October 9, 2012

September Wedding

September was quite eventful to say the least. For some reason, it was a month full of birthdays, baptisms, and weddings. Many credit this to the fact that there's a lot of lovin' going on during the holidays that result in babies being born in September. Whatever the reason behind it, I got a truckload of orders from clients for macaron cakes and towers. 

One of them was a wedding cake from BJ and Tin who were tying the knot on the 25th. We met a couple of times to discuss the details of their wedding cake, and I could easily tell they were a sweet and fun couple, very easygoing and not at all overly stressed about their big day. 

{dream clients!}

BJ, the dutiful groom that he was, gave Tin all the leeway regarding the wedding cake, and Tin wanted it to have macarons, be three feet high, and not so stiff and formal. Blue, pink, purple, and green made up their wedding's color scheme. 

She specifically wanted the word "Love" on the cake, which I thought was so romantic. Not only, of course, was their wedding a symbol of their love, but it's also what they call each other.


Tin came up with a 5-tier design with a fully edible cake at the base. This was going to be one of the biggest cakes I'd ever done. She also wanted macaron hearts to be included in the design. The flavors she chose were hazelnut (purple), pistachio (green), chocolate (pink), and caramel (blue). The cake was a banana chocolate chip cake.

I don't know why, but everytime I deliver a major project, rains seem to follow. This was what I saw heading towards Edsa Shangri-La Hotel! 

After a few last minute touches and adding macarons to the middle layer at the venue, the cake was setup in the ballroom.

I love stepping back and looking at macaron cakes. They are always so fulfilling to make, and yummy to eat! 

"Hi Georgia, the cake was cute and beautiful. Thank you very much!" 
~ BJ and Tin ~

Incidentally, I gave birth to my second child, a boy, a week after finishing this project. Maybe there is some truth to why so many people are born in September :p

December 5, 2011

Top 10 Culinary Books

This may sound odd, but though reading was never one of my strongpoints, I do love buying and collecting books. This may be credited to the fact that I grew up in a house full of them. My mom has two book-loving daughters, one who majored in Literature, and another who is a published editor. And then there is me. I was always so much more into pictures, and creatively doing anything else besides...reading. Which is probably why I love packing my bookshelves with culinary books full of beautiful photos of food that I can prepare myself. 

I was also never a good cook in my single life, although I always tried to prepare something, anything.

{I once ate bread filled with breadcrumbs because I though it was grated parmesan cheese} 

But, I guess, once married, the necessity of learning to cook and work around the kitchen could not be ignored. Though my sisters and I baked a lot when we were all living under one roof, I never really baked on my own until I owned my own kitchen. And since then, I like to think that I have improved a hundred fold (that's how terrible my cooking used to be), but with still much more room to grow. 

My obsession for cookbooks started with small paper-back publications that featured simple recipes and a few ingredients. However, in a short span of time, I began to realize that book titles that usually have "simple", "30 minutes", and "easy" are cover-ups for food that lack character. Though books like these would probably work for the hectic, on-the-go, I-will-not-wait-for-my-steak-to-finish-in-the-oven-types, I love poring over recipes, planning them out, and taking my time to complete them. That's what I love about preparing food: the more you spend time on it, the more it gives back.

{My best friend is my Crockpot}

Because of this, I realize that hardbound, well-edited books with saliva-inducing photographs and moderate to difficult recipes are expensive, but always worth the money. I mean, why would a publisher spend so much on beautiful paper and photos if the recipes are crap, right? And being a self-taught cook/baker, good research material is of utmost importance, and these publications are worth every cent.

So, for all of you, here are (so far) the top 10 cookbooks that changed my life:

1. The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver. Yeah, yeah, I know he's not a real chef, and neither is this book hardbound, but it was the first real cookbook I ever bought. I was so darn proud I even told my good friend (/chef) about it.

Me: "I bought my first cookbook by Jamie Oliver!"
N: "Uh, ok. That's a good place to start." 

Even so, I still love his no-fuss style of cooking.

My favorite recipe in this book is his Roasted Leg of Lamb, my go-to dish for every important family potluck. He lists the exact oven time a certain sized lamb leg needs, and it always comes out perfectly charred on the outside, and nice, juicy, and pink on the inside. He also has a very good homemade pasta recipe--his specialty.

