Saturday, April 6, 2013

Queens of buttercream

“Queens of Buttercream”
Sun.Star Davao, April 6, 2013

Best buddies Valeri Valeriano and Christina Ong, the dynamic duo behind Queen of Hearts Couture Cakes London, never imagined that they will be making world-class cakes when they left the Philippines in 2008 to work in the medical field.

Being away from the country and missing their families, they were fortunate to have found dear friends in London whom they considered as their “second moms”. During Mother’s Day in 2011, the two decided to surprise these special people with homemade cupcakes to show their appreciation.

Searching the internet, they chanced upon a YouTube tutorial on how to create a sunflower cupcake with buttercream icing decoration using just a Ziploc bag. Experimenting further, they also learned how to pipe rose, camellia and chrysanthemum adornments. Their culinary works of art were then made into a cupcake bouquet.

The intricate cupcake bouquet was such a hit that one of their friends encouraged them to improve on this newfound talent.  The two were so inspired; they developed this passion into a business.

Self-taught cake artists

Through sheer determination and constant practice despite their ten to twelve-hour day jobs, Valeri and Christina were able to hone their baking and decorating skills. This gave them the confidence to put up Queen of Hearts Specialty Cupcakes, Edible Bouquets and More.

At first, they created a Facebook page to promote their new business but unfortunately, they did not get any orders for weeks. Unperturbed, they searched for local fairs and sent out numerous emails to other event organizers. Again, they did not receive any positive response.

However, one fine day, they got a call from a local school inquiring if they would be interested to join a summer fair. But, there was a hitch --- there was only three days to go before D-day.

With only a 5L oven (almost the size of a standard toaster oven), they labored non-stop and was able to successfully produce 200 cupcakes and 180 cake pops which were almost sold-out during the fair.

Queens of buttercream

Their first-ever fair opened doors for their business. Soon after, a string of invitations to baking events came one after the other. From cupcakes, the hardworking ladies progressed to bigger cakes which led to the change in their business name to Queen of Hearts Couture Cakes.

The ladies admit that working with buttercream can be quite a challenge as it is “soft and delicate”.  By focusing their energies on this age-old art and modernizing it further, they believe that their company can make a mark in the competitive cake industry.

As Valeri and Christina joined and won top awards for their buttercream creations in various prestigious baking competitions such as the Cake International Show and Salon Culinaire, the local and international wedding and food blogs as well as magazines, newspapers, and TV shows took notice of Queen of Hearts Couture Cakes.

Amazingly, these self-taught cake artists have decided to pay it forward by sharing their recipes and techniques through demonstrations and classes in Europe, Asia and the US. Occasionally, a portion of their classes’ proceeds are donated to charity.

In May 2013, Queen of Hearts Couture Cakes will be proudly opening its very own studio in London.

From London to Davao

Recently, London-based Valeri and Christina conducted their Palette Knife Painting Buttercream Master Class and Stained Glass Art Buttercream Master Class at Gourmet Bites, a culinary school based in Davao City.

“A number of the participants were already regular workshop participants and students of Gourmet Bites. But, there were also many who came from different parts of Mindanao such as Cotabato, Gensan, and even as far as Zamboanga City and also Surigao”, shares Chiara Samson-Sacdalan, Program Manager of Gourmet Bites.

“These are cake decorating enthusiasts and most of them either work in or own bakeshops. So, most if not all of them are already bakers and have some level of knowledge in cake decorating”, Chiara adds.

The Master Class students were in awe when they met Valeri and Christina.     

“They were very nice and down-to-earth. And considering that they were world-renowned celebrity chefs, they were very easy to talk to and had no airs at all”, observes Chiara.

“Buttercream art is not a very well-known and widely used decorating technique here in the Philippines so everyone was very eager to learn it. Also, Valeri and Christina shared their own buttercream recipe that would be suitable for our country’s climate”, says Chiara.

Originally, each Master Class was only supposed to have a maximum of 15 participants but because of the overwhelming response, Gourmet Bites had to accommodate 17 participants per class. Plus, a few more had to be turned down but were put on the priority list for the next series of Queen of Hearts Couture Cakes’ Master Class this August 2013.

“After the class, all the participants were happy with their new skills and techniques and are looking forward to the next class in a few months”, enthuses Chiara.

The next Queen of Hearts Couture Cakes’ Master Class at Gourmet Bites will have the following schedule: August 6 - Stained Glass Art Buttercream Master Class; August 7 - Animal Print plus Rose Piping Buttercream Master Class; and August 8 - Flower Box Buttercream Master Class.

To reserve your slots, please visit Gourmet Bites at St. Dominic Savio Business and Technical College, Inc., Ilustre St. (infront of Limso Hospital).  Telephone numbers: 2957178 or 3054237.

Check out the Queen of Hearts Couture Cakes official website at Photos courtesy of the Queen of Hearts Couture Cakes/Gourmet Bites Facebook pages.

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