Aspiring bakers squeezed some extra joy out of their Saturday afternoon during “Who Called Me a Cream Puff?!”, a baking class for children ages 6 to 13.
Marcia Cole, owner of local dessert shop Cake Thyme, taught seven young chefs the art of making Pate a Choux dough, which is French for the versatile pastry known as the cream puff.
For Cole, reaching out to the Hillsdale community with her art and attracting customers to local businesses is important. By sharing baking with children, she aims to connect a younger generation to an art that has been pushed to the back burner in modern education.
“Before we start cooking, we want to have everything ready to go,” Cole said to begin the class.
As seven girls tied flowery aprons and partnered up at stations around the baking counter, Cole asked her students to read the recipe and check their supplies. The simple recipe requires only four ingredients, but Cole reminded students that baking always follows a plan.
Under Cole’s careful instruction, chefs began pouring, stirring, and mixing. Excitement took shape along with the pastry dough, with shouts of, “Is this half a cup?” “Should we wash our hands if we get eggs on them?” “Hey! It’s starting to bubble!”
Mary Boocks watched her three granddaughters from a counter across the kitchen. She brought them to Cake Thyme’s first children’s class this summer. In the future, Cole plants to offer one baking class per month — with some being for adults.
“They love it,” Boocks said of her students. “They love to try new stuff. They’re really developing their skills.”
As the smell of baking cream puffs wafted through the kitchen, Cole and her students prepared a chocolate glaze. They also shaped fondant into roses to decorate the creations. In describing this staple of cake decorating, Cole said, “It’s great, because it’s like Play-Doh, except you can eat it.”
An hour later, proud young chefs greeted their parents with boxes of cream puffs and stories of creative, edible fun.
“I really wanted to learn to make cream puffs, because I’ve had them from the store and they were really good,” Ava Ruley, 7, said.
Her sister Erin, 11, said, “I’d never made dough before from scratch. We usually buy it from the store.”
The joy of making things from scratch is exactly what Cole aims to foster.
“I’ve always been a teacher,” Cole said. “I’m an educator at heart.”
She described past teaching experiences with students who, until they made applesauce in her class, thought that applesauce came from a jar.
“I want to have fun,” Cole said. “Just have fun. Create beauty. That’s important to me.”
Customers return to Cake Thyme for Cole’s beauty transformed into cakes and cupcakes for weddings and birthdays and often return to praise the product they bought.
Cake Thyme, which opened in October 2013, began as a popular feature of the downtown Farmers’ Market. When the storefront first opened, Cole baked at home and transported all her goods to the Farmer’s Market and the store. About four months ago, the business received its baking license. Cole now bakes her products in Cake Thyme’s spacious kitchen, which is also ideal for introducing children to the art of baking.
Aspiring chefs and empty stomachs agree: Cake Thyme adds extra sweetness to education, food, and fun.
“There’s a relationship building. Those who come back come back for more than a cupcake,” Cole said.
Cake Thyme is open Friday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.