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April 27, 2007

Photo Hunt 55: Rare




I was intending to post a photo of jeepney, a type of transportation in the Philippines or a sari-sari store but I didn't have original pictures. These are two things that are unique to the Philippines. Jeepney originally came from the US Military jeeps leftover during world war II, hence the name jeepney. On the other hand, sari-sari store (sari-sari means "various kinds") is the local version of the convinience store in urban and rural areas in the Philippines. More info from links above.


So for this week's photo hunt, I have here my picture (sorry it wasn't very clear) during my teen years (1996) as Reyna Elena (Queen Helena) in a Santa Cruzan. The Santacruzan is a novena procession commemorating St. Helena's mythical finding of the cross (as symbolized by the small cross I am holding). I consider this festivity as rare because t0 my knowledge, only Filipinos are celebrating it. Aside from being chosen as the Reyna Elena, this particular Santa Cruzan is memorable to me because I was escorted by Illac Diaz (the nephew of 1969 Miss Universe - Gloria Diaz), a popular commercial model/actor in the Philippines during that time.




*Last Update: May 8, 2007 - picture changed with a better quality.

Assessment of Wilton Method of Cake Decorating Course 1


Below is my personal assessment of the Wilton Method of Cake Decorating Course 1, which I attended recently. Wilton is popular in the United States. They have baking supplies (bakeware, tools, baking products, etc), cake decoration school, books, etc. I am making this assessment so others would know what to expect if anyone is intending to sign up for the course.


What to expect:

  1. Four 3-hour sessions.
  2. You will learn how to make a buttercream icing; how to divide/level a cake; how to ice a cake; how to make basic flowers (drop flowers, roses and sweet peas) and leaves, shell boarders, etc.

  3. Class is maximum of 7-8 students only.

  4. The course fee includes a Kit with a book and some basic tools (tips, coupler, etc) but expect to buy additional bakeware and tools e.g. cake caddy, tools caddy, flower lifter, etc.

  5. The preparation for each lesson can be time-consuming.

  6. It is a cake decoration course only. They will not teach you how to bake a cake. It is important that you at least know how to bake a basic cake because you will need to bring your own cake during the course.

Positive:

  1. I think the course was good, good enough to start a small business. Honestly, if I am not too busy with my work, I'd probably advertise for made to order character cakes and simple cakes.

  2. There's no other institution or school offering cake decorating course in Doha. In short, they don't have a competitor and people in Doha don't have much choice. I still consider this as positive because it's better than nothing and Wilton is Wilton.

  3. Small class size - the instructor can focus on each student.

  4. The instructor provides one-on-one demo/coaching as needed.

  5. The student is given a Wilton certificate after the course.
Negative:


  1. Personally, I find the course to be really expensive at QR 700 ($1 = QR 3.65) for 4 sessions (QR 175 per 3-hour session).

  2. Course schedule is mostly on weekdays.
  3. Bakeware and tools can be expensive also.

Recommendation:

The course is expensive but I would still recommend it specially for beginners. Just be prepared that on top of the QR 700, fee you'll need to invest in bakeware and tools. Wilton products (the only one available in Doha) are a bit expensive but the quality is really good..

In the Philippines, I took short courses at Heny Sison Culinary School in 2005. For baking and cake decorating, Heny Sison herself is the instructor. I'm quite biased to Heny Sison because I haven't attended any culinary course from another chef/institution plus I'm quite satisfied with her lectures, demo, recipe, etc.

For more information:

Wilton Method of Cake Decorating
TAVOLA, G/F Royal Plaza Mall
Tel. No. +974 4131222
Fax No. +4131444
Fee: QR 700
Duration: 4 sessions (3-hr/session)
Schedule: contact TAVOLA


Heny Sison:
Heny Sison Culinary School
33 Bonnie Serrano Ave.
Tel. No.: +63 2 7265316
Telefax: +63 2 4127792


Travelling the World

I have visited the countries in red! I want to visit more...



create your own visited countries map
or vertaling Duits Nederlands

April 26, 2007

Cake Decorating Final Project

I did it! I've completed the Wilton Method of Cake Decorating Course 1. As a final project, we decorated a round cake with roses.


I chose to decorate my cake with spray of lavender roses tied with a lavender bow. The side of the cake is decorated with small flowers and the shell border is accented with swet peas flowers.
This the side view of my cake. As you can see the icing is not very smooth. I had a problem with the icing. For some reason, it was melting!!!