2. The Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking (Two Volumes). I don't know how this ended up in my mom's house, but I do remember how I took it to mine with much opposition from my sister (the Literature major) who read it cover to cover. But I love old books, and this one so endeared me with it's "modern" aesthetic, that leafy smell of crunchy half-a-century old pages, and colored (it's sales pitch) photographs of food styled during a time when food-styling as a profession was practically unheard of. The recipes are simple, and it even has a section that lays out a weekly menu for mothers who prepare food for the family. Can you believe the caloric intake of a regular person in the 50's was 2,500 calories and loaded with carbs? Potatoes are included almost everyday! 

But despite it's outdated-ness, this "encyclopedia" is still very useful for classic recipes and cooking methods, many of which are still necessary today. I use it especially when I need to know the proper way of freezing and storing foods, as well as portioning. Ever wonder why your lola seems to know so much about food? It's probably because she has a copy of this! 

3. How to Cook. I bought this book immediately after taking a 8-day culinary course years ago. It teaches the basics of preparing meats and vegetables. Almost every basic recipe I've ever needed is here: stocks, stews, cakes, crepes, etc. And best of all, most of the recipes feature ingredients that are commonly found. My favorite recipes from this book are the Chicken Tandoor and Shortcrust Pastry.

4. Ready for Dessert by David Leibowitz. I first "met" David online via his blog about life in Paris. His style of documenting everyday Parisian life and food is detailed, humorous, and, at the same time, romantic. When I saw this book on the shelf, the first thing I noticed was the shiny, drool-worthy chocolate ganache in the process of covering, what I would imagine, a luscious, moist (and probably spicy) sponge cake. Yes, David, I AM READY FOR DESSERT! His chocolate chip cookie recipe is purrrfect, and I can't wait to try his spicy cakes.

5. Paris Patisseries. Being the first book I bought off the 'net makes this life changing. No longer do I have to wait for the local release of gems like these! However, this is definitely not a cookbook, but a history of the best Paris has to offer. Well-written is an understatement. Each chapter is so divinely detailed that you either end up with a terrible craving for for something sweet or creamy or chocolate-y, or marvel at how much work goes into a dish that will only be in existence for 15 minutes on a plate (5 in mine). Either way, this book is just more proof that Parisian pastry chefs are in every way the best in the world.  

6. Baking. Technique, technique, technique. When it comes to baking, it is as important as precision. And both are taught in this book. From making your own puff pastry, forming Pate Choux swans, and determining which crust to use for what filling, this has everything any home baker will need to know about anything that goes into the oven. It is full of step-by-step photographs (love!) and very detailed instructions, so much that it has given me the courage to make my own puff pastry. Good luck to me.

7. Food by Alan Davidson. I have a confession. I think I've only opened this book twice (once to double-check a culinary term, and once to browse for a short minute). But like a food processor you hardly use, it's a kitchen essential that is good to have around. One day, I'm sure I'll need it for something!

8. Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme. Called the Father of the Modern Macaron, I am obsessed with Pierre Herme, and I cannot get enough of his Chocolate Mousse recipe! So simple and delicious! I will buy anything written and created by Pierre Herme. Period.

9. The Essential Guide to Cake Decoration. Obviously, this is a used book. I bought this from my cousin-in-law, Pamsy, who makes the most delicious carrot cakes EVER. She was selling it at a fund-raising garage sale, and I think I got it at about 400 bucks only (if my memory serves me right)! It opened my eyes to the world of cake decorating, and has practical tips on recipe calculations, storage, and design.

10. Hors d'Oeuvre at Home with the Culinary Institute of America. I'm such a sucker for reference books by culinary institutes, especially ones with such nice printing. Since I also dabble in hors d'oeuvre catering in events such as art exhibits and corporate launches, this books comes in handy whenever I need new menu items to develop.

Happy reading!

October 20, 2011



It's a new word I picked up from my friend, Eartha (her touching post here inspired me to write this), last night while we were texting overseas about the recent passing of our dear friend, Maj. We can't help but laugh and cry at the same time because not only do we realize that Maj has left us, but we also remember what she left us.

Generosity. Laughter. Love. Lots of it.


Though we weren't in the same barkada at the start, I remember her giving me a gift on my birthday. It was the second day of our freshman orientation, I had only known her a day (plus or minus a few hours). We were at the William Taft Little Theatre, and Eartha was sitting between us. It was a small, green paper box. I was so touched that she thought of giving me a gift, and when she handed it to me, I opened it with much excitement and suspense.

