It’s hard to believe we are over halfway through my pastry school recap series! I recently graduated from pastry school at The International Culinary Center, and I am sharing all about my experience here on The Baker’s Almanac. If you missed the first few recaps, make sure to check out the links below to get caught up.
If you read my last recap, you know already that I struggled a lot with the first cake unit. After that, I have to admit I felt pretty nervous as we moved onto making more advanced cakes. However, I ended up really enjoying this unit, and I felt proud of many of the cakes I made!
We started off pretty easy, making a simple black forest cake and a fraisier cake. I had never tried a black forest cake before, and I am officially obsessed with chocolate and cherries when paired together.
Black forest cake in progress
Then, we moved onto making some more unique cakes, such as a charlotte russe cake and a chocolate mousse cake. A lot of these cakes had lots of components and tons of steps, which made them seem a bit intimidating. It was worth it in the end, though!
Charlotte russe cake
All in all, my absolute favorite cake from this unit ended up being the pistachio raspberry entremet. Entremets are classic mousse-baked cakes with multiple layers and varying textures. I really loved the blend of pistachio and raspberry for this cake, and it had an amazing crunch because of the pistachio feuilletine.
Towards the end of this cake unit, I also got to try my hand at using fondant for the first time. We each made our own gift box cake, choosing our designs and crafting a ribbon for the top of the cake. I really enjoyed working with fondant, and I actually like the taste quite a bit (though I know lots of people don’t care for it).
Gift box cake
After wrapping up the cake unit, we moved onto making petits fours! Petits fours are small, individual-sized desserts, and in French, the name ‘petit four’ actually means “small oven.”
We made all kinds of delicious petits fours during this unit, such as langues de chat (which translates to cat’s tongue) and florentines. It takes a lot of precision to make petits fours because they all have to be completely uniform in size and appearance.
Langues de chat and florentines
In the past, I attempted to make macarons a few times, but I failed disastrously each time. Macarons are a bit finicky because if you overmix or undermix the batter, they will not turn out as intended. During this unit, we learned some important techniques when making macarons (I promise to make some posts and videos about this in the future). For once, my macarons didn’t turn out horrible!
At the end of the petit four unit, we all had to make a tray of five different petits fours. Out of the entire class, I think almost every student had to redo one of the petits fours. It was a really challenging practical exam since we had to multitask so much, but we all made it through. Up next: the midterm!
Previous ICC pastry students had been telling us horror stories about the midterm exam for ages, so we all felt a bit terrified going into it. The midterm had a few parts to it: a written exam, a production element, and a surprise day.
For the production section, I had to make croissants, pain au raisin, paillettes, and vols-au-vent. Since we had a lot of time to prepare and plan for this section, I didn’t find it that hard! It also helps that I love making (and eating) croissants.
Pain au raisin, paillettes, croissants, and vols-au-vent
On the other hand, the surprise section was absolutely terrifying. On the last day of the midterm, we walked into class and randomly got assigned what we had to make. The fun part? It could be anything that we had learned since class started, and we had to bake everything without directions.
I ended up having to make a genoise cake, almond crescent cookies, and palmiers. All in all, it could have been worse, and I think I did pretty well! If we didn’t pass the midterm, we would have had one chance to try again. If we didn’t pass the second time, we would not be able to continue on in class. Therefore, I’m glad I made it through successfully!
Almond crescent cookies, palmiers, and a genoise cake
In the next recap, we are going to go into some more advanced pastry techniques, such as chocolate, sugar war, and plated desserts. If you missed any of the previous recaps, make sure to check them out below!