Sweet Abundance: Food for the Stomach and Soul
By Kay Habana
Cakes. I have always been fond of them.
“How in the world does one end up devouring something so beautiful?” I would always ask this same question from way back when. To this day, I haven’t found an answer that would satisfy me and that I would consider gives justice to the fact that cake is, edible. Cake is food.
By the time I was fully conscious of birthday celebrations and other parties that involved cakes, my grandparents had already sparked the interest of my taste buds, as well as eyes, in cakes. My favorite brand: Goldilocks.
I spent part of my childhood in the care of my grandparents. My biological mother, who was living in Hong Kong at the time, came to visit. She brought Goldilocks cake, mocha flavor. It was the very first time I was introduced to the brand. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had seen. Well, apart from what I was used to seeing, that is.
My family was used to ordering custom-designed cakes from a close friend, Tita Methos. She always designed exquisite cakes. They were tasty, too. I can still vividly remember the anticipation when we’d be expecting a huge box of birthday cake from her. The smell of whipped egg whites mixed with powdered sugar; the enchanting aroma of vanilla extract; the captivating sheen on those glossy, pink-colored sugar flowers—I can’t seem to shake them off my mind right this second. Oh, these “sweet thoughts” are fattening, I can feel the weight gain by the minute.
My first attempts in baking were not exactly successful. Yeah, I thought it would be as easy it looked. It appeared to be somewhat magical on cooking shows, too. It wasn’t, at all. Most of the time, I had to struggle with the temperature of my kitchen, too. After many attempts, I decided to leave my baking interest, hanging… temporarily.
Living in Canada, the abundance of flour, sugar, shortening, and other baking ingredients and tools made it very easy for me to get back to my love for baking. I even got my eggs from my dad’s poultry in the backyard, during summertime. Time was not an issue. As long as I had the itch to bake, I was in the kitchen, even at three in the morning. I got reprimanded by my mom several times. But now, I’m utterly convinced it was worth it.
Here in New York, I am blessed to have many friends who belong in different professions. To my great advantage, I have several few who own either their own restaurant or a home-based catering business. A few years back, a close friend of mine from church just decided to let go of all her baking tools, used and new, alike. I was so thrilled to be in the receiving end. These quality tools aren’t exactly inexpensive when you buy them from retail stores. I had a blast using and exploring each one. I especially enjoyed molding sugar flowers and air-brushing fondant cakes.
It was quite a challenge, at first, to make my own fondant icing, but once I got the hang of it, it was more fun than tiring. In my opinion, I would still opt for the classic buttercream frosting rather than the fondant. Either way, as long as the texture of the frosting is right and the consistency of the cake itself is perfect, then I’m happy. Of course, it’s most important to me, as well, that the taste of the cake is exemplary.
I had fun and tears making my first fondant cake. It was an English hat. The room’s temperature impeded me from getting the right consistency, my marshmallows were not melting the way I expected them to, I burned my hand while incorporating the hot fondant with powdered sugar, the colors were not mixing well, the list went on. The moment I thought I had gotten the right elasticity, my fondant would break as I lifted it onto the cake. Hence, the constant repeats and modifications on the processes, which I thought were endless.
Finally, this hat.
I still wish to go to culinary school to get formal education in baking/pastry making. Thus far, everything I know, I learned from books, years of trial-and-error in my own kitchen, and from the abundance of virtual schooling off of Youtube videos.
Who’s to say that it’s impossible to become versed in the art and tricks of baking? I say, if one is open to discover, there are many resources surrounding us from which we can learn. ‘Tis so much fun to learn when the passion is burning!