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Tuesday 23 February 2010

Cupcake decorating at The Cocoa Box

Much as I believe that the cake is the most important part of a cupcake to get right, the fun of making (and eating) them is in the pretty decorations. Trouble is, I'm not exactly au fait with a piping bag and my creations often look amateurish at best. So I was more than happy to take the Cocktails and Cupcakes class run by The Cocoa Box in Hampstead, North London.

We had eight cupcakes each just out of the oven (baked in the same room, actually) for decorating but more were handed around for snacking purposes. Cocktails were delicious and unlimited, like all cocktails should be.

Edible glitter, sugarpaste, fondant icing, sweeties butterfly cutters and piping bags full of frosting was provided - basically everything you could ever possibly need to make your cupcakes look all spangly and sparkly:

I expected the class to be reminiscent of my GCSE Food Technology lessons (where you can't so much as crack an egg without the teacher's say so) but it was much more relaxed. Our Instructor Lisa would occasionally stop to teach us how to make sugarpaste roses or use the piping bag, but she pretty much let us get on with it.

I don't think the combination of sugar and cocktails helped my decorating skills. I made a bit of a mess:

But the afternoon was so much fun and perfect for people who haven't done cake decorating before. I chose to make my cupcakes as gaudy as can be - think frosting, marshmallows AND red glitter - and nobody batted an eyelid. I'd imagine that the classes would make a nice alternative to clubbing for a hen party, too.

Book a place at the Cupcake and Cocktails class here for £45, or check out The Cocoa Box's other classes.


  1. They look good - I like your cupcake aesthetic - bling 'em up! X

  2. What a brillo combination, cocktails AND cupcakes. Looks like you had fun.
    What did she make the frosting out of?

  3. Those butterfly sprinkles are so cute!

    Could you buy tubs of any sprinkles to take home with you? I've always wished cupcakes decorating classes gave you the option to do that.

  4. @Jane - The cupcakes in the first picture are Gail's. Mine were shockingly bad - I just went mad with the glitter and pink fondant icing...

    @Mrs.Lee - I think the frosting was buttercream, not sure of exact recipe. But it was very very tasty.

  5. We are offering the chance to win a Cocktails and Cupcakes workshop with The Cocoa Box! All you have to do is tell us your favourite cupcake flavour...

  6. What's the price of the class? I'm searching their website, clicked on "book now" (nothing else to click!) expecting to be taken to a breakdown of pricing etc. and it went straight to PayPal login page! Cheeky much!

  7. Nevermind - just found the price, in tiny, right at the bottom of the page!

  8. Anonymous - enter our competition and then you don't need to worry about the price :)

  9. Hi all,

    It's Lisa from The Cocoa Box... The butterfrosting is 250g unsalted butter, 300g icing sugar and a sprinkle of vanilla. Add a table spoon of milk at a time...maybe three or four at most.
    Whisk for at least ten mins ( note: arm may get sore!)
    Ideally you want a fluffy texture, much easier to pipe this way.
    Sorry the price is so small! I will get on to the web guy. x

  10. Oooooh - my boyfriend actually bought me this for Valentine's Day and after your review I am even more excited to go along. I mean cupcakes AND cocktails - what a magic combo! Hannah

  11. Hi Hannah,

    When are you coming along?
    Be great to meet you!
    Lisa x

  12. Hey Lisa, I am coming along at lunchtime on the 6th March. Hooray! See you then... Hannah

  13. What a lovely idea!!

    My new business is Cupcakes and Cocktails - so if you love both then please, please "back" my business for the Barclay's competition:

    If I win, you are all cordially invited to come and have a free cupcake and cocktail!


  14. Thanks, Anon! Noticed that this was the second comment you've posted telling people about your new business. Rather than leaving the same comments on different posts, email us about it!

  15. Dear All

    The class we had was good - but please be aware that Lisa left us to our own devices for more than 1 hour of a 2 hour class when she went into another class next door!

    This was not realy what we paid for and then when we emailed her afterwards we received a huaghty email in response.

  16. A fun thing to do, but not really a place you go to learn how to decorate cupcakes.
    There was only one bag for around 15 people, so our icing was hot and melting by the time it got to us.
    We got it half price, but not worth the full amount at all.

