I mentioned last time that this blog is a lot about me (well, at least that’s how I should start). But I would also love to hear more about you, what you love to do that brings greater meaning into your life. During this pandemic, I realize that for many of us when all else fails we turn to cooking, baking, and plants. Baking (breads, cakes and pastries) is a territory I have yet to conquer. And believe me how I coveted to post a blog about my baking creations one day! In the meantime, allow me to share the joys of baking through Timi, a friend whose passion for cake creation and cooking lends greater meaning to the hobby.
I met Timi R.M. through our university alumni association chapter here in Calgary. She is the true blue “maroons” – born, raised and lived more than half of her life in the UP Campus in Diliman. Besides being a maroons, she describes herself as someone who is naturally attracted to kitchen work. As a kid she loved being around the kitchen when food is prepared: learned to make polvoron (a kind of sweet milk dessert) at 9 years old, made her own version of Burger Machine bart burgers, and watched Cooking it up with Nora and Cooking with the Dazas, during the era when I was probably busy watching Punky Brewster. Then in high school, her mom enrolled her at a baking class where she learned to make the chocolate cake that she still makes today. That’s when she realized she liked baking more than cooking. “I found that baking actually allowed me to think and focus, and it allowed me to be quiet. So, from there I moved on to making cookies, brownie and learned how to make rum butter cakes that my mom would give away as gifts during Christmas.” It didn’t come as a surprise that she pursued some form of culinary arts studies in university and became a faculty member of several top-notch institutions in the Philippines before emigrating to Canada. Timi says, “I like feeding people; it makes me happy when people like what I have prepared for them. Even when I got tired after baking and cleaning the kitchen, it was something that gave me so much peace and joy in doing.”
For Timi, the joy of baking starts from her ability to focus. Since baking is an exact science, it forces her mind to concentrate and not think of anything else when she’s in the middle of it. It also keeps her mind sharp. Doing fractions and percentages, the maths and conversions for measurements — all mental exercises that she realized she enjoys doing. In baking, each ingredient has an important role to play and reading recipes and going over what each ingredient does to the final product gives her that emotional connection. “I also love that baking allows me to be lost in my own world for a few hours in the kitchen. It allows me to de-stress and get creative. I don’t notice the time and I never get tired while I’m in the kitchen.”
If 10,000 hours is what one needs to become an expert, I can safely say that Timi has surpassed that when it comes to baking. So for aspiring cake talents out there, here’s what she has to say: “To be a good baker you need: a good understanding of ingredients, their purpose in the recipe (remember the “Why?”). and a good understanding of techniques. A lot of people think that having a recipe is good enough. But this is farthest from truth. If you don’t know how to properly fold, or when to stop mixing, or do a certain technique properly then you will end up with a bad/failed product. You have to be always open to learn new things, try new things but also have a good foundation of the classics. A good baker should also be good in practical math. I get scared when someone who bakes does not understand fractions and do conversions. You have to love what you’re doing.”
Here’s a few of Timi’s cake creations and snippets:
From L-R or top to bottom for mobile view: (1) Wedding cake for a young couple. Each tier is made of a different cake to represent colors and seasons: red velvet, ube macapuno (purple yam with coconut), tres leches. (2) Simple, elegant, all white wedding cake. (3) Timi's first wedding cake ever, and all done in fondant - the inspiration for all succeeding wedding cakes.
Cake creations and themes to celebrate birthdays and baby shower. The last one is Timi's cake interpretation of Van Gogh's Star Starry Night.
Cakes and flowers - what a beautiful combination. L-R or top to bottom for mobile view: (1) Buttercream Flower Cake. All flowers were hand-piped. One of the prettiest cakes that came out of Timi's kitchen. (2) A debutante's cake. Transporting this cake all assembled during winter time was a challenge. (3) A smash cake for a baby turning 1. This cake was part of a beautiful photo shoot before it was finally "smashed."
Writing this article gave me another perspective that baking is not just about the recipe. Just like anything and everything in life, when you do it with passion you create another avenue to find joy in your life.
Find Timi on IG: @baked_by_maria and on FB: Baked by Maria