Posts Tagged ‘cake’

birthday cakes

My birthday was last week. My offspring asked me what I wanted to do most of all in the world on my special day. I said, “Read a book at Starbucks.”

They said: “No, really, Mama. What would you like to do that’s FUN!!! and ENJOYABLE!!!”

I replied: “Really, for me drinking coffee and reading for a couple of hours is my idea of FUN!!! and EXCITEMENT!!! and adventurous blazing ACTION!!!”

So we went to Starbucks Powerplant Mall. It being my birthday, and me being the lazy person that I am (and I really work hard at it, lemme tell ya), they got in line for coffee-and while I sank my behind into a soft and comfortable couch.

We sat around for a while sipping our Peppermint Mocha hot coffees and fraps until the kids got so bored that they upped and went to the video game arcade, promising to come back for me in, “Like, an hour or two, or when Offspring Major finally beats Offspring Minor at Tekken 6.”

Ensconced in warmth and fuzzy softness and pepperminty coffee flavor, I finished Dr Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo’s book of travel essays Looking for the Philippines. And what a lovely book it is, and what a charming and enchanting country we have, seen through Ma’am Jing’s eyes.

When the kids showed up to collect me, we had dinner at Zaifu (sushi and stuff) and dessert at Sugarhouse. Now that was another part I liked.

Behold! French apple pie, blueberry cheesecake, dulce de leche mini cake, and almond sans rival – an exciting adventure in pies and cakes that led to much chewing and swallowing action.

A good book, coffee, cake, and children –  simple things. Do we need really anything more?

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let them eat – cupcakes!

It was a serendipitous walk around the basement of PowerPlant Mall that led us to a cheerful little stall all ablaze in pink. Called “The Sweet Life by Ange”, this home-based bakery purveys cupcakes; “Sweet Surrender”, their variation of Brazo de Mercedes with French vanilla ice cream; and cheesecake cookies.

The adventure into their take on the sweet life begins with the adorable packaging. The box combines my favorite color -pink – with complements of ivory and chocolate.

When you open the box, a delectable sight greets your eyes – a dozen cupcakes, generously iced with artistic swirls, cherries, candy hearts, or chocolate beans perched atop.

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“Couture Cupcakes”. Top, L-R: Marie Antoinette (vanilla cupcake with Tequila Rose Buttercream), Chanel (moist chocolate cupcake with Valrhona Buttercream). Below, L-R: Satine (red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting), Sugar Daddy (moist chocolate cupcake with Bailey’s Buttercream).

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Their sampler box of 12 mini cupcakes is dressed with a pink bow.

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Twelve bite-sized chunks of cake tempt and delight.

“The Sweet Life by Ange” will be at Rockwell during the “Bakers’ Dozen” sale, every weekend until December.

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food and fountain pens, a perfect combination!

Filipino fountain pen collectors gathered to celebrate pens, ink, and a fellow collector’s birthday at the second meeting of the Fountain Pen Network-Philippines (FPN-P) chapter last Saturday (August 23) at the home of stockbroker/musician Jay Ignacio.

Multi-talented birthday celebrant Jay, who is also a chef specializing in Italian cuisine, whipped up a delectable feast for fellow FPN-P members: grilled chicken salad, Italian meatloaf with creamy mushroom sauce, vegetarian penne (“Eh kasi nga naman ‘pen’ meet ito,” said Jay), and appetizers of cold cuts and chunks of parmigiano meant to be eaten with orange marmalade.

The piece de resistance was the magnificent “Nakaya Rose” cake and matching cupcakes, commissioned by Jay’s family from a bakeshop specializing in bespoke pastry.

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No, the pens were not edible. But they were very very pretty and we all wished they were real.

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The inspiration for the cakes came from these print ads in a pen magazine (photos by Ayee Ignacio)

It might have been Butch Palma, who lived in the US for over two decades, who said that penmeets in the US get along fine with just doughnuts and coffee. We all looked at each other and shrugged. In the Filipino culture, all gatherings are marked by an abundance of food. You can no more have a meeting without food than you can have a penmeet without – er – pens.

