The conversation about cake decorating classes came up on another forum I'm on. Someone recommended Wilton classes and there were a dozen "ack" "I would never" and "taking a wilton class for cake decorating is like a chef taking lessons from a pampered chef show". Really? I've taken 2 and they were a great starting point for me (the rest I'm learning is from my cake decorating book addiction).
So why do they get a bad rap?
I have taken three classes....I learned a few things I didn't know from them. One of the instructors had owned a bakery and was now teaching. She would show us the "Wilton" way and her way. Her tips were much easier to do and understant. I had taken cake decorating in 4h years and years ago so alot of stuff came back to me. I would say if you've never done cake decorating then take a basic class but I have learned so much more online. Cakecentral and other sites offer lots of information and so many people are willing to offer help or suggestions.
Just my 2 cents.
How often have I heard someone taking the classes, doing well then asked to be the teacher! I think a long time 'experienced' teacher will have more to offer than someone who learned the 'Wilton Way' in a 4 course set and then starts to teach what they have just learned! So, yes..... they are great if the teacher is great....
When I took the classes it was to improve my hobby and I went in with an open eye - not knowing what to expect.
Ppl. crack on Wilton all the time, but my cakes have been a hit (so far) and not only am I a proud Wilton 'graduate' a lot of my stuff is still Wilton brand.
Van Gogh can make a masterpiece out of Dollar Stores crayons, but that doesn't mean I could make a masterpiece out of Van Gogh's art supplies. It's all in the skills and talents of a person.
wilton does have its place and as a starting point for someone who knows nothing they are great. Unfortunately the classes have gotten such a bad rap cause not all the teachers are experienced decorators, as was previously stated. Taking a first time student and making them a teacher is not usually a good move but it happens all to often. I have also seen teachers that couldn't make the decorations they were being asked to teach.
And as the screening to become a wilton teacher is very lacked, often you have people who just can't teach, frankly just cause you are able to decorate it doesn't make you a good teacher.
I think when considering taking a class, you should check into the instructors credentials. I didn't do that, because I didn't know to, but I lucked out and got a teacher who has been decorating for over 10 years. She was a great teacher and a great decorator. She also occasionally threw in a "Wilton says do it this way, but I prefer this way". As far as the class content, I think they are great for beginners. I am still no expert, but I learned a lot of techniques, and how to use a lot of tools. I learn a lot from Cake Central, but I think it would have been a lot harder without learning the basics from an instructor first. Just my opinion.
I have no complaints concerning Wilton classes, if it wasn't for the classes I took, I would never do as well as I do. It's a great starting point for someone who wants or THINKS they want to learn cake decorating. Now for someone who already has skills it might not be good. So, if you want to learn, go to Wilton for your start.
Wilton is what gets most "hobbyists" a jumping off point, and they really don't deserve a bad rep. It is what it is. No, you are not going to make cakes that look like you just graduated from pastry school - it is a BEGINNING to your love affair with cake decorating! I am a wilton instructor, and I will be forever thankful to the woman who was my instructor. She was generous, talented and you could tell she loved what she did. I hope I give my students that feeling when they take classes from me. And for the record, on the first night of class, I always take a photo album with me of cakes I have done, for those that have read the posts or heard about the "crappy" instructors......just so they know I do know what I am doing.
I've been teaching the Wilton method for about 7 years and I don't think I'm a bad teacher. I've taught over 1,000 students and all of my students like me. I was even recommended to a person who was a pastry chef's assistant to take my class by the pastry chef.
It's a place to start, and if you do like to decorate cakes, you'll do fine. You've spent $20.00 to register for the course instead of $20,000.00 to take a culinary course and find out you don't like it.
I echo all the prior comments. I took the first three Wilton classes. They are a great starting point. Our instructor was very good to us all. Explained the "Wilton Way" and alternatives as well. I was also lucky the other students were as eager as I was, so it was a lot of fun. Not only for decorating, but a little camraderie as well.
Our instructor was also the one who told us about Cake Central - and for that I am eternally grateful!
I thought Wilton classes were great. I had a very good instructor.
I am thankful for the wilton classes I took. I am left handed and it turned out that the instructor showed me left handed technics (without that I would never have continued with cake decorating) It was a great starting point for me and it makes it easier to learn new things with the basics.
I have taken several Wilton courses. I had a GREAT teacher. She has been doing cakes for 20+ years. She also said, here's Wilton's way and here's a way I like to do this. My daughter and I learned so much from her. She is also the one that got me hooked on Cake Central.
In her classes, I met what is now one of my best friends! And now my friend is a Wilton Instructor for about the last year, and now is the store favorite. It all goes back to the instructor. That poor instructor could also be an instructor at pastry school. It isn't the "Wilton way" that is necessarily wrong but possibly just not a good instructor....Wilton Way or not!
My first Wilton class was actually Course 3 (Fondant and Tiered cakes). I was nervous about jumping ahead to Course 3 without having taken Course 1 or 2, so I researched other people's experience about taking Wilton classes. One poor girl got chewed out by the instructor for making her own mmf, so needless to say I was kinda scared. But my teacher was great, she was so very open to anything we wanted to do. We didn't have to make the cakes exactly by the book. She gave us her marshmallow fondant recipe. I got to make whatever cake I wanted and decorate it however I wanted for the class. So in the end, it probably weighs heavily on what the instructor is like.
