New school caters to aspiring cake decorators



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Co-owners of the new business, Clifford’s School of Cake Decorating, Patti Clifford of Gilford and Donna Clifford of Laconia work on gingerbread houses in their studio, which opened on Dec 1. Lauren Tiner. (click for larger version)
January 05, 2011
Sisters-in-law Patti and Donna Clifford have combined their individual talents to create Clifford's School of Cake Decorating in Laconia, which opened Dec. 1 to a warm reception from aspiring bakers and culinary designers.

Patti Clifford has lived in Gilford for her whole life and said creativity runs in her family, starting with her mother who got her into knitting, drawing, cake baking and more in her younger years.

She is self-taught and works as the assistant instructor alongside Donna Clifford of Laconia, a certified wedding cake decorator.

Students of the school from beginners to advanced are currently enrolled in a holiday and gingerbread house course.

During Monday's class, new students of all craft levels baked their own gingerbread at home and brought it into the Cliffords' studio to decorate with candy, icing and more. Patti Clifford said that most students opted to create a fireplace rather than a house, and also worked on creating poinsettias and Christmas trees out of royal frosting earlier in the week.

Patti Clifford explained that the school is not a retail operation but does supply materials and offers classes to those who want to advance professionally in the field or simply take up a new cake-decorating hobby.

Donna Clifford has taught classes over at the Laconia High School in after school hours to students under the Laconia Adult Education program, and with these related classes and a strong background in baking and decorator, she felt ready to take on a new project.

Donna Clifford has had 10 years in the trade and worked on specialty and wedding cakes over the years.

"The last class Donna held got us both into considering opening our own place," said Patti Clifford. "I have more of a business background and I work as the business manager although I have done all creative kinds of things for years. I used to make cakes to sell, but it got to the point where we wanted out own business."

Their new space located on 831 Union Ave in Laconia has worked well so far for both decorators.

Both sisters agreed that it is now easier to move supplies back in forth with a larger parker lot only 30 feet away from the building. Students can also leave their projects overnight or until the next class before taking them home, another perk that was not available when Donna Clifford worked out of the high school.

Patti Clifford said she feels they have filled a need for such a school in the Lakes Region.

"The closest place used to be in Concord, which is just a small place, and in Hooksett. That is quite a drive for many students," said Patti Clifford. "Many students from former classes had also expressed a want for more of these types of classes."

Students from their first official class included Patti Clifford's mother, as well as locals from all over the Lakes Region including Gilford, Northfield, Moultonboro, Center Harbor, and Laconia.

"We are trying to appeal to the Lakes Region area, and we have even had interest from some people in the Plymouth area," said Clifford.

Donna Clifford said a variety of class offerings cater to students of all abilities.

"It ranges between professional or for fun. These classes mainly give them a hands on practice with the trade," said Donna Clifford. "They also get to learn new techniques and work with fondant."

Patti Clifford added that students learn the hundreds of different tips for frosting to create anything from a flower to a leaf as well.

For now, the co-owners said they are trying to spread word of their business without breaking the bank. They recently donated to the WLNH Children's Auction and have posted their business on Facebook.

The school also offers open class nights on the first and third Thursday of every month for this interested in stopping by and testing out their decorating skills for $10.

Throughout the next year, basic cake decorating, advanced flower classes, advanced border technique classes, fondant workshops, wedding cake classes for advanced students, and more will be offered at the school. A cupcake class for kids and beginners will also be offered in mid-January.

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