Some parents delight in involving the whole family in holiday baking. As soon as the Thanksgiving platters are stowed away for next year, production begins. The kids — plus nieces and nephews and assorted neighborhood pickups — are arrayed around the table, rolling out dough, cutting out cookies and house templates, then decorating for hours, perhaps days on end.
Other parents will appreciate the services offered by Sherry Sobel at A Cake in Time Bakery in Wading River. In the bright and spacious bakery, Sobel has set up a workshop where children are given everything they need to decorate their own houses and cookies. Sobel and her team coach them in technique, then handle the clean up.
A house “kit” costs $38 and includes a modest Cape Cod-style (already assembled), a pastry bag full of white royal icing and all the gumdrops, Smarties, sprinkles and candy canes needed to turn the house into a sweet and colorful holiday home. Cookie kits, $18, include three large cookies (star, tree, snowflake, person, etc.) plus the same icing and decorations. Both the houses and the cookies are made with a refined, not-too-sweet butter dough. “I don’t like gingerbread,” Sobel said.
The kits can also be packed up for decorating at home.
One recent afternoon, seven girls gathered around the stainless-steel table to bedeck their houses and cookies. This was old hat to Gabriella Gallagher, 10, of Wading River, an enthusiastic viewer of “The Great British Baking Show” and a Cake in Time veteran who has held birthday parties here. “It’s great to be able to decorate your house exactly the way you want.”
Reilley Kenneally, 10, of Wading River, a first-timer, wielded her pastry bag like a pro, knees and elbows bent as she crouched down to pipe a series of icicles descending from the eaves of her house. Less exacting was Jocelyn Kavanagh of Shoreham, whose creative philosophy belied her 11 years. “The point is it’s not perfect,” she said, “which is good because you have to destroy it to eat it.”
The holiday workshop is just a seasonal variation on what Sherry Sobel does all year long: provide the space, supplies, tools and instructions for people (usually kids but not always) to decorate cakes. For $35 Sobel will sell you a freshly baked six-inch frosted and filled chocolate or vanilla layer cake covered in whatever color fondant you desire. Hang out for as long as it takes to decorate it to your liking. You can also decorate four big cupcakes for $25.
A Cake in Time also functions as a full-service retail bakery and Sobel’s own custom-cake studio. The former IT and human resources executive is completely self taught. Seven years ago she turned her hobby into a business when she opened the first A Cake in Time in Mount Sinai. In April she moved to these much-larger quarters in The Shoppes at East Wind, a retail “village” adjacent to the Inn & Spa at East Wind, a conference center and catering venue.
The Shoppes are decorated for the holidays and the enclosed carousel is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. While the kids decorate, parents can browse the decidedly adult selections at Wines by Nature, George Eldi’s singular wine shop, or the Cheese & Spice Market, Patty Kaczmarczyk’s gourmet grocery.
A Cake In Time Bakery
5768 Rt. 25A, Wading River, 631-359-0011, acakeintime.com
The “walk-in decorating workshop” runs from Dec. 1 to Dec. 23, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. No reservations are necessary but large groups should call in advance.
Other holiday baking classes and activities
A LA CARTE
32 Atlantic Ave., Lynbrook, 516-599-2922, alacartecs.com
Among the holiday-themed classes at this school is a Holiday Bake and Take cookie class, Dec. 15, $89; and a Wine and Cookie Painting: Girls Night Out, Dec. 20, $95.
THE BAKING COACH
320 Broadway-Greenlawn Rd., Huntington, 631-543-8608, bakingcoach.com
In addition to the Holiday Cookie Workshop for all ages. Dec. 22, $65, the Baking Coach also offers a variation for special-needs bakers, with larger-print recipes, a slower-paced environment and more culinary coaching. More on the website.
3225 Sound Ave., Riverhead, 631-727-7309, gingerbreaduniversity.com
An all-in-one “party and decorating center, cookie factory and sweet shoppe,” Gingerbread U. offers one-hour decorating sessions. Prices range from $12.50 to $39.95 depending on what you choose to decorate. Reservations recommended. To-go kits also available.
SUR LA TABLE
1468 Northern Blvd., Manhasset, 516-365-3297; 630 Smith Haven Mall, Lake Grove, 631-619-9060; surlatable.com
Both LI locations of Sur La Table are offering a Holiday Cookie Workshop based on recipes in “Dorie’s Cookies” by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35). Price includes a copy of the cookbook, Dec. 8, $75.