Saturday, December 18, 2010


see link
or read the full article below

Thanks to Momar Visaya and to the staff of Asian Journal for this well-written article.

The Sweet Life: Filipina cake masters conquer New York
Friday, 17 December 2010 11:01 Momar Visaya | AJPress New York

Filipinos have that proverbial sweet tooth, no doubt about that. We consume a lot of dessert, from our traditional rice cakes like suman, bibingka or puto bumbong to the more modern fare like macarons, cupcakes and crepes, diabetes be damned.

A few Filipino entrepreneurs here in the US have realized this fact and have embarked on business ventures that cater to this sweet dream.

Shirley Santos-Yanga, a pastry chef born and raised in Manila, operates her own baking company out of her home in New York.

“I was inspired by my late grandmother, Mary Santos who used to own Azotea Diner, a Spanish restaurant in Quezon City. On weekends, I would help in the kitchen, experiment on recipes or watch the chefs execute the dishes,” Shirley shares.
While growing up in Manila, she was exposed to the food industry at an early age and she was also fond of watching cooking shows (Cooking with the Dazas, Wok with Yan—to name a few) and reading cookbooks.

“I would linger over dessert sections, with their photographs of layered and decorated goodies. I’d stare at each fluffy monument, imagining the taste. Then my eyes would wander to the text. Soon I was making those desserts myself,” she recalls.

It was a dear family friend, the late Mama Aurely “Els” Yap who Shirley considers as her mentor and her biggest inspiration to join the world of baking.

Candy Tamano Iannelli, on the other hand, is one of two women behind the recently-opened cupcake shop in the Upper East Side called Purple Elephant. Like Shirley, Candy’s very first inspiration was her aunt, her mom’s younger sister, Zawiya Espino and describes her as “a great cook and baker and always made great meals during family parties.”

Growing up in Manila, she was also inspired by culinary icons such as the Dazas and Sylvia Reynoso Gala. She fondly remembers taking classes with Ms. Reynoso Gala at her home in Pasig back in the early 80’s.

Candy’s turning point was an article she read in the New York Times about a decade ago, about the lucrative wedding cake industry in NY.

“Because I had always aspired to do something creative I felt I had a chance to break into the industry if I had the proper training and experience,” Candy says.

This dream had to take a backseat though as she initially pursued a different career path.
Candy had a day job as a pharmaceutical sales executive but at the back of her mind, she still harbored the hope of one day fulfilling her dream of creating special occasion cakes and making delicious pastries for a living. This was the reason why she enrolled at the prestigious French Culinary Institute in New York, where she met her soon-to-be business partner, pastry chef Jin Hee Sonu.

The dream that was put on hold was destined to become a reality when in 2009, due to the effect of the recession on the pharmaceutical industry, Candy was part of a company-wide downsizing and found herself unemployed two weeks after giving birth to her twin boys, Brooklyn and Michael.

Despite her extensive 10-year experience in the field, Candy had a hard time looking for a job. After months of actively applying for countless positions in pharmaceutical sales, the reality of a floundering industry saturated with thousands of unemployed, recently laid off applicants in one of the worst job markets in decades was a bitter pill to swallow.
Call it blessing in disguise, Candy’s joblessness made her realize that she had something quite solid as a fallback.

“Early this year, Candy and her culinary school classmate Jin decided it was time to take that proverbial leap of faith to set up their venture by joining forces.”

It all started with a text message from Jin, “let’s have lunch on Monday if you’re available”. To which Candy swiftly answered with, “So are you finally ready to partner with me so we can open up our own pastry shop?”

And the rest is as they say, history. The wheels were set in motion for great things to come for this dynamic duo. After a brainstorming session at a nondescript diner/coffee shop east of Penn Station, Purple Elephant Cake Inc. was born.

“I’m focusing on putting up a custom cake business here in New York. I believe that there is a larger market here and I have a niche for my products. I want to go global than local to broaden my culinary/pastry experience. By spending time in NY, I actually developed my skill sets in creating custom cakes, which I really did not do a lot in Manila,” Shirley says, explaining her future moves.

As a businesswoman, Shirley used to operate her own coffee shop in Quezon City called Pastry Passion, which she opened at the age of 21. When she left for the US, she left the business to her parents.

“My parents encouraged me to become an entrepreneur and supported me financially and emotionally. At age 21, very inexperienced and na├»ve, I was given the opportunity to open my won business. This was my brainchild and my biggest accomplishment,” she says.

