If you have read through the February beijingkids magazine, there is little chance you were not impressed by the delicate and colorful gingerbread horse cookie recipe. Hwa Wu, the busy Chinese-American mum to three children is the creator of those scrumptious and fragrant cookies.
With a great passion in baking and cake decorating, Hwa runs a workshop at home in Beijing to show others the art of baking. She also keeps improving herself by reading and taking various culinary classes. She promised to share with us what she would learn during the CNY holiday in the US at Wilton, world leader in cake decorating education. And here they are and more!
Tell us about your experience with Wilton. How was it?
Hwa: This past CNY holiday, my husband gifted me with a special 1 on 1 course with a master Wilton instructor named Laura based in Chicago. Wilton is one of the most well known and established brands for cake decorating, and I was very keen to take their Course 1-4 which covers all the basics including butter cream, fondant and gum paste. I was lucky that Laura condensed all 20 lessons into 4 day intensive sessions, and we did the lessons at her home. The courses were designed to be fun and interesting for beginners and offer a lot of room to improve as I continue to practice. I was surprised how much I was able to learn and achieve with Wilton and Laura’s guidance, including making my own fondant cake, advance gum paste flowers, butter cream boutique cupcakes etc.
When did you first discover your passion for baking?
Hwa: I first discovered my passion for baking after I met my husband in Beijing. Growing up in a very Chinese family in Los Angeles, we barely used the oven. My husband introduced me to baking, first with basic some chocolate chip cookies, then muffins and cupcakes. I really enjoy how baking can be creative and a fun experience with my children. I love trying out different technique and styles for cake decorating.
Did you study at any culinary schools in Beijing?
Hwa: I started baking a few years ago and since I never studied at a pastry school in Beijing or in the US. I learned mostly from reading books and researching the Internet. One of the first baking projects that ignited my passion was a giant gingerbread school house. Baking just takes a little patience and planning. Practice makes perfect and it is great I have three kids and a supportive husband that eats all my experiments.
How do you feel baking with parents can benefit the children?
Hwa: Cooking is one of the most important skills we can have as an adult and an interest that can accompany you throughout your life. Baking involves all five senses and is a very interactive experience. Baking and cooking teaches kids to develop many skills including coordination, patience and focus, while providing a platform for creativity, art and culture.
How did you start ABC Kids Club?
I am a Chinese American mom and I wanted to start something that would be fun for my own kids and share my passion for baking and crafts. I design weekly themed classes for kids age 2-10 and parents that are creative and yummy in a relaxing home style environment. I always try to including an additional fun element to every kids class that I design, from interesting decorations, to sharing the history and origin and comparing styles of a popular cake or cookie.
ABC Cooking Studio also offers adult classes that are great for special holiday themes, such as gingerbread houses, CNY horse cookies to snow-skinned mooncakes. Each class is only 4-7 students.
What websites do you often visit for recipes and inspirations?
Hwa: If there is something that I don’t know how to make, I usually go online and search a few different websites including Martha Stewart and allrecipes. Since I have a wide interests from building gingerbread houses, to decorating cakes, designing cookies and cooking, I find that different websites and writers have their own expertise, recommend you to review a few different ones to find the best advice on getting the fine details right.
Your favorite books on baking and decorating.
Hwa: I recommend the books by the Cake Boss. He really grew up in a bakery and not just a TV personality. His recipes are really great. Also, I like fun books like Naughty Cakes and Hello Cupcakes that offer special designs for occasion cakes.
Your favorite bakeries in Beijing.
Hwa: I like Comptoirs de France for their almond croissant and also the bakery at Park Hyatt has some really tasty and fancy treats. CC Sweets has great fondant creations that are just whimsical and fun.
Hwa Wu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for her March schedule at more baking tips.
Photos: courtesy of Hwa Wu.