Culinary Classes

Some Food Safety “Did you Knows”


  • The internal temperature of your fridge should be 39 degrees or lower in order to keep food stored at the maximum recommended temp of 41.
  • When holding hot food for a period of time (like in a serving situation), try to keep temps at 135 degrees or higher.  Food that stays in the temperature danger zone (42-134) for four hours or more can become unsafe. This is true for hot or cold food, so beware the picnic leftovers!
  • When storing food in your fridge, it’s safest to store ready-to-eat food on top, then seafood, then whole cuts of beef, then ground meat, then poultry and eggs.   This reduces food safety risk due to dripping.

Minimum acceptable internal cooking temps:

  • Poultry 165 degrees
  • Ground meat or seafood  155 degrees
  • Steaks or chops of pork, beef, veal and lamb  145 degrees
  • Seafood  145 degrees
  • Roasts of pork, beef, veal, lamb   145 for 4 minutes
  • Fruit, veggies, rice, pasta, beans that will be hot-held   135 degrees

Basic Cake Decorating tips to share.

If you’ve ever tried to decorate a cake, you know it’s challenging! It’s not my forte either, but I’m working on it.  Here are some tips I’ve learned that might help you too.

-My mom used to decorate cakes and one day I was worried about a mistake she made in the writing on the cake.  She said not to worry.  If you mess up your decoration or writing, just wait until it dries and gently remove it with a toothpick.  Do it again!  She then talked about her belief that, in life, there was very little that you messed up that couldn’t be fixed.  The Wilton class reinforced this mantra to me and also reminded me of a nice childhood memory.

-When icing a cake, keep crumbs out by always keeping the icing between your spatula and the cake.  Push the icing along towards the edge.

-To smooth a cake for writing and decorating, wait until the icing sets and then place a piece of parchment paper on top and sides, using your hand or spatula to smooth out the rough spots.  Remove parchment and voila!

-You can use the cupcake tips for other things like making swirly mashed potatoes or whipped cream.

-When decorating the edges of a cake, keep your elbow anchored to your side as much as possible for stability and turn the cake, squeeze, turn, squeeze, and so on.  Make the cake come to you.  It makes a huge difference and so much better than moving your arm around the cake.  Duh!

-When writing on a cake, use writing gel.  It’s much easier.  You can also write your message in clear gel first to be sure you get it right and then go over with color.

-Roll the decorator bag down on the sides before filling and then twist to close.  Much less messy this way.

-There is a special tool called a cake leveler that shaves off the top dome of the cake to make it level.  Of course, you should flip it upside down and use the flat bottom as the top. The leveler can also be used to torte a cake.

-Always use a cardboard cake round instead of a plate.  Makes doing the bottom so much easier!


Cake Decorating Tips

I’ve always had awful handwriting and have struggled with drawing, picking out furniture and school crafts… So it’s no real surprise that most of my delicious-tasting cakes can look pretty rough unless I keep presentation really, really simple.  I finally mastered squeezing icing out of a snipped Ziploc bag and that’s about as far as the icing decorating talents extend.   So, I’m trying to up my game.  Here are some tips that I want to share with you.

  • It’s all about the tools!!!  Just like most any endeavor, if you have the right tools to do the job it turns out better.  For cake decorating beginners, you gotta have a turntable (who knew!), a good angled spatula, a medium-stiff buttercream icing recipe, and some real decorating bags and tips (ziploc won’t cut it).
  • Ever see those tortes with really thin layers of cake?   You do it with a cake leveler!  I actually did it on this cake.  It’s only one 8-inch cake split into two layers with a cherry pie filling in between.
  • Keep the juicy fillings from gushing out between layers by building a dam of stiff icing all the way around the cake layer and then filling it.
  • To make the top of a cake smooth before decorating, you can pat it/smooth it down with a sheet of parchment paper and a spatula or press.  Just be sure and wait until the icing is no longer sticky to the touch.. but not all the way set either.

Cool, huh?

Some Basic Baking Tips

If there is an budding baker in you, here are some basic tips for getting that cake to turn out just right!  Some of these tips are from Wilton Cake Decorating.

  • A pan with a lighter color (finish) like a shiny metal will result in a lighter colored crust.  I don’t like the dark non-stick pans, they always make my cookies and cakes too dark on the outside.
  • Two really cool tools to make your baking more successful:  Cake Release (a product you brush lightly on the bottom and sides of pan) and Bake-Even Strips (wrap these around outside of pan before baking to bake more even cakes without that puffy crown.)
  • Measure liquid ingredients at eye level and always level off dry ingredients.
  • Fill prepared pans only half full.
  • Bake cakes immediately after mixing in the center of oven.
  • Allow at least 1 inch of space on all sides and between pans.
  • Don’t open the oven door during the first 20 minutes of baking.
  • Test cakes for doneness while they are still in the oven.
  • Cool cakes in pans for only 10 minutes, using a cooling rack.
  • Plain Crisco is the only kind of shortening I will use in a cake.
  • To remove cake from a pan, place waxed paper over top of cake and place a second grid (cooling rack) on top of the paper.  Flip it over and remove bottom pan.  The wax paper keeps grid from making marks on the cake.

Did you know?
-3 teaspoons equals 1 tablespoon
-The number of X’s on confectioner’s sugar indicates the number of times it has been sifted.

Food Safety FYI

1.  Ready to eat food is generally good for 7 days in the fridge from the time it’s prepared or opened.

2. Even though most oils are fine stored at room temp, if you add something to the oil (like herbs, garlic, or peppers), you should store in the fridge.

3. Foods most likely to become unsafe include milk and dairy, beef, pork, lamb, chicken, fish, baked potatoes, tofu, sliced melons, cut tomatoes, cut leafy greens, eggs, shellfish, cooked rice, cooked beans, cooked vegetables, sprouts, seeds, and untreated oil mixtures.