Eleven years later, Shirley, now New York-based, has worked and studied with notable pastry chefs (Chef Richard Leach of Park Avenue Desserts, Chef Nick Malgieri, Cheryl Kleinman—to name a few).
“Working with these chefs helped me to improve my pastry techniques and broaden my culinary skills, which can be applied to my business in Manila,” she adds.
It’s not all glamor and fun though, and both ladies agree that being in this kind of field requires a lot of hard work and perseverance.

“You should have the passion, perseverance, dedication and love for the craft. I remember working 12 hour days, 60 hours a week in NY, as well as waking up at 4am to prepare myself to go to work and the job just took a heavy toll on me. I got burned out and stressed at some point, but I feel so blessed that I wake up to a job that I still love,” Shirley says.

“There were a lot of long nights and 14 to 16-hour days. In short, many a sleepless nights,” Candy says in agreement.

As Anthony Bourdain puts it in his new book Medium Raw, ”If you’re planning on spending big bucks to go to culinary school at your age, you’d better be doing it for love—a love, by the way, that will be, almost without a doubt, unreciprocated.”
As Filipino-Americans in this field, these ladies try to incorporate their history and culture to their products.

“I love to infuse Filipino ingredients and flavors (calamansi, ube, cassava) to my pastries and create desserts that are uniquely Filipino. If given a chance, I’d also want to create a wedding cake, inspired by our barong tagalog, or capiz shells,” says Shirley.

“Right now our cake shop only offers American cakes and cupcakes although our inspiration is truly French pastry. But eventually we plan to expand our menu to include both Filipino-inspired cakes as well as Korean inspired cakes and pastries,” adds Candy.


(NYNJ Dec 17-23, 2010 LifeEASTyle

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I was asked to create a christening cake with only 1 request, that it would have a pair of cute baby shoes or booties on it. This was my first time sculpting baby chucks on sugarpaste and I loved how the cute rubber shoes turned out.

Monday, November 29, 2010


Happy Thanksgiving to all my blog friends and readers. I hope you had a wonderful (quality) time with your loved ones. I am grateful to have you all in my life. CHEERS!

Fall-inspired birthday cake

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


This cake was inspired by the Burberry check pattern, and the top tier was based on the quilted Chanel classic purse bag.

The shoes were made out of gumpaste and I painted it with black gel paste color to have that ZEBRA pattern on the sole. The dogwood flowers were sculpted using a special veined mold. HAPPY VIEWING!

Monday, November 8, 2010


I had a request from a mom who had a vision of her son's birthday cake design. Below was her sketch of Mickey Mouse. At first, I thought she wanted Mickey's face on it, but after several e-mails, I found out that she just wanted the silhouette and specified that she doesn't want any facial details of Mickey. It was an unusual request but the cake turned out so cute and original.
Mom's sketch/requested design
My interpretation of her sketch.

details! details! details!

Happy Birthday Aadi!

Sunday, November 7, 2010


I made this birthday cake for my godson, Aston. He celebrated his birthday today at The Verona Boathouse, NJ. The cake was inspired by the invitation and it was a chocolate cake with Oreos and Cream buttercream filling. I also made mini red velvet cupcakes dipped in milk chocolate and topped with M&M's.

2D lion

the invitation

Happy Birthday Aston!

with mini red velvet cupcakes

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Last weekend, hubby and I flew to California to attend his cousin's wedding at Newport Beach. When we have trips like this, I'm the designated ZAGAT or the researcher of the restaurants/places/shopping malls that we'll try. On top of my list is Christopher Garren's shop. Being a fan of his show, Amazing Wedding Cakes, his works are showstoppers and truly works of art. I think he is the BEST in his field, as his cakes are varied (whimsical, floral, masculine, elegant, etc.) and very impeccably done. If you dream it, he can make it.

His shop is very quaint and I was surprised that he also offers individual cakes, some bite-sized pastries and coffee. We had cappuccino and tried his Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake and it was sooo good. I also felt that I was walking in a gallery as you could see some of his masterpieces hanging and displayed in a clear glass. Overall, the experience was awesome and I can't wait to visit again and hopefully, take one of their sugar classes next year.

