For me, the picture of this lavish party food spread on Gulliver while he was tied up in Lilliput started it all. I can still remember the photo of the layered cake with pink icing and a red cherry on top, a huge roasted turkey or maybe chicken ( i was only 5 years old then) and lots of other goodies all on one page. It made me dream of a party like that. Made me think that someday i would create that pink and colorful cake one day. And so i did.
Do not ask what my favorite book then. Indeed, it is Gulliver's Travel, and i fell this sadness when Ondoy came and was not able to find my book again. If it weren't for this photo stuck in my brain, i never would have known what a pretty cake looks like that early. Or never would have gotten interested with it in the first place.
Then came when i was in college and i pretty much just watch how my Aunt would bake something in her turbo. The image of the merengue collapsing on her made me feel sooooo afraid to even come near it. I can still remember her saying "ano kayang nangyari" looking at me, i told myself, i have no idea what that thing was, let alone what had happened.
My first experiment on baking cakes was when i was 17 and i bought this Softasilk Cake mix. I followed the instructions best as i can, and baked the cupcakes. They all turned out so well my brother (i didn't know ) had to give some to his girlfriend. A few days after, there they were on the table. Another box of cake mix, and eggs, etc., Everything i needed to bake the cupcakes. The ending was not as happy as the first one. To date, i cannot remember what i did wrong that made the cupcakes so tough, they were not edible at all. The guilt of seeing the cupcakes on the table and my brother telling me how dense they were and to think he was going to give them to his girlfriend made me swear i will never touch an oven ever again.
It took another year or so before i thought of baking again. I asked my sister to bring me to a baking lesson at Maya's Kitchen in Makati and had my first taste of a chiffon cake, natilla, sponge cake and many others. Sad to say, when i baked the cake at home using a large toaster oven version from the UK, the cake just flowed out of the oven down to the floor. Ha ha ha. I don't know, i was 18 and well, maybe i was not paying attention too much or so, but that killed the whole idea for me for a while.
I have to stop and for some good year or so, just collected books and cut outs from magazines, recipes, or even photos of cakes and anything baked even if there are no recipes. I amassed a huge compilation of such that i started pasting them on my wall just to remind me that i will someday, bake a good batch of cupcake and cake as well.
My experience as a failed baker were happy times. Never give up and learn from your mistakes. The first game changer was the oven thermometer. When i installed this inside my La Germania oven, everything started to go well with my bakes. Finding out the hot spots in the oven is also crucial as i have to shift the pans once i see some browning on one side. I think i practiced on at least 3 ovens before i ended up with one good large commercial oven after finishing Culinary school. Yup, the large toaster oven, La Germania oven, La Germania gas range/oven.
Here are some photos of what the beginning cupcake and cake baker/decorator should expect on his or her first lessons. Cake it away!
The first day of lessons will be Buttercream which is ideal for piping flowers etc., We make two kinds of buttercream, one is for practice so students can pipe and recycle the icing if they make a mistake. Same thing we did in my Wilton class in New York at Michael's craft store.
What's my number one tip aside from the obvious oven thermometer? Choosing the best ingredients. Making sure the eggs are fresh, baking powder and yeast are not expired and left in the heat, butter in the right temperature etc., etc., If you see weevils in your flour, better sift and if there is a whole platoon in there, i would suggest that you throw it and buy a new batch. Not worth it.
My student last month said that she was served breads with little worms in it and her friend has no problem with it. They all ate the bread, but i said, why didn't your friend sifted the flour? ah, oo nga ano? Bakit nga ba hindi? Of course she should have sifted the flour and then maybe, if the flour was still okay, the worms would never have shown up in the bread.
Folding eggwhites into the batter. One of the most difficult thing to do when baking foam type cakes. What happens when you do it wrong, in this case, over folding it? The cake collapses and would lack volume.
A properly baked cake should have a straight or even domed top if they are cupcakes and loaf pan type cakes. If the cupcakes, pound cakes and banana loaves are flat on top, hmmm, i will not be happy with them. They should dome and pound cakes should have a nice crack at the center.
Mamon, no sunken center.
I baked this Chiffon Cake in my mother's Hotpoint oven in New York and the temperature is just about right. If the cake domes up and cracks, the temperature is hotter than what the cake needs and that happens to me a lot in my local oven in the Philippines. It's hard to control especially if the oven is too large and there's only one cake inside baking. This one is perfectly done.
Getting ready to decorate the cake. This will be the topic of my next blog. Until then....
Want a one on one session or have a group of at least 3? You can sign up for a special class at my place. Please text 09495705091 or email me for a schedule. Ingredients are inclusive of the fees, for cake decorating lessons, you may be asked to bring some tools for your personal use.