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Catching a Christmas break

By Staff | Jan 3, 2014

CASSIE HINSHAW decorates a cupcake at a 4-H workshop designed specifically for decorating Christmas cupcakes. She said she learned some new techniques that she was excited to try at home.

SPIRIT LAKE – It’s Christmas break, and parents would say that most kids tend to get bored after the first day. What’s a parent to do?

The Dickinson County 4-H program decided to host a holiday cupcake decorating workshop on Dec. 23, open to anyone who wanted to attend.

It attracted 10 attendees, including a mother and grandmother, and eight children. They decorated cupcakes to make Santas, reindeer and snowmen.

Attendees needed to bring a dozen baked cupcakes, ready to be frosted. The rest was provided.

Cassie Hinshaw, 10, of Arnolds Park, is a fifth grader at Okoboji Middle School. She said she enrolled because she likes decorating cupcakes and wanted something fun to do for an afternoon.

CASSIE HINSHAW, of Arnolds Park, shows off all of the Christmas cupcakes she created. She said she plans to hone her decorating skills at home and eventually wants to be able to fool people into thinking her cupcakes were purchased from the store.

“I thought if I made these and used them for a Christmas party, I could say they were store-bought, when really they’re not,” she said, giggling.

Hinshaw said she learned a lot about decorating techniques and using different kinds of foods for decorating purposes.

“I learned how to use Tootsie Rolls for reindeer ears-I would never have guessed how to make reindeer ears like that,” she said.

Hinshaw said she learned how to use fondant and how to use it to make a snowman’s head atop a cupcake (wrapping fondant around a doughnut hole). She said she had never used an actual cake decorating bag with the tips – that she always used a plastic bag with the corner cut out of it.

“Using a decorating bag and the tips was a new experience for me,” she said. “I made Santa’s hat and beard with it, and used a different tip to make a scarf on the snowman. It was really fun.”

Hinshaw said the part she found to be the most fun was using black gel to add details to her cupcakes.

“I have decorated cupcakes, but have never put details like that on them,” she said. “It’s really easy to do with gel.

“I also learned that you can make a snowman’s nose with a piece of Mike and Ike candy.”

Mindy Wernimont, 13, a seventh-grader at Spirit Lake Middle School, said she was interested in learning specifically how to decorate Christmas cupcakes.

“I learned to use a small cookie wafer for a reindeer’s nose,” she said. “I also wanted to improve my techniques here today. I feel like I did learn a lot.”

She said she would never have thought of using pretzels to make reindeer antlers.

Carla Radcliffe, of Spirit Lake, taught the workshop. She said she began decorating cupcakes as a child with her grandmother and has grown to making specially-decorated cupcakes for friends and family.

“I love to be creative like this,” she said, adding that it was fun for her to see the differences between the way boys and girls view decorating techniques.

She said she was surprised when the 4-H coordinator called and asked her to lead such a workshop, but she decided it was something that was popular with kids and adults, and thought she would give it a try.

She brought homemade frosting of various Christmas colors to use for the workshop and said she only ever uses homemade frosting. She added that fondant is an exception to that rule, when she needs to make something very smooth and free of marks. She brought it along to show the workshop participants how easy it is to use fondant.

Fondant is a thick flavored paste of sugar and water, used in sweets and icings:

Radcliffe is an interior designer by trade, owning and managing a studio in Spirit Lake. Creativity comes easily to her, she said.

“I’ve been asked to make and decorate all kinds of different cakes,” she said, “but the most challenging was a cake that looked like a vegetable burger. It was really a challenge, but I got it done.”

Her goal for young people at the workshop was to bring them a practical skill that they could use and improve on at home.

“I wanted them to have some fun learning something practical,” Radcliffe said. “Anyone can decorate cupcakes, but it might take someone to help you out at first.

“I showed them how to use frosting bags and tips and fondant, and how to create and decorate using different (snack foods and candies).

“It makes me happy-I love it.”

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