The only problem I have with the course content is that they don't really cover techniques I'm interested in. Maybe I'm just not to in to the "Wilton way". I'd love to take other classes but sometimes they run so expensive! I paid $17 for the Wilton class! Maybe that's the issue? People see it as "budget" education? I still think it's worth taking if your instructor is fun.
I think the reason they get a bad rap is 2 reasons:
1) A lot of the times it seems as though the person teaching the class has just finished taking the courses themselves
2)You see a lot of people come on here who have just completed the course and want to open a bakery. Sometimes they've only completed 1 course and say they are ready to go into business. Then people who actually own a business is left wondering what in the heck is that person who just took the course thinking and what are they learning
Just my opinion. I have seen a few (very few) people who have just taking the courses on here and it looks like they have bben decorating all their lives.
I think what happens is that once your skills surpass Wilton's technique level, people tend to look down their noses at Wilton. It is like once you fly first class, you never go back to coach. I took levels I and II of Wilton classes. My level I teacher was the best ever. I still use techniques she taught. My level II teacher was not great. She had a great attitude, but her technique was lacking. This made me impatient and I just got through the classes and sought instruction online and from DVDs. I am a visual learner. I really prefer independent learning so I am happy with the progress I have made to date.
So basically, Wilton is fine for when you are starting out. If you find that you have a passion for this craft, you will find other sources of instruction to take you beyond. If you just want to know how to make look nice without a lifelong commitment, then Wilton is enough. Anything has got to look better than icing from a can spread with a butter knife.
I thought that my Wilton classes were great. I had great experiences with all the classes that I took. I do agree.....the instructor can make or break the class (as with any continuing education class you might take). My instructors were also willing to show the "Wilton" way of doing things, as well as alternative ways. The only negative thing I have to say is that they don't cover enough techniques. Well...for the price I guess they covered what they could in the allotted amount of time.
I think that they are a good starting point for the novice decorator who needs hands-on instruction in addition to videos like the ones on youtube (even thought they are awesome).
LaBellaFlor - I absolutely agree with you. I felt pretty confident about making cakes when I finished the classes, but I knew that I was nowhere near ready to open a bakery. It still sits in the back of my mind as something I might do one day - maybe when my kids are grown and out of the house - but I know that until I can compete with some of the cakes on this site, there is no point! So, just a hobby for now!
I too am a Wilton Instructor and became an instructor because my Course I instructor had no personality and you had to do everything her way. I took Course II, III and F/G from a different instructor and she was great. Just like in college some professors are great and others not so great.
The Wilton courses to me are just to get you started and to show you the basic techniques of decorating. I have read and read about different techniques to cake decorating and there are many different techniques that give you the same result, Wilton courses give you the Wilton technique.
Cake Decorating is an art and you should not be required to follow the book designs, they definitely don't teach you to copy other works of art in art school.
And just for the record, I give all of my students the Cake Central website and often ask them in future classes if they have visited the site. I want my students to use the Wilton techniques as a starting point and to be creative with the techniques they have learned in class, thus creating their own works of art.
I've taken over 5 Wilton classes (I include the cookie and cupcake classes offered at the Michael's in my neighborhood). It's my hobby but I get a lot of compliments on my cakes, cupcakes and cookies. The instructor has a lot of experience and is a great instructor.
I think the primary reason that Wilton classes get a bad rap is because they're an easy target. They're the only large scale offerings for beginners to learn to decorate and pretty much the only commercially available products that you can find from Wal-Mart to your local cake supply store.
It's easy to take pot shots at the familiar, big name guy in town. There'd be no one to come in and agree with you if you were complaining about the classes you took at Fannie Fondant's Cake Shoppe in Podunk, USA.
Obviously, too, WMIs vary greatly. I believe that many years ago, the instructors had to complete a training course through Wilton. It provided great consistency, but wasn't practical on a large scale. Nowadays, the potential instructor has to complete an application and supply references/recommendations by a current instructor. The turnover is huge, so keeping instructors is a real challenge.
I was fortunate to have wonderful Wilton instructors every step of the way, and without those inexpensive basic classes, I NEVER would have pursued cake decorating to the the level that I have.
I've taken dozens of classes, having started with the 3 original Wilton courses. It is a case, to some degree, of you get what you pay for--Wilton at less than $2.00/hr., or a big name decorator at over $20/hr.
Wilton has NEVER presented itself as the be all and end all of cake decorating. It has been content to concentrate on the hobbyist when it comes to teaching and to supplies, leaving it to the motivated student to later search for more specialized techniques and/or materials.
I took two classes through Wilton and it was a good starting point - taught the basics plus some. Prior to taking the Wilton courses I was pretty much making humpy lumpy cakes with canned frosting. This site is probably the best teacher I've had so far though - learn so much more here than anywhere else
It's all about the marketing...Just like we've discussed in other forums about our cakes versus Wal*Mart and the other big guns...Wilton is a standard household name that has been around for numerous years.
