Like a (cake) boss

CRAFTING custom cakes is not exactly new, but the attention that these confections are getting these days is, and we have television shows and social media to thank for it. The more creative alternatives to sheet cakes and towering tiered cakes, these can easily be the showstopper of any celebration. It takes an innovative and artistically driven cake artist to churn out hyperrealistic creations, and Cebu is lucky to be home to a number of them, including Kyle Gonzaga.

A pastry commis chef, Kyle comes from a baking background. “I grew up exposed to the pastry kitchen at an early age as my mom started home-baking and taking outside orders as a hobby, while my dad worked overseas as a pastry chef.” He countered that it wasn’t something he took interest in early on, not until college when a friend asked him to make a cake for a girl he was courting. “When word got out that I was able to make customized cakes, I started receiving commissions and orders for cake pieces. That’s what started it for me. During the time, I was studying for my nursing degree in Velez College and would allocate some of the earnings to fund my share of late night beer sessions with my buddies,” he fondly recalls. “I immediately grew to love the craft and found it as a medium to express whatever repressed artistry I had. I would look at a cake and see it as a blank canvas waiting to be filled.”

Kyle did the necessary preparatory research and training until he became adept at concocting conversation-starter centerpieces in the shape of almost anything imaginable. But he wanted something more than just translating a client’s request into a design. “Two years into the cake business, I craved some healthy competition but there were no organized cake competitions in Cebu, so like any other competitive baker, I turned to the internet, and found threadcakes.com, a shirt company that holds yearly cake competitions for cake artists from around the world. I decided to join, and placed fifth in the 2D division. I didn’t expect to get noticed, let alone rank since there were a lot of really talented artists like Liz Marek of the Artisan Cake Company from the US and Kylie Mangles from the Letterpress Bakery in Canada. It was then that I decided that I’d want to pursue my passion professionally and become a pastry chef,” he shares. He has also worked in one of the premier hotels in Cebu, where he started in an on-call stint and worked his way up to Commis 1. That was his first exposure to a hotel-kitchen setting.

“I don’t consider myself talented. I’m just blessed to have had the opportunity to learn and develop my craft. I owe it all to the man above. An artist is only an interpreter of the God-given inspiration around him. That spark of creativity that comes so naturally to us, is evident of His hand in the process. Whatever level of skill I have, I owe it all to Him,” he says.

Although Kyle’s works may prove otherwise, sculpting cakes has not always been a piece of cake. He reveals, ““I’m far from perfect and have had my fair share of embarrassing cake blunders throughout the years, but it was those unfortunate incidents that helped me get to the proficiency that I am at right now. The challenge lies in finding out that not everything is as easy as it seems and that every cake piece requires its own techniques in order to be made.”

“Hagglers are also a real challenge in the cake business. People forget to realize that they are paying not only for the ingredient or equipment cost, but also the time and expertise of the artist,” he adds.

With countless creations in his portfolio, Kyle cites his chocolate showpieces for Halloween 2016 and 2017 as his favorites. I just get to express the details much freely when dealing with grim and gory pieces than with cutesy ones,” he explains.

Kyle enthuses over the idea of doing cake art for the rest of his life saying, “I wouldn’t want it any other way. I plan to develop my competency and when I am capable enough, vie for a spot to compete in the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie (World Pastry Cup). It’s a really far off dream, but I owe it to myself to hone my skills to their fullest potential and see where they take me. I only got one shot in life, so why not dream big?”

To encourage returning customers and positive word-of-mouth reviews, Kyle ensures his edible works of art taste as good as they look. So now you can have your cake and eat it too—literally.
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