Newly minted bread maker Monica Guevara de la Cruz decided to take the cake, quite literally.
With a diploma in pastry art from Enderun College and boot camp training for artisan bread from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, she started her career by producing babkas (coffee cake), raisin loaves, milk breads and other breads during the lockdown. One day, the owner of confection store Candy Corner requested De la Cruz to create a celebration cake using its baking products, candies, chews and chocolates.
Challenged by a new medium, De la Cruz experimented with a vanilla cake and coated it with buttercream, an icing made of premium butter, confectioners’ sugar and flavor. Called the Carnival Cake, it was a riot of pinks, chartreuses, aquas and yellows. The top and the cross-section of the cake were decked with gummy bears, green apple marshmallows, chocolate sunflower seeds and icing stars.
The baker posted the photo of her experiment on Instagram and immediately received inquiries. She has since added birthday or celebration cakes to her repertoire.
The birthday cakes are customized according to the personality profile of the celebrator. Hence, there are no repeat designs.
When interior designer and TV host Anton Barretto sent De la Cruz’s birthday cake to a bubbly, young-at-heart lady, the celebrator squealed with delight. Titled “Dreaming of Neverland,” the tall vanilla cake was topped with shiny peaks of aqua and orange buttercream, fresh strawberries and lollipop swirls. Watermelon gummy bears, shimmery chocolate pearls and more strawberries tumbled down the side, adding dimension to the cake.
Accessories designer Ann Ong requested a birthday cake for her son, a fashion designer. “Denim with a Passion and Berries” was a chocolate cake, covered in indigo icing and embellished with raspberries and chocolate nuggets.
A celebrator from Cavite collected Royal Albert cups and saucers. Researching on the porcelain company’s signature designs, De la Cruz piped pink and purple buttercream roses and peonies. It looked like a bouquet cascading with gold-flecked sugar flowers and leaves. Living up to its title, “Fit for a Queen,” the cake was highlighted by a sugary crown. The cake was delivered in one piece from Pasig to Dasmariñas City.
De la Cruz wanted an unconventional cake for her nephew, whose hobby was astronomy. The vanilla cake was like a moon rock with blackberries and blueberries on top. Its cross section resembled layers of rocks made from multicolored chocolates.
While most customized cakes by private bakers range from P4,000 to P6,000, De la Cruz’s celebration cakes cost more, but customers don’t seem to mind. Each bespoke cake entails an investment of hours of manual labor which requires skill and premium ingredients. She credits her mentor Laetitia Moreau, executive pastry chef at Enderun Colleges, who imparted the virtues of patience and attention to detail.
“The base cake is set in the freezer,” says De la Cruz. “It has to be cold when you apply buttercream. I do an initial crumb coat of frosting, chill it, slather a second layer, even it out with a spatula, chill it again and start designing on it.” The finished product is set in the freezer before her driver makes the delivery or the cake is picked up by the client. She does not book commercial riders, since they could ruin the cake.
While the visual attraction is vital, De la Cruz maintains that the taste and flavors of the cake are just as crucial. The basic vanilla or chocolate recipe is tender, light, well-blended and finely textured, complemented by the velvety icing, the crunch of the chocolates and confections and the tartness of the fresh berries.
“The process comes easily with help from Divine Inspiration,” says De la Cruz. —CONTRIBUTED
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