This app takes the cake

 06 Apr 2016 - 10:06

This app takes the cake

Take the best college teacher you had, make 600 copies, Mod Podge in a little Martha Stewart, brush on some Etsy and allow the layers to set. The result would look something like Craftsy (free, iOS and Android). 

The app, founded almost six years ago in Denver, is an online DIY university that offers more than 1,000 courses in knitting, sewing, embroidery, cooking, photography, woodworking and more. 

"We're all about actionable inspiration," says Craftsy founder and chief executive John Levisay. "Pinterest is great. I see a lot of cool things on there, but it's like, 'How do I do it?' " 

One of the best aspects of the app - which is free to download but charges up to $40 per lesson series - is the quality of its videos, filmed in one of Craftsy's six Denver production studios. What results are crisp tutorials with strategic camerawork that makes it easy to see how that knot was tied, or what color a sauce should be before taking it off the heat. 

I was drawn to the app's impressive breadth of topics. As the daughter of a seamstress and the granddaughter of a carpenter, it's rare I buy anything without trying to make it myself first. (I call this thrifty; my friends call it cheap.) Because there's a class for just about every skill, Craftsy is catnip for those with a similar DIY mentality. 

Though I've dabbled in everything from sewing to woodworking to basket weaving to gardening, there's one discipline that has always eluded me: baking. What better way to test an app's ability to teach an old do-it-herselfer new tricks than to make and decorate a cake?

I opted to bake a banana, peanut butter and chocolate cake from "Classic Cakes From Baked Bakery," and decorate it with edible paper flowers using the "Wafer Paper Party Cakes" course. 

For those with more baking prowess, instructions to sift dry ingredients and use ripe bananas may seem obvious, but I appreciated them. My cake turned out fluffy, moist and delicious despite the fact that my bananas were practically green. (Lesson learned: Watch the full Craftsy video before grocery shopping.)

Decorating the cake proved to be more of a challenge, specifically because the materials for the paper flowers were difficult to track down. The supply list stated I needed "wafer paper in assorted colors," but multiple Google searches yielded only plain white sheets. I asked the teacher via the class discussion board where I could find colorful wafer paper. Turns out you need a special printer that prints edible ink. 

White flowers it is!

As predicted, my blooms didn't look remotely as professional as the instructor's, despite the fact that she worked slowly and thoroughly. Will I be quitting my job any time soon to start a bakery? Definitely not. But few things top being able to say, "I made this myself." 

NAME: Craftsy

COST: Free, with up to $40 in app purchases per lesson.

OPERATING SYSTEM: iOS (9.0 or later)

CREATOR: Sympoz Inc.

REVIEW'S BOTTOM LINE: Don't expect to become Picasso overnight. But if you're looking for a new hobby, start here. 

The Washington Post