RANCHESTER — Tanya McCoy was worried about the state of her frosting.
As she smeared frosting onto 5-inch vanilla cakes in the Tongue River Valley Community Center’s gym Thursday, McCoy worried the cream cheese and powdered sugar frosting was too runny.
“I think we can work with it,” Ada Elmore, one of McCoy’s five young pupils, said to calm McCoy’s concerns.
McCoy organizes TRVCC’s Kids Culinary Club, a four-week after-school program dedicated to teaching elementary school students basic kitchen skills and new recipes. The theme of TRVCC’s after-school club programming changes every three to four weeks, TRVCC Program Director Chad Aksamit said. After the culinary club ends next week, the programming will shift to art club.
Although Thursday’s lesson focused on cake decorating, past lessons this session have featured homemade pizza and fruit salad with fresh cinnamon-sugar tortillas. Aksamit said he plans to teach knife skills and safe meat consumption with a chicken fajita recipe next week.
TRVCC Assistant Director Lacie Schwend said the goal of the class is to get children comfortable in the kitchen. The class helps students learn to read recipes and measure ingredients while introducing new foods or from-scratch foods, like the homemade pizza dough and tortillas they made this session, Schwend said. During the culinary club’s fall session, students use fresh vegetables out of TRVCC’s garden, McCoy said.
Schwend explained the class fulfills TRVCC’s mission to offer members educational, social and cultural opportunities by offering young students a dedicated time to learn kitchen skills while having fun.
“Sometimes when you’re making dinner with mom and dad, they’re in a hurry…[This is] a focused time period where everyone gets to make their own food and no one is in a rush,” Schwend said.
During Thursday’s lesson, students practiced their cake decorating skills with careful piping — despite McCoy’s concerns, the frosting was thick enough to pipe onto the cakes without much trouble. After learning to level each layer, students constructed their individual two-layer cakes with plain white frosting.
Then, students dripped food coloring into their frosting to add embellishments. Addison Farnsworth added blue food coloring to her frosting to match the color of the sky. Meghan Hansen piped a bright red smiley face to the top of her cake while Christlynn Barron decorated hers with purple stars. Inspired by spring, Katie Barron piped green frosting and yellow polka dots.
Meanwhile, two middle school mentors, Piper Walter and Alieyah Morrison, circulated throughout the gym, offering the younger students guidance and helping to pipe the occasional frosting rosette.
During their two-week shifts, the middle school mentors spend every afternoon at the community center helping younger students with homework, reading and — when necessary — baking, Morrison said.
Their reason for volunteering with the culinary club and other TRVCC programming is simple: “It’s fun to help out kids,” Walter said.
By the end of Thursday’s culinary club, six cakes sat decorated in the TRVCC gym. As McCoy washed her students’ piping bags and spatulas — all of the students were permitted to take the decorating tools home with them — students munched on leftover cake scraps, cupcakes and frosting.
“Do you know what the last [step] of baking is? Eating.” Farnsworth said.