  17. Have to agree with Ney (17/11/10) and Anon (11/04/11). We were in a small hot room, hers presentation skills are poor as was here customer service. She did not introduce herself or the company, she just demonstrated then left us to get on with it as she left the room for ages. There were no examples to look at other than her suggestion. There had been an error in our booking and she made no attempt to help and in fact at the end of the class she told us to hurry up and get out! When we inquired about another class she said she did not want us to go! We were a group of 5 and she turned away almost £500 of business. I have emailed them but as she owns the company I'm expecting a haughty response too. We also got this experience at an offer but I did not pay to be insulted! It wasnt worth the discount price let alone the full price. I know many people have had a great time but if you dont want to risk a bad experience, I would go with another company. Also, note the their website does not have a testimonial/feedback section, perhaps there are more unhappy people than she cares to acknowledge.

  18. If you truly want to spend money on a class that is usesless then book this. The refreshemens they talk about are cheap and warm. Not friendly at all and not informative. They have zero customer service skills and if you know very little about cake decorating you are wasting your time here. Highway robbers used to wear scarves this lot don't. You have been warned stay away. All the positive comemnts seem to come from the company as they then advise you how to book a place on the course. Absolute con artists

  19. i went on the cupcake decorating class, cannot remeber the teachers name, but she was lovely and informative, not intrusive at all, simply let us get on with it and offering a helping hand! I have lost my recipie sheet and would LOVE the recipies! They were absolutley delicous when i first made them! I also got the class at a discount and it was held in a hotel, called the thistle.. i think? but i had a GREAT experience and wouldreccomend it to anyone. And the cupcake and icing recipies would be much appreciated - [email protected] thankyou! xx

  20. Please beware before you book a special event through this company.

    I was really excited back in the summer (July 2013) to have booked a private 3.5 hour class with the Cocoa Box for about 15 people. It was for a hen do and had been months in the planning. I was liaising with Lisa directly, and she was very helpful crafting the perfect class to suit our needs at the time and location we were hoping for.

    Unfortunately, here the good stopped. We turned up at 11.55am for our 12pm class and were told there was no booking. I had paid a deposit of c. £200 a few months before and the full balance of another £700 or so about 10 days before. I had confirmed the date and time twice that week, and all the invoices said the correct date and time on them.

    It took about 25 minutes to get through to the Cocoa Box and I was informed they had made a mix-up and booked everything for the following day. It was 100% their error, and they did admit that. I am sure this was just an honest mistake but a muck-up like this is a massive deal and shows incredibly poor organisation and is not what you expect from a business! There had been multiple communications between myself and the Cocoa Box, all saying the correct date and time and I just cannot see how a small business could let this happen.

    Lisa was very apologetic and offered a full refund and some vouchers as compensation. However, our day was totally ruined and I was absolutely mortified. Having planned a fun filled cocktail, cupcake and chocolate afternoon, we were instead left stranded in a hotel with no plan - totally ruining the special day for my friend who's hen party it was.

    I tried to draw a line under it, but we have since had more problems. The refund was not processed for a further 5-6 weeks after the event was supposed to have happened. I had to chase it up with the Cocoa Box multiple times. This meant that I had been out of pocket for about 3 months for the deposit and about 6 weeks for the full payment – incredibly inconvenient. There did not seem to be any rush on their part to pay back the money.

    More recently we have tried to book onto a group class to use our vouchers, and we have been met by some fairly frosty responses. Despite being told our vouchers could be extended beyond 6 months (which we have in writing), we are now being told they cannot. We are also now told we cannot all go to the same class and will have to book onto different classes.

    All in all it has been a total palaver. It was supposed to be a fun-filled afternoon and I do think the Cocoa Box offers an interesting mix of bespoke classes in accessible London locations - which is great. Lisa is also a very helpful person. But you need to do more than that.

    If you are going to offer bespoke classes which groups rely on and pay a lot of money for, you need to be more organised and to make sure you deliver the service you promised. Letting large groups of customers down in this way through disorganisation just isn't acceptable.

    The follow up customer service has really been lacking. Not processing a refund for nearly £1000 for so many weeks - when you made a massive screw up and did not provide the event paid for - is simply not acceptable. Being short and unaccommodating when the group try to book onto a class using compensation vouchers, is not acceptable. Customer service and general processes clearly need to be addressed.

    I very much hope that we were unlucky, and that this is not the norm for the Cocoa Box, and that others enjoy their classes hassle free. As I said, they do have a great mix of classes and the bespoke options are really appealing. But do think carefully if you are planning a bespoke party through them - I am very organised and confirmed multiple times and did all I could from our end and had no reason to think our event would not happen, but I was let down by the Cocoa Box and it really ruined the afternoon for the whole hen party.


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