I grew up baking.
As a girl, I earned ribbons — and even a little prize money — entering brownies, chocolate chip cookies and angel biscuits in the Allen Parish Fair.
In junior high school, my 4-H Demonstration Day presentation was on how to decorate a cake covered in whimsical clowns.
I learned from my mother, who made elaborate wedding cakes for many of our small town’s brides in the 1970s.
So when I heard about Florida Academy of Baking in Satellite Beach, I was intrigued.
“This is all what I’ve always dreamed about,” Angela McEllin, who opened the school in November.
It’s a dream for anyone who loves to cook, too. It’s bright and cheerful, with 10 cooking stations and all the cool gadgets any home chef could want.
McEllin teaches many of the classes from a work station at the front of the room. She wears a microphone, so everyone can hear her instructions, and large flatscreen monitors hang on either side of her, giving everyone a clear view of what she’s doing.
Some of McEllin’s classes have included Italian rainbow cookies, Jaffa Cakes, banoffee pie, focaccia and scones. She also offers summer life skills camps and private group classes.
Other local chefs join the fun, too.
“As much as I do like teaching, I can’t do all of the classes,” McEllin said.
Scott Earick of Scott’s on Fifth in Indialantic has taught classes in making pan sauces. Chocolatier Mary Story teaches sweet classes, such as French macarons and chocolate truffles.
Fernando Navarrete, a private chef, has taught Latin flavors and Southern comfort food. Susie Evans Ardovini’s classes have included Romantic Ravioli and Tempting Tortellini. Sean Joyce, a local caterer, teaches marinades, sushi and hors d’oeuvres.
Born in Florida to an American father and an Irish mother, McEllin moved to Ireland as a college student to help her aunt run a bed and breakfast. She met a man and stayed for the next 20 years.
She opened a bakery in Ireland, and a friend started a business selling baking and cake decorating equipment.
“She asked me to come in to do some demos using the tools,” McEllin said. “That’s how I started teaching classes.”
She went on to earn master decorator credentials for teaching from Knightsbridge in the United Kingdom.
While in Europe, McEllin taught cook at adult education and vocational schools. She loved teaching, but the equipment often was lacking.
“Students would have to share equipment,” she said. “It would take twice as long to make something.”
When she and husband Rory opened Florida Academy of Baking, they equipped each station with a KitchenAid mixer, an induction burner and a culinary scale. There are measuring spoons and cups, mixing bowls, pots and pans, strainers and sifters. If you’re going to need it for your class, you’ll find it at your station.
Each station has a KitchenAid mixer, an induction burner and a culinary scale. There are measuring spoons and cups, mixing bowls, pots and pans, strainers and sifters. If you’re going to need it for your class, you’ll find it at your station.
Dirty a dish, and someone from the FAB staff whisks it away to the washroom. Because few things can beat cooking and not having to clean up after yourself.
I chose a petit fours class. I’ve always loved those magical bites of heaven, tiny and perfect, like cakes made for fairies.
Be forewarned: If you attend a FAB class, you don’t sit back and watch. You whip up a perfect buttercream icing. You strain the seeds out of raspberry jam. You stir and stir and stir fondant over simmering water, hoping and praying you did everything right as you wait for the white chocolate and sugar to reach the perfect consistency.
Petit fours are complicated, and the class took all day. We made everything: the sponge (cake), raspberry jam, buttercream icing, fondant glaze, even the delicate sugar flowers. Luckily, we got a lunch break and enjoyed delicious focaccia baked by Rory McEllin as we worked.
I left Florida Academy of Baking tired and happy, excited to put my newfound skills to use, and in possession of two boxes of gorgeous, delicious petit fours.
A day of hard work that ends with cake is the dream.
Prices vary, but classes generally range from $79 to $149. Times also vary, and range from two to six hours. Week-long camps and multi-class courses are available. Many classes allow Dynamic Duos: Two people share a workstation and split the cost.
Everything you make, you take home.
Note: Angela McEllin measures ingredients by weight rather than volume. If you don’t have one already, invest in a culinary scale.
454 grams lightly salted butter, room temperature3
500 grams confectioner’s sugar
Up to 3 teaspoons extract of choice: vanilla, almond, lemon, orange or coconut
Beat butter and sugar together on low speed until light and creamy. Scrape down sides periodically. Once mixture is pale in color, add your extract 1 teaspoon at a time, and continue beating at slow speed until liquid is incorporated. Taste between each teaspoon of extract to make sure you have the desired flavor.
Note 1: For chocolate buttercream, add 90 grams Dutch Process Cocoa Powder and only 1 teaspoon of extract.
Note 2: You can replace extracts with up to 3 tablespoons of liquor or liqueur, such as Cointreau, Bailey’s, Disaronno, Kahlua, Malibu, Chambord, Limoncello or Frangelico. Do not add more than 3 tablespoons, as this will make your buttercream soupy and difficult to spread or pipe. Liquors and liqueurs can also be used in chocolate buttercream. Bailey’s Irish Cream is McEllin’s favorite with chocolate.
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