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Penfriends (L-R) Butch Dalisay, Caloy Abad Santos, Jay Ignacio, Chito Limson, Butch Palma, and Leigh Reyes

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Leigh shows Chito how to smoothen a scratchy nib with Micromesh

Butch P., who has around 400 pens in his collection, has made a hobby of pen restoration, as has Leigh. Together they made a terrrific tag team – Butch P. to align the tines of nibs, Leigh to smoothen them – for their impromptu fountain pen “lying-in” (not quite a hospital or a clinic). In just a few minutes, they massaged a recalcitrant Recife of Butch D.’s into smooth-as-silk condition.

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Pens and inks were the stars of the party. Towards the bottom of the image are big guns such as Arita, Montegrappa, Pelikan, and Visconti. The two gray pen trays in the upper part of the image show Butch P.’s “for sale” pens – among them lovely vintage Sheaffer Snorkels, Balances, and Triumphs, all of which he has fully restored and rendered functional. At the very top, the red felt-lined wooden box stows some of Butch D.’s Pelikans.

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The bright orange ink on the left is “Majestic Orange” from Noodler’s Singapore line. Dubbed “bulletproof and eternal” , it will not wash away from paper nor can it be removed with bleach or other chemical means including airplane degreasers. The paper will disintegrate first. Yes, it’s that tough.

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Leigh’s bottle of “evil” Noodler’s Baystate Blue – it stains horribly, yet has such a vibrant, eye-popping color. Bravely, Caloy filled a pen with this potent potion.

Like collectors of every stripe, we talked about our obsessions for five enjoyable hours that quickly passed. Pens exchanged hands and were dipped in the inks that we shared with each other – Noodler’s Singapore line was well represented with Spirit of Bamboo, Majestic Orange, Vanda Miss Joaquim, and Singapore Sling.

Also on hand to try were Leigh’s Noodler’s Baystate Blue and Jay’s “vanilla” black Parker Quink, which Leigh used to lubricate the pens for smoothening. My favorite was the Diamine Cerise from Leigh, a happy cheerful hue that satisfies my craving for pink ink. With our nibs soaked in rainbows, we executed swirls and flourishes in copperplate and chicken scratch, as the fancy took us.

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Leigh’s calligraphy. This is what FPs can do, in well-trained and artistic hands. The line variations are possible only with semi-flex and flexible nibs, usually stubs and italics. (Photo by Butch Dalisay)

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My pens (L-R): late 20′s hard rubber ringtop, ’30s celluloid Wahl-Eversharp, mid-’30s Sheaffer Ebonized Pearl Junior, ’30s Welsharp mini, mid-’30s Sheaffer Black-and-Pearl petite, ’70s Pilot 77, 1944 Parker Vacumatic, ’30s Wearever, ’30s Sheaffer Balance Jet Black Lady, ’30s Sheaffer Balance Golden Brown Striated standard size, ’30s Sheaffer Balance Jet Black Lady (photo by Butch Dalisay)

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muffin day; or, growing up in the late ’70s part 1

UPDATE: This piece was published in slightly modified form on 8 July 2012 in the first issue of the Sunday Manila Standard-Today, revived after an eight-year hiatus.

There’s this old Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook that’s been in the family for years. It belonged to my mother, Malu Ledesma Lacson Alonso, who received it from her nanny, Phoebe Elustrisimo. Lola Phoebe migrated to the US when my mom was a teenager, but she did bring many warm memories of baking cookies and muffins, and brushing my mother’s long brown hair in the mornings.

My mother and I, 1968.

As a child I preferred to stay indoors and read, rather than go out and play. On my great-aunt Bennett’s sugar cane hacienda in Bacolod,  where I lived for a year, there were no other children my age and I was not allowed to play with the children “nga halin sa uma” (“from the farm”).