This is the sweat peas flower.


This is the small flower at the side of the cake with white dot center.



These are my classmate's cakes. Everyone has different styles and used different colorings.



This cake was also done by one of my classmates. Her design is similar to the model cake in the book. She's really good and I think, she's he most creative and talented among us.


It took me more than 12 hours to complete icing my cake. I didn't know why the icing was melting. My classmates had similar problem and they think it was the shortening. Probably because the temperature is getting hotter now? It was really crazy... I mean, we are using shortening, instead of butter because it's not suppose to melt.

The brand of icing sugar I used (Taikoo) was lumpy and sifting takes too much time so I had to run to the supermarket to buy another brand (Whitworths). It's not lumpy and the icing is smoother but it was dusty.

I did not level the cake thinking that the icing can do the trick. The result? The cake is not levelled.

Lesson's Learned:

1. According to my classmates, if there is a trace of melted shortening in the packaging, do not use the shortening.
2. Sifting a lumpy icing sugar can take so much time.
3. Always level the cake.
4. Prepare the roses and flowers ahead of time.

I'm sure there are more things to learn as I continue to develop this skill. But I'm really determined to be good in this craft. I plan to bake and decorate at least one cake per month and I will try other types icing too.

Unfortunately, I won't be able able to take Course 2 until I get back from my vacation (in July) because of conflict in schedule but that's okay because I'm so busy in my work too.

Overall, I think the course was good although it's quite expensive. I would recommend it to those who want to learn cake decoration. I am making an assessment of Course 1 in another blog.

April 22, 2007

When Things Go Wrong

It's so frustrating when things go out of your control and you just can't do anything about it. Here are perfect examples:

Since last night, I've been trying to post a blog entry and upload the photos of my final project for the my cake decorating course. Unfortunately, after uploading the pictures, I lost my blog in all three attempts. I'll give up for now coz a lot of time have been wasted. I'l l be very busy this week but I'll try to upload as soon as I can.

It took more than 12 hours to prepare for my final cake project. Yes, I started at 11 in the morning (Friday) and finished nobody knows when. All I remember is I slept early morning the following day (Saturday), a few hours before my lesson starts. I had problems with my icing. I can't believe it's melting when in fact I used a shortening and not butter. I am not sure if the warm temperature is affecting my icing. I really do not know what's wrong...... All I know is that I have to scrape the icing off my cake and start mixing a new one to ice. huh?...

We're applying for a US visa but I was too busy to go to the bank and pay. When I finally had the time, I was surprised the bank asked for our passport. The website did not say to bring passport or the application when paying. The bank told me they want to make sure our names in the receipts will match the one in our passports. When I came back last Thursday, I didn't have enough money because my bank wouldn't allow me to withdraw money. I wonder if it's a sign not push through with the application. Grrrrr..... When i came back for the thrid time, I made sure I have enough cash and our passports. Okay, the receptionist wrote our names in capital letters and it was copied correctly. But she wrote Philippines as Philipens. *sigh* And they think I will spell my name incorrectly? *sigh*

I can't withdraw from my ATM since Thursday night. Take note - of all the days, it happened on Thursday night when the following days are weekends and banks are closed so over the counter withdrawal is not possible. I called my bank - HSBC everyday and the customer service representative (CSR) told me it's a network problem and try again after one or two hours. But today, when I called, the CSR he told me I should visit my branch to fix the problem. It's so frustrating because the very reason I moved to HSBC is their better quality of service compared to other banks. But since I switched to this bank last month, I 've had a couple of problems on internet banking, etc. Just imagine, if I am not with my husband, I'll be stuck in a some foreign country without cash, etc. Grrrrr.....

I guess that's what you call LIFE!

April 20, 2007

Photo Hunt 54: Steps


This is the stairway leading to the top of The Arc de Triomphe, a famous monument in Paris, France. The Arc de Triomphe is about 165 ft high and 45 meters wide. To reach the top, we had to climb 284 steps. As you can see, it was spiral and narrow so it's not an easy climb. But the view above is spectacular so it's worth all the effort.


April 18, 2007

Promo Airfares (Cebu Pacific and British Airways)


The Cebu Pacific's P1 airfare promo is back. The sale period is from April 16 to 22 or until sold out.

We will be spending one month vacation in the Philippines this coming July. My original plan is to go to northern Philippines (Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Sagada, Banaue and Baguio). But since July is a rainy season and northern Philippines is always hit by typhoons, I am thinking of going somewhere else. Any suggestion?