However, after taking the first three classes with Edna (tonedna on here) who is FABULOUS and taught us her style AFTER she taught the Wilton method, I took the gumpaste class from a early 20-something who brought her mother to the classes, was ill-prepared, and her mother kept telling us to give her daughter a good recommendation. What turned me off to "the Wilton way" was the constant pushing of Wilton products. We have purchased numerous Wilton items. However, they are not THE best...they are just another material.
After getting the cake bite/sugar bite/whatever you want to call it, I would have re-thought the gumpaste class I took and invested with Nicholas Lodge and some of the other greats. However, it was what I could afford at the time.
With every experience in life, we take the good and the bad and hopefully make something even better out of what we've experienced. As a full-time teacher in our schools, I would never dream of teaching Wilton classes because I don't subscribe to the philosophy that their way is THE way...I'm not knocking those who do because the Edna's of the world are there, as well.
I guess what I'm trying to say (and I apologize for ranting) is that you need to just walk into your activity and learn what you can. As one of my great fellow cakers here in central Florida said, I may know how to do many things but I will take beginner type classes because I could walk out with some fresh ideas or new methodologies that I may never have learned.
And, afterall, isn't that what life is all about? Living, learning, and sharing!
I think I'll go eat some cake now!
I've decorated for almost 30 years, started out by taking the Wilton courses way back when. And as the general theme of this thread suggests, they were a great starting point. I've since taken many of their more in depth courses, Masters, Fondant, Advanced Gumpastes etc, because I know there is more to learn. As a Wilton instructor I try to stress this to my students. That the Wilton courses are great for the hobbyist and there are soooo many other learning experiences out their for them to feed their addiction with. Because that is what this is, an addiction.
Well, I think the OP mentioned that the other group of " Wilton haters" were chefs. As a chef, my biggest beef with Wilton is that their "food products" are disgusting!!! Their recipes are awful, all of the wierd fake foodstuffs are not the types of things that a person with a culinary background would appreciate or encourage.
On a more personal level, I feel like it is clear that Wilton is only about selling product. Every week is pretty much a project to use more Wilton stuff. That's why the classes are cheap. The exist purely as a marketing tool...you know like Disney movies.
I've never had the time to take the classes but always wanted to. Unfortunately there isn't a place locally, for classes I like to take. I'd love to learn more about chocolate work and pulled sugar, blown sugar etc. Thank goodness for CC the door for learning is always open.
I think the original purpose of the Wilton classes (not counting selling product, which they hammer into the instructor's head to try to do!) was to let "regular people" learn how to decorate cakes so that they could just do it at home as a hobby, or for their family and friends. You know...learn how to do it yourself so you don't have to buy one at the bakery, that sort of thing....impress Grandma and Aunt Josie....etc.
Now that caking has become so popular through food network and TLC and such, I think more people are wanting to be "cake decorators" and hoping to be a pro by the end of Wilton's fondant and gumpaste class or something. So maybe that's partially why...the expectations are greater now than they used to be.
And yeah the instructor is a big part too. I tried teaching for two months and it just wasn't working out for me..even though I have a teaching degree (in science and math) and decorate cakes...and thought I'd do great...I ended up having a big problem teaching because I was not familiar enough with the "Wilton Way" to comfortably teach it....(I knew MY way!) and also I was frustrated with some other elements to where I just felt like it wasn't for me. Its NOT for everyone....so sometimes I guess paying customers are unlucky enough to get into a class where there is not a good teacher.
I think the Wilton classes are GREAT for what they are intended to do....teach "anybody" to be able to make a decent birthday cake or even a nice wedding cake for a friend.....they were never intended to jumpstart a cake decorating business, although its great if people can do that.
Not everyone CAN teach! Just because someone is an ace decorator, or has been decorating for 23 years, doesn't necessarily mean they have the ability to teach.
The ability to teach well is such a gift.
I'm not so sure it's the classes themselves that take the hits so much as the quality of their products. The edible products they make are barely, if at all, edible. Some of their equipment is lacking in quality because I think it's made to be affordable for the beginner or "sometime" cake decorator. I'd rather pay a little more for an item that's going to work and hold up than to pay a lower price for something I have to replace after three uses.
With that being said, I think the quality of the classes depend partly on the instructor. I had a fantastic one who is now a good friend of mine. She's been doing cakes for 30+ years and she had such insight! She made our classes really fun and we learned lots of insider tips that you don't find in the Wilton curriculum.
I think the other thing is that it seems to me that Wilton's projects are really old-fashioned. I think if they updated their class projects and books it would be more fun. I just hated the cakes we had to make and I don't see myself ever making any of them again. I wasn't expecting to make a sculpted purse cake but I also wasn't expecting to use the hideous plastic clown heads we had to use for one of the required class cakes.
I think they are a great launching pad for cake decorating. I think if you leave it at the "wilton way" you are a hobby decorator. If you really want "professional" cakes you need to go above and beyond with learning new and better techniques. I have not had any training beyond wilton classes, but I taught myself a lot of stuff through the internet, books, DVD's.