Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts
The Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts is where many budding Toronto bakers have turned a love of sweets into full fledged businesses. This private career college offers varying levels of courses, from a six-week cake design program, to a confectionary arts diploma, as well as individual continuing education courses for those looking to learn about pastry arts on a more personal interest level, or gain experience with a particular type of confection.
My sweets-loving photographer and I were invited to participate in the school's Cake Pops and Whoopie Pies course, a one-day course dedicated to learning how to make these trendy treats from start to finish.
Before class, a quick chat with Bonnie Gordon, founder of the college and a highly successful cake designer in her own right, reveals her vision for the school. With her own path beginning in art school and leading to education in various fields from fashion design to a Masters in Museum Education, Gordon finally found a creative outlet in the world of pastry.
After studying at George Brown, she set out for New York to train with Colette Peters, one of the city's top cake designers, eventually making a name for herself in the field of cake design as well. Gordon's accomplished work in the pastry industry and background in education made for an easy transition into teaching others. Wanting to bring artisinal baking and confectionary creativity to a new level in Toronto, she opened her own school, giving her the opportunity to help other artists find an outlet for their creativity in the world of pastry arts.
At 9:30 a.m. sharp, we take our seats in the main kitchen as class begins. The school believes in small classes - no larger than ten to twelve people - and the group ranges in experience from beginners like us, to those training for careers in the pastry industry. Bonnie explains earlier that the inexperienced are the norm at this school, and those completely new to the craft should feel welcome.
We watch as our instructor, Marissa, a Red Seal chef who found her focus in pastry arts and cake design, demonstrates the first project. Using beautiful, high quality ingredients (no artificial vanilla extract here, people), we make chocolate buttermilk cakes, which are later pulverized and mixed with our creamy homemade chocolate ganache and rolled into truffle-like balls for cake pops.
We learn how to make a red velvet cake batter, and pipe it into little rounds to be baked into the outer layer of a red velvet whoopie pie, complemented perfectly with an excellent cream cheese frosting. Once the little cakes are cool, we pipe the icing into the centre, secure the top layer of cake, and voila! Delicious whoopie pies that made me a hero at work the following day.
As the day progresses, after our cake pops have been secured onto little sticks with a quick dip of white chocolate, we begin the more challenging part of the class. Unaware of the amount of detail and effort that go into these little treats, Taralyn and I are humbled by the intricate and challenging process of creating beautiful cake pops.
Dipped in chocolate we colour to our preference, rolled in sprinkles and hand-dyed sugar, these beautiful treats are not as easy to make as they might seem. Each individual piece requires patience and attention to detail, but after a few mishaps our work is looking much better.
Marisa demonstrates the more advanced decorating techniques, from flowers piped with royal icing, to a rose-shaped pop with petals made of modeling chocolate. Some of these techniques require a lot of skill, but as students around us practice and experiment, technique improves and beautiful desserts are produced.
Though our treats were nowhere near as beautiful as our instructors, we leave with valuable information on recipes and technique, and definitely some new skills as well. The treats we made were impressively delectable, a reflection of excellent ingredients and great recipes.
The Bonnie Gordon School offers a wide variety of one-day courses, with intriguing options like a full day devoted to the art of the French macaron, and an evening entitled 'Pies With Wanda,' a pie-making course with Wanda of Wanda's Pie in the Sky. Full programs include a comprehensive range of courses, from designer cakes to tarts and petit fours, with a focus on French patisserie style desserts.
From the aspiring industry professional wanting to leave with the artistic skills and business savvy to open their own business, to someone who simply wants to spend a day learning how to make impressive confections, the Bonnie Gordon School of Confectionary Arts has all kinds of options. We definitely enjoyed our day in the life of a pastry chef, and for myself, the ability to make fantastic whoopie pies at home is an invaluable skill that will be long appreciated.
For the full whoopie pie recipe and instructions, check out this post.
Writing by Meaghan Binstock. Photos by Taralyn Marshall.