Cedar Springs — As Izabella Raymond scooped blue icing into a piping bag, Keaton Klaasen worked with a mound of dyed-green fondant, rolling it around in his hands.
“I’m trying to mold it into little leaves,” Keaton said. “I haven’t worked with fondant before, and the hard part is that you’ve got to wait for it to be cool enough (to mold); but if it gets too hot, you have to restart.”
Nearby, Keaton and Izabella’s teammates, Izzy Cook and Hudson Crystal, huddled next to a round, white-frosted cake, placing rolled cookies of different lengths around the perimeter of the cake to create a tree-like structure.
“This is called ‘The Mighty Jungle,’” Izabella declared of the group’s cake creation. “I was looking through Pinterest for inspo pictures 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 be grass or leaves. And then pandas are going to sit around the pond.”
Added Keaton: “I’m thinking we’ve got a 100% chance of winning.”
The Cedar Springs High School students were competing in their own version of television’s “Cake Boss,” the final lab of the semester in teacher Brooke Seville’s Food and Nutrition class. Working in small groups, the students spend three days preparing for the competition: first determining what kind of cake to make, baking the cake and then elaborately decorating it, using skills they’ve picked up throughout the class.
On competition day, the cakes go before a panel of expert judges-slash-cake-loving-school staff members, where they’re judged on four criteria: appearance, taste, creativity of design and execution of design.
“It’s a good opportunity for them to let their creativity come out here at the end of the class, and even the ones who don’t always get very invested usually do, because it’s a competition,” Seville said. “It puts a lot of our skills to use all in one task, like following instructions, reading recipes, safety and sanitation procedures and that sort 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 in all grade levels at the high school. Throughout the semester, students learn about things like grocery shopping, nutrition, eating habits, how to follow recipes and more. They usually get into the kitchen to cook something at least once a week.
“It’s not really always about how something turns out, but more that you tried it and you learned something new,” Seville said of her goal for the class. “Maybe you’re not great at it, but you’re better than you think you are most of the time.
“I get some students who say, ‘I don’t ever cook anything at home,’ but they try it in class and they take the recipe home and they make it for their family. That’s awesome — that’s exactly what I want to happen.”
For Izabella, the best part of class is the teamwork aspect.
“It’s fun and collaborative, and it’s the only class that I feel like I really get to collaborate with people a lot,” she said.