(Home Baker | 50yo | Mom of two | Pasig, PH)
FTV: When did you start baking?
MKA: I started baking when I was about 13 years old. I used to bake for my dad and his friends when they played mahjong in our house, but I only used Betty Crocker, all premix stuff. Then I resumed again when I was already a mom at the age of 42.
FTV: What got you started?
MKA: Living in Malaysia as a full time mom of two always hungry toddlers it pushed me to make our own snacks and desserts. In the country with limited choices and expensive ones, I opted to make our own using instant mixes again. It brought back my interest in baking and making something for the family, but this time for my kids.
FTV: Have you liked baking since you were young? Who or what inspired you?
MKA: Yes. I always loved baking. I remember I used to watch my grandmother make our homemade merienda. My family inspired me to bake and create. As I have always wanted my kids to be able to say, my mom made this!
FTV: Did you take up formal studies on it?
MKA: No formal studies on baking. I only relied on Google and YouTube. I also read a lot and asked a lot from friends who know how to bake. I was also blessed with a pastry chef neighbor who allowed me to stay in her kitchen to watch her and she gave me tips.
FTV: What about making the figures? How did you learn it?
MKA: I have always loved customized cakes. So when I started baking cakes I aimed to make our own toppers, but since I didn’t know how, I opted to buy toys instead. Then a friend of mine ordered a cake from me but she didn’t want to use toy toppers. She challenged me to make a 3D Nemo, Dory and Bailey. As orders went on, I kept challenging myself and my kids would always challenge me to make their fave characters for their bdays. This helped me gain confidence and I pushed myself to learn more.
There were instances that I knew my skills weren’t good enough yet so I ordered from someone else. but as her schedule filled up I was again forced to make my own, with her guidance via FB Messenger. And then during the pandemic, she opened workshops online and she invited me to participate. That was my first workshop for figures, 2020.
FTV: Making the cake-topper figures entail a different set of skills from baking, right? What skills did you add to your toolbox when you learned this other craft?
MKA: Baking and Sugar crafting are basically the same. In both areas you need patience, precision, keen observation to details, they both require exact measurements. I guess the difference is in baking it Is more on food science, one should know the reaction of each ingredient. In sugar crafting one major skill is your eye for color scheme, proportions of each figure, it’s more on math and arts. Because the slightest change in color or shade can affect your topper. Even the light can affect the color of your topper.
FTV: How do you feel when you make them?
MKA: Every project gives me the jitters, then a lot of fulfillment as I go along and I see it coming together. it’s truly amazing.
FTV: And when they’re done?
MKA: I simply feel fulfilled.
FTV: What’s the best part in making your creations?
MKA: The best part for me is when my kids would say, “It’s accurate!”. It confirms my work and it gives me the confidence to do more.
FTV: How long does it take to make?
MKA: It actually depends. When I’m making a topper that is new to me, I give it about 3 days to finish. My moods and how I actually feel would show in what I make. So give take 2-3 days each topper.
FTV: How do you want people to feel or perceive your work?
MKA: I simply want them to be delighted when they see my sugar figures.
FTV: What’s the most difficult aspect of it?
MKA: The most difficult for me is when I’m not feeling well. I’m not in the mood and then the deadline is near. That’s one of the most difficult. Also having clients that are too demanding but are not willing to pay the right price.
FTV: What were some unusual requests?
MKA: Some of the most unusual I had so far were the Diving fins with heels, Peppa Pig and family with hair, and a star wars Filipiniana wedding cake.
FTV: What was your line of work before then?
MKA: I was in a law firm for two years, then turned preschool teacher/owner for 15yrs. Then a full time housewife and mom.
FTV: That was quite a journey. Can you tell us a little bit more about the transitions during those times?
MKA: During those days it wasn’t easy for me. I was a career woman at the age of 27, finally getting to live outside the watchful eyes of my parents because of my health issues then the worst things happened. I had a very bad seizure attack that I hit my head on my bathroom sink (the sink was broken into pieces) but fortunately I was all good. So I had to take a leave from work. Just as I was about to return to work, my mom’s preschool teacher did not come to school on our opening day! So my mom asked me if I could pitch in since it was just orientation week still. I obliged. The week passed and no sign of the teacher so I had to quit work at the law firm. Yes I felt bad as I earned big and it was somehow my dream job (legal assistant) But my dad simply said, “You are there for a reason, try to figure out what it is.”
MKA (cont’d): It took 15 years for me to understand fully why I was a preschool teacher. It prepared me for my married life. I’m married to Rommel Antonio for 20 years now and were blessed to have two wonderful children — Franco 15, and Jodee 14. [It also got me equipped for] our homeschooling journey as a family, and even my baking and sugar crafting. It prepared me for what I call now as my life.
As a preschool teacher I have learned most from the children I handled. As I used to say they taught me what life and love is. They taught me simplicity, faithfulness and gratitude. This is when I fully understood the meaning of “be like a child to see the greatness of the Lord” . It was at this time that I have learned to believe that there are only two things in life: blessings and blessings in disguise. This was also my adulting 101 period. Where I have learned that we can’t have our way….its only His way and its always perfect.These are some of my take aways during these different stages of my life which I have now taught my children.
FTV: Going back to baking, can you share other stories of clients requests and reactions?
MKA: When we made an Hermes bag bday cake with a Valentino studded shoes as a surprise gift from a boyfriend to his girlfriend. We know the guy personally but we have never met his girlfriend yet. We had to deliver the cake to a restaurant but we were told to wait by the lobby. So since the cake was heavy we had to put it on the table. And to our surprise, she arrived earlier than our client. I told my husband that I think the one approaching the receptionist was the girl, so he tried to cover the cake. Unfortunately it was too big and beautiful not to notice, so she asked if she could just see it and take a picture with it. To her surprise, her name was there!!! she started jumping and screaming as she learned it was her cake. And yes, that cake made it…they are now married and blessed with a child.
FTV: What is your dream project? Or what other things would you like to make?
MKA: Well I guess my ultimate dream projects will be the wedding cakes for my children. I’d like to make it an astonishingly elegant cake for them.
FTV: What are your other creative outlets?
MKA: Writing. Playing the piano.
FTV: What do your kids say about your baking? Do they help?
MKA: My kids are very proud and happy for me. They help in keeping my standards consistent.
FTV: Any other thing you wanna share with us?
MKA: Well I am passionate about life. Not just baking but everything in my life. My kids, teaching, homeschooling, my married life too! I am passionate because I am epileptic and I know for a fact that whatever I’m doing now will be remembered by the ones I will leave behind. And as for me I love doing what I do because I know everything given to me is from the Lord and I am simply blessed to have all these. Every time I have an attack, I don’t remember things, I forget my recipes, forget the pattern for each topper. Then i slowly remember things as everyone around me helps me recall. That’s why I have a lot of photos of my creations, to help me remember things.
These are the reasons why I am passionate about everything. Someday, my memory will be permanently gone, at least I have things to look back at and things I will be remembered for.
FTV: Any message to those reading this?
MKA: Before you start on anything, pray! Do everything with the Lord, ask him to do it for you. Don’t wait till you’re all messed up and ask Him to fix it. He is not our last resort…He is our only source! Miracles happen on a daily basis, enjoy it! It happened to me, I’m sure it may happen to you too!
Enjoy Life….that’s what He wants for you!
Marnee’s baking creations can be found on this Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/babasdelights
If you know any visual artists or creators like Marnee that we can feature here on FTV Likha, email us at: email@example.com. It will help to attach a link to their works and how to get in touch with them. FTV believes and supports Filipino creators — there’s a creator in each of us!