* * * * * * * * * * * *








British Airways' Travel in the World Traveller from Doha to UK from QR 1,400* or to North America from 2,100*. Book through http://ba.com or call British Airways Doha on 432-1434. The offer ends on May 3, 2007.
* Conditions apply.

More Cupcakes

These are my classmates' cupcakes..




April 17, 2007

Night Shift

My husband went to work tonight to cover the shift of one of his colleagues. He used to work on 4-day shift (2 days-2 nighst and 4 days off) but it's been more than a year since he was working as day staff.

For two years, we had to put up with his shift schedule. It was difficult. Sometimes, I couldn't sleep at night. Then, there were times we won't see each other during his night-shifts. I used to work from 8AM until nobody knows when. Sometimes, when my husband comes home, I already left for work and when I come home, he has gone to work already.

On the bright side, a shifting schedule also had advantages. When my husband's off days fall on a weekday, he is able to do stuff that can be done during weekdays only (e.g. banking transaction)...but I really would prefer for him not to work on night shift.

I miss my husband! I hope he'll be back to his regular schedule, soon!

April 14, 2007

Cake Decorating Course 1 Lesson 3

We're done with Lesson 3. Highlight of Lesson 3 include figure piping, flowers and we made clowns out of buttercream icing.






I decorated nine cupcakes. The colors are not well-coordinated because icings were really intended for the clowns.














These are practice for drop flowers. My icing consistency is too thin for the flowers.














These are practice for the roses, which we will be using next week for the final project.












This is the highlight of the day...the clowns! I gave these cupcakes our neighbor's kids!









Next week will be the our last session and as a final project, we will decorate a cake using the different techniques we learned such as boarder (e.g. star, shell), flowers (drop flowers, roses), etc. Gosh, I am excited! I am not yet very good but I'll do my best in my final project.

Course 2 will start in June and unfortunately, I won't be available during that time. I also wanted to take a break because because of my hectic schedule plus I've aready spent a lot of money on these and I keep on spending more every week. The tools and bakeware are so tempting...I wanna buy them all.

Photo Hunt 53: Hobby

I just joined Photo Hunters. Members of Photo Hunters post photos every week based on the theme chosen by the members. This week's theme is about hobby. You can also join here.

I like baking, cake decorating and crafts (e.g parchment craft, cross-stitching, bead craft, candle making) but I must admit that I am not very creative. Currently, I am learning the basics of cake decorating. In the past, I'm also into cross-stictching, beaded jewelry and parchment craft.

Cake decorating projects. I'm still a neophyte that's why my designs are not refined yet. But I'm learning...it's fun!
























Here are my cupcake projects. The colors are not well-coordinated becasue the icing is really intended for the clowns. The figures and flowers are practice for our final project next week.




Cross-stitching. I haven't done this in a while. If you notice, I am yet to finish the face. I have the framed ones back in the Philippines.



















Bead Craft. I did a lot of bracelets and necklaces made of beads including pearls before I went to Qatar.
























Parchment Craft. Ilove this craft! It's very easy to do.




Photo Hunt Blog Roll


April 11, 2007

Racing with Time Again

Quoting Murphy's Law again: "If something can go wrong, it will"

I was supposed to have an 8AM meeting in Ras Laffan yesterday. Before proceeding, I stop by our Office print copies of A3 drawings. I had those drawings scanned on my way home the day before my meeting so I can print multiple copies because our office doesn't have a colored photocopier.

6 copies of A3 drawings saved in 1 file...Gosh, it took forever to print! I wanted to cry...I'm nearly in tears. I'm so late already but I need the printed drawings. I finished printing at 7:30 AM. There's no way I'm gonna reach Ras Laffan at 8AM. The fastest I've ever done is 45 minutes but up to the gate only.

What to expect? I drive at a record-breaking speed again. I was driving atleast 140-150 kph (limit is 120 kph) and slowing down every time there is a speed camera. It's not fun! I do not enjoy puting my own life in danger. I know it's not a good excuse..but I'm running late. I reached the client's office, 30 minutes late. But for the record, this is the first time, I was late in my meeting. I'm glad this client is more understanding.

Btw, I checked the website and thank God, I didn't have any violation, otherwise, it will be QR 300 penalty!

Thank God also I reached Ras Laffan in one-piece.