But there was nothing inside, it was just a paper box that she had made herself.


I have fond memories of how stingy we were back in the day. She and I would bring packed lunches (to college!) so we could save our allowance and splurge on neo-prints. We were so disappointed about this particular one because we didn't like how we looked and we vowed never to show it to anyone. Funny thing is, it's the only one I have.

(Hope you don't mind, Maj.)

It seems so timely that last weekend I took home a box of old stuff from my mom's house, and in it was a college scrapbook. I had dedicated one page each for my closest college friends, her included.

On the right was her artistic rendition of our Economics class. On the lower left was a note we passed talking about a guy who was sitting beside me in class who got a higher score in his exam than I, even if he copied his answers from my paper! She was as upset as I. I barely passed that class, but she, maj-ically, got no less than a 3.0 even if, from how I remember it, we spent the whole time gossiping!

To Maj, everything was no sweat. One of the funniest things she taught me was that if I had a big zit, I should wear deep red lipstick to draw people's eyes away from the pimple. 

After graduation, keeping in touch was difficult, she missed my wedding because of work, but we touched base again a few years ago when Eartha regularly visited the Philippines. In those dinners we had together, we often talked about, what else, college, and how someone thought she was my lesbian lover! 

So we used to spoon food into each other's mouths, it didn't mean she was my girlfriend! 

We laughed so hard at the thought that we were compelled to pay homage to it with a photo.

We look a bit awkward here because we couldn't seem to go full lesbian.


She also missed my baby shower, but easily repaid her absence with the tenderness she always showed my daughter. I like to think that she had so much love to give that it spilled over to A.

Little did I know, A's birthday in April would be the last time I would see her. She arrived fashionably late, but I was glad she came. She gifted A with a pink and purple musical potty.

But, of course!

That was Maj. She may have not always showed up on time or at all, but she always made up for it--in trademark Maj-style. 

Looking back, though she was one of my dearest friends, Maj always had an air of mystery about her. Many things did not add up. Even her sudden death leaves me puzzled. But I like to think that in life, Maj measured things with a different yardstick. With her, a small, handmade box meant 23 years of friendship, cheap packed lunches and crappy neoprints were in exchange for clear, unerasable memories, and a potty was a wonderful sign of love.

In the beginning she may have given me a small gift, but in the end, I received from her
 the best things in life.


October 19, 2011

Another Macaron Tower Post

Just need to put this up somewhere.

I know I just did a macaron tower story a few posts back, but this I just need to share. I "met" Raissa via email when she sent me a message inquiring about my macaron tower for her wedding in October. I didn't hear from her after my reply, but about a week later, her fiance, Rich, contacted me. I think he was assigned to take care of the cake, because he, too, met with me to finalize the tower they wanted for their wedding.

Pewter. Salmon. Cream. Pink. 3 feet. 300 macarons. Edible cake base. Wow.

The couple's color peg.

This was going to be my biggest tower to date. I've done modest-sized towers for weddings in the past, usually as an addition to the dessert buffet, but this one was the wedding cake. The center of attention. Immediately after meeting with Rich, I went into working on the materials. Unlike traditional wedding cakes, I assemble my macaron towers no more than 24 hours before the event, otherwise, the macarons would be crumbly, dry, tasteless, yucky. 

Satin-covered pedestal

Tower topper.

The week of the wedding was probably the worst/best of my year. It was G's birthday, and he hadn't hung out with his friends since forever so I decided to invite a bunch of them the night before the wedding 

{So, of course, when you have a bunch of guys at the house and they see the half-made tower at the breakfast table, they cannot help but pretend to ruin it/eat it/slice it. I almost got a heart attack.}

Two days before that, my mom wanted to celebrate his and my sister's birthday at her house in Paranaque, then the day after the wedding was the celebration with his side of the family! That meant I needed to prepare 3 celebrations. I.Wanted.To.Die.

So the afternoon the day before the wedding, I started assembling the tower. I decided to complete half the tower at home, then finish it off at the venue which happened to be in Tagaytay. During the whole 2 hour transit from Quezon City to Highlands, I was in constant prayer that everything would hold together. When we got there, this greeted me.

Gale-force winds, baby. Courtesy of "Pedring".