Yours truly and Christopher Garren, star of Amazing Wedding Cakes


Chris was so gracious enough to invite me to his kitchen. Here is Marjie, working on a wedding cake.

with Marjie Chua, Chris' right hand and production head

the patiserrie

Monday, October 25, 2010


I got an order from a client who requested for a Tiffany Box cake. This time around, it's not for a bridal shower or an engagement party, but, it's for a WELCOME HOME party for her sister who is arriving to NY and obviously loves Tiffany. This is my third take on a Tiffany Box cake and I decided to have a "closed lid" style. To achieve a more sophisticated look, I airbrushed the sugarpaste bow with pearl white color - a simple detail like this adds a "WOW" factor to the cake. The cake was a red velvet one with a vanilla buttercream icing. As a result of this project, I am adding a tutorial for my readers on how to mix the right colors to achieve the tiffany blue fondant. I hope you all enjoy my bonus!

For the tiffany color, use 20% yellow, 30% royal blue and 50%white. Knead your fondant ito a ball until it's pliable. Using a toothpick, add streaks of icing color into several areas.

Knead the blue fondant until color is evenly blended. Do this with yellow as wll.

Roll a log each of the tinted and white fondant. Knead.

Knead fondant until all colors begin to blend in. Patience should be your virtue at this point!

Getting there....

TADA! I pulled out my tiffany box to check if I got the color palette!

Monday, October 18, 2010


For those of you who missed my tutorial at Pink Little Cake, I will be posting it again in its unedited version. This is my technique of “sculpting” pumpkins without the intimidating task of actually carving them. All you need is your good old bundt pan (the 9” one if you want it large, or 4” individual, if you want it mini) and this would definitely do the trick.

1 box cake mix (any brand and any flavor)
1 recipe Wilton Vanilla Buttercream (see Wilton website for recipe)
1 lb. store bought Wilton white fondant
Orange coloring
Black coloring
Green Coloring for the stem
4 to 6 pieces-Individual Bundt Pan (4”)
0R 2-Large Bundt Pan (9”)

Grease and flour your mini bundt pans. Mix cakes as directed in the cake mix recipe. Pour batter into individual bundt pans. Bake until done.

Spackle the 2 bundt cakes with Vanilla buttercream and position them upside down. Crumb coat the cakes.

Crumbcoat your cakes with Vanilla Buttercream Icing.

Tint your fondant with different colors: orange, black, green, etc. (You can play with the colors of your pumpkins---depends on your creativity and style.) Now, roll your orange and black fondant and cover your mini pumkins.

Using a veiner tool, press on the lines of the pumpkins.

Opional: You can airbrush the cakes to enhance the ridges of the pumpkins.

Make the eyes, nose, mouth and stem.

Serve your cakes on a decorated platter.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


When I first heard that my sister is getting married, I had mixed emotions over it. I felt very happy for her that she's finally tying the knot, but at the same time, sad, because our baby is leaving home and that means, our parents would be empty nesters. Well, you're probably wondering why I said that because here in the States, kids are very independent and leave home at age 18! In the Philippines, we leave home until we get married or sometimes not even! :D

I wasn't physically home to help my sister plan her wedding but I promised her that I'll do her wedding cake and dessert buffet. It's been 10 months since my sister, Sheryll and Ian got married. And, I know that this post is so delayed simply because I was extremely busy during the wedding reception and didn't have time to take pictures of them and my cake masterpiece. I had to wait for the release of the photos from their official photographer before I could finally publish this post.

Sheryll and Ian had such a personal wedding that was such a joy to go to. They had a big and fun celebration with family and friends (around 300 guests) and definitely picked a team of great vendors to help them with their special day. I was simply blown away with how gorgeous of a couple they were. You could definitely feel the love beaming in the air. I think the best way to describe the fun I had at Sheryll's wedding is by showing you some pictures of the event:
cake cutting ceremony

The wedding cake was inspired by their color motiff. This was a white on white cake, with hand sculpted peony flowers and leaves.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Today, I'm thrilled to be a guest blogger at Kathia's site, Pink Little Cake. Kathia was gracious enough to invite me to be part of her 28 Days of Sweet Halloween Ideas. For this project, I created a tutorial on mini pumpkin cakes, which are perfect as favors or centerpiece on your next Halloween party. Make sure to swing by Pink Little Cake for more details, and a bunch of sweet inspiration for Halloween.

Monday, October 4, 2010


The airbrush system (by Kopykake)

ready to use airbrush colors by Americolor

This is a white gumpaste carnation which I airbrushed with a gold luster color.

Guess what my new toy is? An AIRBRUSH! I was so happy when I got it in the mail. Now, I can easily and quickly add color to any cake by using this system. Airbrushing is a technique in which edible liquid paints are sprayed through a needle tip by using compressed air. While airbrushing systems may be a little costly, it's definitely worth the investment if you plan to decorate cakes on a regular basis.

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