Hi guys! Sorry we’ve been a bit MIA of late. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of adventure and have seen the Wandercooks travel from one side of the globe to the other while meeting new people, discovering new cultures to bring you the best of the best of our delicious new food experiences. So sit back and get ready as we fill you in on all the goodies we have unearthed.. 😉
In the meantime though, we have a few very important questions for you: Are you the kind of person who prefers the icing to the cake? Love the fondant more than the filling? Ever wondered how quality edible cake decorations are made? We’ve found the best place in Korea to learn this enviable art form. Whether you’re a beginner, want to learn a new skill or just nibble on a pretty treat, it’s easier than you might think to learn the basic skills of sugarcrafting.
Sugarcrafting is the art of creating confectionary and cake decorations using fondant, a type of sugar paste. This is a brand new skill for us, one we’ve never attempted before in all our wandercooking adventures so far. Walking into Sugar Atelier in Seoul’s Gangnam-Gu District (don’t start singing that song!), we were whisked away to a land of hand-crafted castles, delicately formed flower petals and intricately piped bird cages.
Don’t speak Korean? No need to worry. Students from abroad will receive English interpretation and translation during all sugarcraft classes as well as sugarcraft and baking related information in Korea for free.
Sugarcraft Practice – Our Floppy English Hat
Our goal for the morning was to craft an English style hat complete with ribbon and sugar flowers (much to Sarah’s dismay of flowers, the inclusion of sugar got her attention as well as the awe-inspiring technique shown by Mrs Lee), which was a great shape to learn some of the basic sugarcrafting techniques.
First we began to knead the modelling paste to warm it up and get it nice and soft. Adding just a small swipe of dye was enough to infuse a pale lavender colour for our hat. We then rolled out the modelling paste to create a thin circular shape almost like a pizza base.
Using a nifty little pattern-roller tool we created a weave-like pattern in the fondant. This was a surprisingly tricky technique to master; too soft and the pattern won’t be even across the paste. Too much and the paste will stick to the roller. We listened but we didn’t quite learn, resulting in a few interesting and blotchy areas until we finally got it right…after we were allowed to crop off the bad parts.
To create the hat shape we laid the fondant over a Styrofoam mould covered in cling film in place of Mrs Lee’s rich English fruit cake. Rolled up paper towel served as extra place-holders – or space holders in this instance – to give our hat a more natural, floppy look rather than being completely flat.
What would a proper English hat be (or a sugarcraft cake for that matter!) without any decoration? Our hat called for some delicate white ribbon and flowers. Here we learned how to roll out the flower paste to the proper consistency and use stencils and rollers to embellish the design.
Ribbons complete and bow-shapes formed, all we needed was some glue to attach them to our hat. Since both are made of sugar, all that’s needed is some water to set our decorations in place.
Our hat was finally ‘complete’… apart from a few days to fully dry and set. Now time to decide – to eat or not to eat? That is the very difficult question. (Hint: We ate it and it was delicious down to the very last petal. – Sarah)
Types of Classes
Sugar Atelier provide three levels of courses; Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. Beginners will discover the basics of essential sugarcraft techniques including basic decoration, sugarflowers and royal icing. Intermediates will further develop these techniques to decorate gorgeous celebration cakes. Advanced sugarcrafters will create larger, more complicated pieces suitable for exhibitions and competitions. Those who complete all levels will be awarded a certificate of completion in both English and Korean. For the dedicated it’s actually possible to complete the three levels in about three months.
Those who enrol in more than 8 sessions will be given Mrs Lee’s latest sugarcraft book for free called ‘Mom and Baby Sugarcraft’.
If you are planning to become an expert and open your own custom made cake shop or training school Mrs Lee says it’s essential to learn sugarcraft properly. Sugar Atelier is the perfect place, since students have been awarded 1st place trophies in international exhibitions every year since 2004.
Lee Jong Youl and Sugarcrafting in Korea
Lee Jong Youl is South Korea’s pioneer sugarcrafter and the first person to be awarded the Master’s Certificate of Sugarcraft in Korea. Her passion stretches back to childhood days spent helping her mother prepare western style foods including making ice cream (a real treat in Korea!) and baking bread.
‘I loved all the moments when my mother tried new food, any kind of bread or cake. When I got my first payment from my first job, I bought my own electronic oven. I still have it. It still works!’
As her own children grew up, Lee’s creativity and passion began to grow in earnest. The discovery of a book on sugarcraft was the catalyst that set her onto a new career path; one that would have a huge impact on her life and on the art of sugarcraft in South Korea. Creativity transformed into invention, and there is now a patented technique called the ‘Lee Rose’. (Scroll back to the top if you want to gawk at that mastery again.)
‘I will never forget when I first awarded gold and trophy in England. I was the first Korean competitor who ever went to an international sugarcraft exhibition and I was awarded for all three works that I entered.’
Lee opened a small atelier in 1997 near her house before moving the business to Seoul, where she now teaches students the art and techniques of sugarcrafting. Over the years Lee has published three books on sugarcrafting which are now used as college textbooks. Flipping through the pages is like looking through a photographic record of Lee’s creativity and skill, each with its own story to tell. Some of Lee’s pieces have even been used in television shows, advertisements and shop displays, with some of her more well-known clients including the likes of Christian Dior and BMW.
Apart from sugarcraft tuition Sugar Atelier also creates cakes made to order for special occasions such as weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers etc.
“When customers order their cakes, they tell stories about the occasions or events. I listen carefully to what they say then infuse the story on the cakes as cake toppers or other types of decoration. For example, when a daughter ordered her mother’s birthday cake on behalf of her sisters, she told me her mother loves to play golf and that her Chinese zodiac sign is the pig. I made golf decorations on the side of the cake and five cute piglets next to a mother pig. When she came to pick up the ordered cake, she loved it and sent pictures to her sisters right away.”
Sugar Atelier is located just a short walk away from Apgujeong Station on Seoul Metro Line 3.
- From Apgujeong Station Exit 4, turn right and head straight along NonHyun-Ro 171-Gil which will become NonHyun-Ro 175-Gil.
- Pass the GS25 Convenience Store on your left and Mister Pizza on your right.
- Continue walking past the Hyundai Oil Bank Gas Station, Marks & Spencer and John Cook Deli (all on your right hand side)
- Keep going and you’ll see a church on your left hand side. You’re almost there!
- On the left hand side you’ll see the Wedding Cake Shop with various cakes on display. Open the door and head inside for your sugarcrafting lesson to begin.
We’d just like to say a very big thank you to Lee Jong Youl and her assistant/translator Amy for their time and patience in teaching us the basics of this incredible art form. Not only did we enjoy learning the various techniques involved but we also enjoyed learning more about Korean culture, food and language along the way.