I finished the tower and held my breath hoping the typhoon wouldn't topple it. Ah, it was a sight to behold, though!

Personally, I loved the couple's pewter motif. I wanted that in my wedding, but back then, I was such a pushover that I caved when my coordinator suggested brown (!!). Damn. 

What also caught my eye were these silver shells with blossoms you'll see at the bottom of this photo. I am liking the flowers a lot.

Anyway, back to the tower. Here it is!

Eat it and weep.

October 18, 2011

Workshop in Sepia

Feeling a little monochromatic today.

{images from G's workshop}

September 22, 2011

Macaron Towers

I’ve been making macaron towers for 3 years now, but until this month, all I offered to clients was the classic cone-shaped tower with 120 mouth-watering macarons in 3 flavors. 

I’ve come to realize though, that with only one tower to offer, my clients are limited to what I have. Some have asked for a bigger tower, others a smaller one, many have inquired about different shapes, and others want a different spin on the traditional wedding cake.

After finding lots of inspiration on the internet, and being most especially smitten by Laduree’s cube of macarons, I finally mustered up my courage to try something new with my tower.

It took a few days to prepare all the materials I needed and conceptualize the shoot. Thanks to this blog, I’ve gotten the hang of using G’s camera, and I don’t have to pull him out of his man cave/workshop on weekends when I want something photographed.

The best part about this shoot was having to go to Laong Laan (or Dangwa, as some would call it). It’s a short drive from where I live and is where flowers from Baguio are dropped off (or so they say. I don’t know who “they” are, though). I love this place! The flowers are so beautifully cheap. I found a bunch of hydrangeas (take that, Madonna!) and fuschia carnations at a bargain. 

On the way back home, I stopped by the supermarket to look for pretty candy, and found these white chocolate-covered almonds.

{which I promptly ate after the shoot.}

This bronze vase and candy holder are both from my grandmother. According to my mom, the candy holder is made from the material they used to make vintage bombs! My grandfather was in the Air Force, which explains why we have such things in our possession. The large silver “vase” is a champagne chiller, and the fern are from the garden. G does not understand why I use it as a vase, but I think it’s so Shabby Chic, and we never use it for chilling anything anyway.

Presenting the Cube and the Tiered Towers!

This Tiered Tower holds about 80 macarons, the perfect size for a small gathering. This will be a great addition to the bridal/baby shower buffet, or a centerpiece in a fab Christmas party with friends.

As soon as I placed the final piece on this Cube Tower, it immediately took my breath away. I mean, I know it isn’t in good taste to brag, but I really didn’t expect it to look so wonderfully lovely.

To know more, please visit my Empire site www.empiremacaron.com

September 13, 2011

Better Than Bought: Home-Roasted Coffee

About a month ago, G's world almost came crashing down--his friend who had been supplying him with his home-roasted coffee for years now was taking a break. This was a serious, serious dilemma, I tell you. G isn't the type of drinker who calls the stuff from Starbucks "coffee". If there's one thing I learned from G, it's that coffee does not come in a coffee chain cup, nor from beans bought at the supermarket, or powdered, or instant, or decaffeinated. It's not about the foam, it's the crema. It's not about the brand, it's the roast date, and it's not about the price, it's the machine. 

So, with the last few hundred grams of beans left in the airtight jar, he had a (ridiculous) idea of making his own coffee roaster. 

Me: What?!?
G: But you can roast chickens in it!
Me: Oh, okay.

A few weeks passed and a load of raw coffee beans arrived on our doorstep, and not long after, G was on a roll purchasing stainless sheets, a perforated drum, a motor, some tubes, and in the process of taking down an old shawarma cart to salvage its heating hobs. 
Yeah, our gas tanks are that big!

This is how G's hands look EVERY weekend.

Though he tried to show me the design he was working on, and updating me on his project, I didn't really pay much attention, except on the fact that it was cheaper his way than to buy a ready-made one. And that it could roast chickens.

A couple of weeks passed, and...tadaaah!! A roaster in the flesh! 

I must say, I'm quite impressed (as usual). Although, it took a few tries, flames, and scorched beans, G now has gotten the hang of roasting, and his morning brew is uh-mazing. 

Smooth, rich, wonderful aroma, and thick crema--everything they advertise on television, only this is not a commercial, this is every morning!

I didn't have time to clean the cups. Too excited to taste it.

And the chickens are quite good, too.