I spend hours stalking my cake idols on Facebook and on Instagram. Today, I happened to stumble upon Philippine buttercream floral queen Jing Fernandez’s page on Facebook. She posted some of her buttercream daisies from way back in November 2013, and I really could say that she has come a long way from her humble beginnings. I attended one of her classes in Cebu last May, and she is a piping goddess! I simply love her work, and she has inspired me to try my hand at buttercream flowers. I am looking forward to attending her advanced buttercream class.
Her post inspired me to look back at my own humble beginnings in cake decorating. If someone told me five years ago that I would be a cake decorator running a small but thriving cake business, I would have punched him in the face. Why? Because I would take it as an insult since I don’t know how to cook. No. Not at all. I didn’t even go anywhere near our kitchen except to eat and drink water. On those rare occasions that I cooked, I would burn the rice, so I made it a point to always use a rice cooker. All I could manage were fried hotdogs and boiled water. Although I watched a lot of cooking shows, I never attempted to do anything in the kitchen. But life has a funny way of turning things around. In mid-2011, I got tired of my stressful and thankless job at a call center. I decided to get married, and I thought that I would need to have a job that would not require me to work weird hours (this part I got wrong because I would still occasionally find myself waking up very early just to finish an order) so that I could always be available for my would-be family (unfortunately still childless until now, but that’s okay). Then my good friend Ristie told me that she has been having lots of cake orders, and she suggested that I learn how to bake. She taught me how to do some basic piping on cupcakes, and after that I decided that it was something that I could do. I could learn this! So I bought lots of books and magazines, and I searched the Internet for recipes, tips, and tutorials. I begged my mom to buy me an oven after I told her that I planned to resign from my current job and spend my days baking. She was livid, but she eventually gave in.
I could still remember the very first cupcakes I baked. They came out like rubber, and the cupcake liners wouldn’t come off! I remember our dog didn’t even eat them. In retrospect, I think I used (a lot of) baking soda instead of baking powder. That was a funny moment!
I didn’t get discouraged though. I continued to do my research. During my rest days, I’d bake lots of cupcakes, then I brought them to the office and forced my officemates to taste them and give me feedback. I baked a cake for anybody who had a birthday. Then finally, I struck gold! Somebody at the office who got a free taste of my cupcakes ordered from me! Yehey! My first order ever!
Slowly, more and more people placed their orders. I took that as a good sign. I actually started believing in myself. I could do this! I could make a living out of this! I finally resigned from my job. My mom looked at me like I was crazy when she found out. She knew that I did well in the office. I was the top team leader handling the best team in our account. I’ve been working in the BPO industry for years. Then I drop everything and decide to do something I have never done before. But for me, it felt like the right thing to do. I wanted to learn everything I can and succeed in this new enterprise. Other people had their doubts, but I didn’t. I just knew that I could do it.
I worked at home for several online clients while learning how to bake and decorate in between. As more and more people came to me for my cakes, I gained more confidence. My dream was to put up a store, eventually. I still didn’t know when and where, but I knew that someday it would come true. I knew that I needed more experience in selling. I joined bazaars and did everything on my own from buying supplies, baking, decorating, cleaning up, packing, and delivering. It was difficult and tiring, but I loved every minute of it.
I began taking bigger and more complicated projects. I started with my own wedding giveaways. I made cupcakes and heart-shaped sugar cookies placed in jars. I started baking four days before my wedding, on my own and without proper water supply. The water line has been broken for about three weeks after the typhoon Sendong hit our province hard. Baking and cleaning up after myself was so stressful! In the end, my dad was the one who packed up the cupcakes because I got super tired. In October 2012, I finally attempted to create my first three-tier cake. It was the biggest cake I made at that time. The bottom tier was 14 inches round by 4 inches thick; the middle was 12 inches round by 4 inches thick; and the top tier was 10 inches round by 4 inches thick. It was my first time to work with edible prints and to place that much detail on a cake.
Then in December 2012, I made my first wedding cake along with 150 pieces of cupcakes. This was another very challenging and stressful project because I made this in the middle of typhoon Pablo’s wrath. We had no electricity for days! I was panicking because I had lots of butter and cream cheese in the fridge. I bought a very big cooler to store them in. Then we used car batteries to power my hand mixer.
Well, in the end, everything came out well. Nothing got spoiled, and my fondant was perfectly dry despite the weather. Successfully creating cakes in the middle of these difficult situations reinforced my belief that I am actually capable of finding solutions to any challenge that I encounter. If I just keep a cool head, I can overcome any obstacles and still be able to deliver quality results. I soon opened my shop on my 31st birthday in May 2013. I really didn’t know what I was doing then. I simply followed my passion and my gut feeling that I will be able to pull things off. I still can’t believe that my business has survived and is continuing to thrive. It wasn’t easy, definitely, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I’ve learned a lot, and I am still continuing to learn. I just wish that I could keep this going for years and years to come. What does it take to start a cake business? It takes creativity, imagination, hard work, dedication, skills, knowledge, time, money, effort, and guts. Lots and lots of guts.