The relatively small size of Japanese kitchens, and ovens for that matter, mean the average person doesn’t get many opportunities to bake desserts. Sure, once a year a lot of women will whip up a batch of chocolate or some other sweets, but February 15 is usually the beginning of a 364-day streak of no homemade goodies.
Looking to break this cycle was our Japanese-language correspondent Momo. But how would someone who charred all of her attempts at Valentine’s Day sweets to a crisp as a schoolgirl, fare at her Alice in Wonderland cookie and cake decorating class?
Momo’s self-doubt continued to nag at her as the date of her scheduled lesson approached. “What if they don’t turn out well?” she worried. We offered her all the encouragement we could, though, since life is all about trying new things (we also secretly hoped a newfound love of cooking would encourage her to bring in homemade snacks to the office for the rest of us). So on the day of her lesson, Momo took a deep breath and knocked on the door of the Style-K cooking school.
She was promptly greeted by the Mad Hatter.
Actually, it was the school’s owner and instructor, Kenta Aonuma, who’d gotten into character to celebrate his students’ cookie-based journey to Wonderland.
Things weren’t any less whimsical inside, where Momo’s eyes were immediately drawn to a tower of macarons.
Despite the warm greeting she’d received, our reporter still wasn’t feeling entirely confident. After all, the pictures she’d seen of some of Aonuma’s creations were a definite sign that her teacher for the day could produce some amazingly intricate and elegant edibles.
Momo on the other hand, described her cooking capabilities with the statement, “I can make pancakes.” Could she keep up with what Aonuma had planned for the class?
▼ These are not beginner-level projects.
Still, Aonuma’s kind, patient demeanor and cadence gave her the feeling that she might just be OK.
The first half of the lesson was devoted to decorating cookies with icing. Aonuma began by giving Momo a selection of Wonderland-themed cookies in the shapes of Alice’s dress, a rabbit, teapot, cup, key, and mushroom.
The first step was laying down a single-color foundation of icing.
▼ So far, so good.
Next, it was time to add colored lines and detail to each by drizzling icing on them using tiny pastry bags.
Like Momo, most of the other students were doing this sort of thing for the first time. Nevertheless, thanks to Aonuma’s cheerful instruction, in no time at all they’d produced some genuinely cute designs.
The icing needs time to dry and harden after it’s been placed on the cookie, so in the meantime, the class moved on to the second portion of their curriculum, cake decorating.
First, Aonuma handed each student a palm-sized piece of round sponge cake. Putting their newly acquired icing skills to work, the students spread a foundation of pink icing across the top.
Japan has a penchant for topping one dessert with another, and the cake Momo and her classmates put together was no exception. They started by adding a cream puff, then a macaron, strawberries, and finally whipped cream, before garnishing the whole thing with a rose for even more feminine visual appeal.
Of course, while Momo had learned just how fun making desserts could be, the real joy still lies in eating them. After pouring coffee, she, her other students, and Aonuma all sat down to enjoy the results of their efforts.
As they chewed and chatted, Momo asked how Aonuma, who’s clearly talented enough to be working in a bakery, if not running one, ended up managing a school instead. The reason, he explains, has to do with the time he spent living and studying at a famed bakery in Europe.
After he returned to Japan, Aonuma became aware of a change in Japanese dining patterns that had taken place. Walking around town, he saw fewer and fewer independent bakeries, and more and more supermarkets and convenience stores that people were satisfying their sweet tooths at.
Saddened by the thought of a future where people, and especially kids, wouldn’t know the joy of carefully, individually made desserts, Aonuma resolved to open Style-K so that others could appreciate the creation process first-hand.
▼ You won’t find anything like these at 7-Eleven
This is part of why Aonuma, who also teaches a Cinderella-themed class, dresses up in character for the Alice in Wonderland lesson. It’s all part of his attempt to sidestep the stuffy tension of a formal student/teacher relationship.
▼ More of Aonuma’s work
In the end, Momo didn’t feel like she’d spent her afternoon in a cooking class, but in a storybook. We couldn’t be happier for her, even as we’re still waiting for our own personal happy ending of getting our hands on some of her homemade baked goods.
Address: Tokyo-to, Setagaya-ku, Kamiuma 1-14-15 Quattro Porte
東京都世田谷区上馬1-14-15 Quattro Porte
Images: RocketNews24, Style-K