My latest cake decorating class was something I was really looking forward to - handbag cakes!It was an opportunity to learn how to carve cakes and also practice my fondant skills. Which as you can see from the picture above are far from perfect, but we'll come to that later!Apparently the best type of cake for carving or shaping is a madeira cake, as it is less crumbly and more solid than something like a Victoria sponge. However I didn't have a recipe for madeira cake to hand and decided to use a recipe from a cake decorating book I've got called Planet Cake. A lot of the cakes in the book involve carving or sculpting so I figured if they recommended a particular kind of cake, then that ought to work.I made their chocolate mud cake on p.23. The method is a little unusual but it worked really well. First melt the butter in a panAdd instant coffee powder, pieces of chocolate and water.Heat until the chocolate is melted and the other ingredients are combinedSift flour and cocoa powder, make a well in the middle and add eggs, oil and buttermilk - which was handy as I had some buttermilk left from a previous recipe I needed to use up.Add the melted chocolate mixture and stirPour into a cake tin and bake for 1 hour 40 mins - that seemed like a long time but it turned out perfectly.A lovely square cake!So for the cake decorating class itself, I decided to colour some fondant in two different colours - pink and caramel, which I hoped would look like a pale brown leather colour and also go well with the pink.So all of the above was done before the class. In the lesson, the first thing Lorna told us to do was cut our cake into four squares. Then take one square and shape it slightly to make the bag. This involved cutting down diagonally from the top to make the slanting sides so the piece of cake is now narrower at the top than the bottom.When making a handbag cake this size, you could cover the whole thing with one piece of fondant. However, Lorna wanted to show us a technique we could use if we were making one big handbag cake and couldn't cover the whole thing in one piece of fondant. As you can see below, you simply need to cut a piece of fondant the right size and shape for each side of the bag. It's easier if you make it slightly bigger and trim off the excess with a sharp knife once it is on the cake (stuck on with buttercream).As you can see, the joins are quite visible.Putting the top on lastSo this is the trick to covering the joins - roll a thin piece of fondant in a contrasting colour (you could also do it in the same colour) and use edible glue to stick along the seams.We also created a flap to go over the top from another piece of fondantWe made a handle and I decided to make a small Chanel-style logo to stick on the front. It didn't look quite as professional as I'd hoped, but it was quite cute.Lorna then showed us how to make a different syle of bag, which is more like a clutch. Getting the curved top was actually very easy - we used a circle cutter to draw round but you could also use a cup to give you the curved shape, then cut along the line using a sharp knife.I covered two sides of this bag in fondant but unfortunately that was all we had time to do in the class. So I decided to finish them off when I got home...I was making this up as I went along so I'm not really sure what's going on with the handbag flap here... I decorated it using edible coloured ballsI decided to tackle the third square of cake... I shaped it in the same way as the first oneI rolled out some chocolate sugarpaste as I decided the caramel colour I used on the first cake was a little too pale.Covering the cake - this one looks much neater than the one I did in the class! I like the colour too.Repeating the technique of hiding the seamsLorna had also told us that to make the handle more stable we could use florists' wire. I happened to have some at home I had bought on a whim from a cake decorating website but had never used, so I threaded a small piece through a cylinder of sugarpaste.When you bend it, it holds its shape - and the ends of the wire are useful for sticking into the cake to anchor the handle.Ta da! I'm quite pleased with this one.Even though it was getting late I decided to make a fourth handbag as I didn't want to waste a big chunk of cake. I was going to see my family at the weekend as it was my sister's birthday - it was actually the weekend in between my birthday and her birthday. She's a big fan of all things zebra, so I simply had to make her a zebra handbag cake!First I shaped the cake as before and covered it with white fondant.I used a pizza cutter to cut out some randomly-shaped slices of black fondant......and simply stuck them onto the cake using edible glue.I made a handle using florists' wire as before and added an edible silver heart as a clasp. I like the way this one turned out!So here's the cluch bag again.. probably my least favourite.The zebra bagThe brown and pink bagThe original bag I made in the class. I think this one the least, as the colours don't work together as well as I'd hoped, and as it was my first attempt I definitely improved on the later bags. Also this bag unfortunately fell over inside my cake carry case while I was walking home from the class, and it landed in the chocolate cake crumbs from the remaining pieces of cake. As this cake was covered in a fairly pale fondant, which was still quite soft, I did my best to brush the cake crumbs off but to no avail!All four bags togetherI am entering my handbag cakes into this month's Alphabakes challenge as the magic letter is H.