake decorating class. We signed Kristen up for Project Cupcake Beach Party and let the rest of the family go to The Atlantic Paranormal Society headquarters in Warwick to feed their interest in ghosts and the nether world while we iced the cupcakes and shaped the decorations.

The class was at noon, which gave us ample room to take the 10 a.m. ferry and still get there on time. The project director, Kristin M. Zosa Puleo, and the two culinary students, Emmalee Santioni, who had recently graduated, and Courtney Staiano, in her last year of study there, presented a description of the ingredients they were supplying and how they could be used. Their computer slideshow and demonstrations held the childrens’ attention.

Each child was given three cupcakes and a bakery box in which to take them home. The fondant was already made and ready to be shaped into beach balls, octopi, or surfboards or whatever else the children imagined. Fruit Roll-Ups made perfect rafts. The icing was already in bags, ready to be shot onto the top of the cakes. Ground cracker crumbs made perfect beach sand.

By 1:15 p.m. Kristen was finished, and we spent a half hour looking at the exhibits in the culinary museum. I especially liked the Howard Johnson waitress uniform, a white blouse with red comets and an aqua skirt; the black iron wood-fired cooking stoves; and the tiny kitchen with a white sink like we used to see in the Honeymooners television show. Okay, I admit, also like the one my mother had in her kitchen until I was out of grammar school.

We even got to pick up some free cookbooks at the museum. I found “Secrets of a Chef,” published in l972, which has some recipes I haven’t seen in a long time, with hints like don’t take the pit out of the avocado if you don’t want your guacamole to turn brown.

At $12, the class was a bargain, and Kristen will take home some decorating skills to California. If the museum offers children’s classes again, island parents might consider signing up any interested children. Time wise, the activity fit nicely after a morning of shopping and a snack for the kids, and is just long enough for a parent to go have lunch nearby in Providence while the kids make dessert.

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