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Rise to the occasion; learn the secrets to cake designing at Chrusciki Bakery

BY: Jennifer Lysiak, Lancaster Editor | January 24, 2013

LANCASTER- If you've dreamed of creating beautiful cakes for friends and family than here is your chance to learn from creative expert Shannon Pilarski, a Buffalo native who specializes in cake designing.

For the next few months, Pilarski will be taking on the role as an instructor and teaching cake designing classes at Chrusciki Bakery in Lancaster. Everything will be made from scratch and she will teach students the very basics from how to cut, fill, and ice a cake all the way up to how to sculpt a cake, as well as everything in between such as making gum paste flowers, cupcakes, and cake pops, and fondant decorating and painting,.

“Talk about learning from the expert,” said President of Chrusciki Bakery Ania Gurnari. “She is really talented, very artistic, and a patient teacher.”

Classes begin last week and are currently scheduled to run till March.

Pilarski began baking and decorating cakes as a hobby for her three girls – Sara, Skyler, and Elexa – when they were young children. Her husband, Scott, encouraged her to embrace her talent and challenge herself to decorating cakes as a profession.

Pilarski said for the last five years she has baked and designed cakes professionally. She has had the privilege of working at several different kinds of bakeries, starting off at a supermarket bakery she worked her way into a custom cake shop. She now shares her talents with Chrusciki Bakery and makes custom cakes for their customers.

“I am completely self-taught,” remarked Pilarski. “I learned on the job, which I think is a different kind of education; learning hands on than in a culinary institute. I had to figure things out on my own and learn the right way to do it.”

Pilarski has also taken local classes at Michaels and once she completed them all she continued her education by traveling to New York City to attend a few workshops.

“It is a constant evolving medium,” said Pilarski. “There is always something more to learn out there. I love it so much.”

Many of you may recognize Pilarski as she appeared on a Food Network Challenge episode in 2010. Taking home third place, it was a wonderful opportunity for Pilarski to showcase her skills and creative ideas to the country. Also, she appeared on the show again when she was asked to come back as an assistant.

“I feel like all these shows, and I think that has a lot of influence with me, like on the Food Network and the Cake Boss on TLC, shows you what is out there and that yes, you can do it,” remarked Pilarski. “I do feel a lot more people are trying to attempt these things on their own and I would love to help them and show them the basics.”

Before taking an advanced class such as the sculpted cake workshops, which involves how to sculpt cake in unique shapes, Pilarski recommends taking a basic class if you have no prior experience.

“Basics are so important,” Pilarski said. “It is like building a house. If you have a good, strong foundation than you can make an amazing cake.”

In addition, Pilarski commented she uses an Italian Meringue Butter Cream icing rather than the traditional American icing so a lot of folks that are making cakes on their own in their home now are not going to be used to that kind of icing consistency.

“So, attending a cake basic class I will show them how to make that icing, how to work with it well, because it is very different texture wise,” she said. “It is not difficult to learn. Practice is everything. If you have never done it before and you come to a class you’re not going to walk away with prefect flowers, but then there are no prefect flowers in nature.”

Classes will be held right at Chrusciki Bakery’s Lancaster location at 80 West Drullard Ave.

“So, you can make all the mess you like,” laughed Gurnari.

Gurnari added a difference between their classes and others is that the cost of a class covers all the materials a student will need. A lot of other classes’ students are required to bring in their own materials.

“We have everything ready for you and you get to walk away with what you ended up creating,” commented Gurnari.

Some of the workshops are: Basics of Cake Icing and Filling; a Cupcake Workshop; Tiered Butter Cream Cakes; and a Mommy and Me Valentine Cupcake Workshop, which will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9. Also, custom private parties such as birthday or adult parties are offered as well.

A workshop is $60 per class and to learn about what each workshop entails and dates and times visit www.chruscikibakery.com or to register call 681-9866. The bakery is opened from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday; 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

“Lancaster is just such a fun place and it is very family oriented and that was one reason why we felt that cake classes would be great to offer here,” Gurnari remarked.

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