April 10, 2007

Another Career Milestone

I just concluded another project and I submitted the final report to the client last Sunday. I consider all my completed projects as a career milestone because as a consultant, experience and expertise is gained based on the different projects done.

Working on this particular project is very challenging. The project itself is very simple but the client representative whom I dealt with was unimaginable. There were times, I really got upset. It's so frustrating. In fact, I was telling my colleagues that I do not want to work with this person for the next six months, atleast. I need a break....;)

My client is a good person but he can be cranky at times and if he sees something wrong (e.g. wrong spelling), even how minor, he really makes a big deal out of it. While wrapping up the draft document (just before we submitted the final one) I almost lost my patience when he called my boss to say I didn't do this or that ..... I did not put the correct reference and to my dismay, he was complaining on something that we already explained to him since the beginning of the project! Gosh.... unbelievable... Good thing, my boss is on my side!

There were many lessons learned, some for our improvement and some are just simply how to make this person satisfied and how to avoid getting him upset. Hayyyyy!!!! But all is well that ends well!

April 7, 2007

Cake Decorating Course 1 Lesson 2

Last week have been really busy. My original plan is to go home early on Thursday and stop by the cake decorating shop to buy additional tools and then, buy our weekly grocery and ingredients for my assigment (iced cake). I am also supposed to bake a cake so I can iced it by Friday but I had to finish binding 10 reports for our client. I ended up going home at 11 PM. I was so tired and I missed Asian Treasure. Grrrrr......

The following morning (Friday), I went to Lulu Hypermarket to buy groceries and ingredients for the cake and icing. Since I spent a lot of money last week, I was on a saving mood. I bought what I thought would be good value for my money.

Powdered sugar vs. icing sugar: I've always thought they are the same. Imported icing sugar (those sold in boxes) costs about QR 5-6 per 500g while the powdered sugar re-packaged in 1 kg bags costs QR 4 only. 1 recipe requiress 1 lb icing sugar and since I'm preparing 3x, I need almost 1.5 kilos of sugar. I bought 2 kilos of powdered sugar (2 x QR 4).

Shortening: The brand of shortening used in the demo last week is Crisco. It is available in small can (QR 9) and individually packed 1-cup portions (3pcs = QR 14). While the latter is more convinient to use, the cost per gram is more. I bought it for future use...I think it's too expensive for practice. Then, I got another shortening (also a popular brand) at QR 10 = 1kg.

I always consider quality when buying things. I bought the cheaper shortening and sugar thinking that the quality is the same as the more expensive ones.

According to Murphy's Law - "If anything can go wrong, it will"

Just when I am about to pre-heat my oven, we ran out gas and it's Friday!!!! Grrrrr.... I don't know why we always run out of LPG on a Friday when all shops are closed until early evening. I had no choice but to start the preparation after dinner.

Finally, I decided to bake a mocha chiffon cake. For the icing, I used the cheaper shortening and the powdered sugar I bought. But stupid me, I mixed 3 recipes of buttercream icing all at the same time. It's more than what my hand mixer could handle and it's too late when I realized it. As a consequence, my icing didn't have good consistency...honestly, it wasn't good for covering the cake. But I didn't want to throw it, "sayang naman" so I saved it for use in the decoration of the cake.

I prepared a new buttercream icing for covering the cake. This time, I used the Crisco shortening but the same powdered sugar. I noticed that Crisco is white compared to the cheaper brand which is yellowish and it gave a more creamy texture. So I figured, aside from the mixing problem, perhaps, shortening is also a culprit.

Below is my cake with light blue icing. It's not very smooth because I don't have the fondant smoothener (it's not available from the store). Okay naman di ba?


On the day of the lesson, everyone's icing is good except mine. The instructor asked me, how I prepared it so I explained to her, how I mixed it and that I think I used a shortening with inferior quality. She told me that at most, I should prepare only 2 recipes of buttercream icing and powdered sugar and icing sugar are not the same...I must use the icing sugar. Another lesson learned...although when I googled powdered sugar several websites (links found below) confirmed that icing sugar, confectioner's sugar and powdered sugar are the same.

http://whatscookingamerica.net/Q-A/sugar.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powdered_sugar
http://www.foodreference.com/html/fpowderedsugar.html

Below is the rainbow pattern transferred to the cake. I used piping gel for the transparent lines.





I didn't finish the decoration during the class. It's very difficult to pipe my icing. I just continued it at home (see below).



I know I need more practice but I made it!!!! Isn't it great?



My classmates' cakes: