Tracey Accordino, administrative support assistant for the Department of Art History and recipient of the 2014 College of Arts and Architecture Staff Award for Outstanding Service, is an avid learner, in all kinds of classrooms. Not only has she audited art history courses with professors Sarah Rich and Craig Zabel, she has also taken the series of Wilton Method Cake Decorating classes at Michael’s Craft Store in State College. Accordino now makes cakes for weddings, baby showers, and even some of the Department of Art History’s Friday afternoon teas.
Accordino’s aunt talked her into taking the course, and she’s glad she did.
“She wanted to take the classes but didn’t want to take them by herself. She only ended up going to one session, but I went to all of them.”
The first session is a basic class on making buttercream frosting, learning to frost a cake, making different types of borders, making a few simple buttercream flowers, and establishing proper baking techniques.
“If you at least take the first class, you will learn something useful. They give you recipes and tips and teach you which colors go together. I couldn’t even ice a cake when I went to it,” she admitted.
Accordino then took the sessions on fondant and gum paste decoration. She learned how to roll out and smooth the fondant to wrap around the cakes and how to make bows, roses, carnations, and lilies.
“You use a pin to poke the air holes out of the fondant,” she explained. “And you have to roll it out larger than your cake size to make it cover a layer of basic icing."
Her skills have already come in handy. She made her sister’s wedding cake and a hundred reception cupcakes and will be making her aunt’s wedding cake and cupcakes this May.
Accordino likes making cupcakes better than cakes because she can get more creative on a smaller scale. She has also created her own buttercream icing recipe through trial and error. Her advice is to use real butter to make it creamier.
The rest of her family has cooking talent as well. Her husband, Nick, is an acclaimed Penn State tailgate chef and Italian food specialist, and her son, Dustin, is in his final year of Penn State’s Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management program and has worked in the kitchen at many restaurants in State College.
“I think Dustin is the one who got all of the baking started,” she explained.
He worked in the bakery at Giant grocery store while he was in high school and made cupcakes for friends when he wasn’t at work. Accordino remembers helping him bake some projects at home and said she is glad that she has continued with her tasty hobby. “It’s fun,” she reflected.
Taking a class to learn something new with strangers can be intimidating at first, Accordino admitted, “but Michael’s makes the class fun. Everyone in the class was laughing because we were all beginners and weren’t any good at it yet. I mean, we made some really ugly cakes!”
To register for cake decorating at Michael’s, visit their website: https://classes.michaels.com/OnlineClasses/control/dateView?storeId=2710&zipCode=16801