When I was brought back to Manila and our little apartment near Vito Cruz, the neighbor kids were mostly boys and played rough. Not that I minded the knockabout games. I was a little tomboy, and the best on the swing, going as high up as I could and jumping off at the very peak of the arc. “Dangerous” games proved your bravery; any kid who didn’t join in was a sissy. Girls were exempted from this, but a girl who was as tough as the boys got extra points in street cred. My rep was “small but terrible”.

To this day I’m amazed I didn’t crack a leg or some other useful body part. I wonder how nearly all of us went through our childhood practically unscathed. The only casualties I recall were Alan next door (his family owned the swing) who broke his arm, and Mars across the street who snapped something in his chest when rough-housing with his German Shepherd. The break never healed properly and he developed a “pigeon chest”, a sort of protusion that shocked us all into a wary respect for dogs.

It was boring and meaningless, keeping up the street rep among my playmates, and increasingly, I retreated into the other worlds of books. One of my favorites was this same 1956 edition Betty Crocker cookbook of my mom’s. I’d pore over it for hours, flipping through the slick pages, ogling the glossy color pictures of classic American dishes – apple pie, strawberry shortcake, Eggs ala Goldenrod.

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Written in the politically-incorrect ’50s, before organic foods and vegetarianism became fashionable, many recipes call for lard (an ingredient banned from today’s enlightened kitchens, where “lowfat” cooking is de riguer), meal suggestions are built around red meat and carbohydrates, and vegetable recipes occupy less than ten pages – most of them variations on deep-fried this or that. Phrases such as “low-calorie” and “artificial sweetener” are nowhere to be found; “cookie” is spelled with a “y”.  The illustrations are quaint and oh-so Fifties: women in flaring skirts and aprons lean over ovens, brandish ladles.

The chapters on baking were closest to my heart. The “Quick Breads” (pancakes, muffins, and waffles), “Cakes”, “Pies”, and “Cookies” pages became the most dog-eared and creased. An instructional manual, the book contains step-by-step pictures on how to sift flour, knead dough, roll out pastry. Sort of like a primitive “Baking for Dummies”, but with photos.This proved a godsend to me when I actually started cooking on my own after I got married in 1990. Though a beginner at cooking, it was like my hands already knew what to do, thanks to those instructions.

When my mom moved to the US in the early 80s and took that beloved cookbook with her, I was bereft, like I had lost a close friend.

There’s a happy ending to this, though. Maybe ten years later, I coaxed my mom to send that cookbook to me in a balikbayan box. She was reluctant to let it go; as for me, it had much sentimental value for her. I suggested that it was time for the next generation (my children Alex and Erika) to enjoy that heirloom. That argument proved to be persuasive. Once in my hands, I placed that half-a-century old book in a place of honor on the shelf.

Ik is the most interested in this old book. As I did, she studies the pictures and reads the recipes. Over the past several months this year, the inspiration built up to such a crescendo that yesterday, she convinced her ate Alex to help her bake muffins.

Here they are. Golden brown, fluffy, and perfect smothered with butter. Great with coffee? You bet. Congratulations, Ik and Alex!

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The 52-year-old heirloom cookbook; the “how to bake muffins” page; Alex, Ik and muffins

For me, this particular cycle has come full circle, in terms of my children’s participation in the mythos of family traditions and rituals that shape so much of who we are and what we influence our children to become. Yet time in the real world is linear, not circular. I stretch my mind to the future, where I see my grandchildren reading that Betty Crocker cookbook (now 70, 80 years old), baking buttery golden muffins for their lola, tita, and mom.

Thus the cookbook is not merely a book, a construct of paper and ink, but a vessel of familial rites, a repository of histories, and a catalyst for the creation of fresh, life-shaping memories.

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strawberry nom

Us MARHO employees came into a little windfall today, and we blew some of it on food…a bilao of pansit malabon, chicken and pork liempo from Andok’s, a family-size bottle of Coke Zero, and the terribly sinful meal capper – Goldilocks’ Strawberry Fudge Cake.

It’s not too sweet (although me and my sweet tooth would prefer a leetle bit more sugar in the whipped cream topping), and the flavors of chocolate and strawberry jam blend to perfection.

It’s another sweet day.

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