cedar springs — As Izabella Raymond scooped blue frosting into a pastry bag, Keaton Klaasen worked with a mound of green-tinted fondant, rolling it in her hands.
“I’m trying to mold it into little sheets,” Keaton said. “I had never worked with fondant before, and the difficult thing is that you have to wait for it to cool down enough (to mold it); but if it’s too hot, you have to restart.”
Nearby, Keaton and Izabella’s teammates Izzy Cook and Hudson Crystal huddled next to a round cake with white frosting and placed rolled cookies of different lengths around the perimeter of the cake to create a tree-like structure.
“This is called ‘The Mighty Jungle,’” Izabella stated of creating the group’s cake. “I was looking for inspirational images on Pinterest and this is what we came up with. It’s going to be a jungle scene with a little pond in the middle, and (Keaton) is rolling out the fondant to make it grass or leaves. And then the pandas will sit around the pond.”
Keaton added: “I think we have a 100% chance of winning.”
Cedar Springs High School students were competing in their own version of TV’s “Cake Boss,” the final lab of the semester in teacher Brooke Seville’s Food and Nutrition class. Working in small groups, students spend three days preparing for the competition: first determining what type of cake to make, baking the cake, and then elaborately decorating it, using the skills they’ve learned during class.
On competition day, the cakes are presented before a panel of expert judges, cake-loving school staff members, where they are judged on four criteria: appearance, taste, design creativity, and design execution.
“It’s a good opportunity for them to let their creativity out here at the end of the class, and even those who don’t always get very involved usually do, because it’s a competition,” Sevilla said. “It puts a lot of our skills to use in a single task, like following directions, reading recipes, safety and sanitation procedures and that kind of thing.”
“And it’s also a good opportunity to work with other people, in lab groups with people they don’t know or wouldn’t otherwise work with.”
The Food and Nutrition class is open to students of all grade levels in high school. Throughout the semester, students learn things like grocery shopping, nutrition, eating habits, how to follow recipes, and more. They usually go into the kitchen to cook something at least once a week.
“It’s really not always about how something turns out, but more that you tried and learned something new,” Sevilla said of her goal for the class. “Maybe you’re not good at it, but you’re better than you think you are most of the time.
“I have some students who say, ‘I never cook anything at home,’ but they try it in class and take the recipe home and make it for their family. That’s amazing, that’s exactly what I want to see happen.”
For Izabella, the best part of the class is the teamwork aspect.
“It’s fun and collaborative, and it’s the only class where I feel like I can really collaborate a lot with people,” he said.