Delicious art that’s edible from top to bottom
Shirley started baking as a small kid growing up in the Philippines. Her parents ran a Spanish restaurant and so for Shirley, food has always had a starring role in her life. After leaving school, she did a brief stint at a bank but soon realized she was in the wrong business. When she started bringing in the results of her weekend baking frenzies to the office it wasn’t long before people were making orders for birthdays and other special occasions. Shortly after, coffee shops in the area were also placing requests and that was when she made the leap. Her dad was hugely supportive and helped her set up her first bakery, Pastry Passion, in Manila. And since then, it has been one sugar-coated adventure after another.
Shirley’s sweet tooth then took her to New York where she trained with Cheryl Klienman and catered for well-connected New Yorkers, as well as the high-flying corporate world. Since having her first child however, she has slowed down the pace to focus on her passion, which is creating custom cakes, great towers of confection personalized and decorated in such detail they might be mistaken for art installations.
In her kitchen drawer, scalpels and sculpting tools sit alongside more familiar kit such as food coloring and sugar paste. The key to decorating a cake is, of course, the icing. Generally, Shirley works with two types of icing – fondant, which she makes from scratch from marshmallows – and gum paste, more elastic and stronger, and used for creating intricate detail such as hair or flowers.
Shirley likes everything on her cakes to be edible, so she starts with a Rice Krispie cake mix to make the body. Then she rolls out fondant and molds it around the figure. For the finishing touches she sculpts tiny eyes or flowers out of the gum paste before sticking them on with a sugar-syrup solution.
If you can’t think of an occasion to order a spectacular cake, Shirley also makes some mean macaroons (the salted caramel flavor are absurdly good) and a big selection of cupcakes and other more traditional puddings.