The sweet smell of cocoa power fills the air. Sounds of eggs cracking followed by whisking. Flour is scooped into measuring jugs, the top carefully leveled off.
People are reading recipes, they move confidently and quickly from one step to the next.
You would be forgiven for thinking this was a professional bakery but just five weeks ago the bakers around me were unable to follow a recipe or measure out ingredients.
Ma’am Lilibelle is responsible for their transformation. Over the past weeks this lively, passionate woman has taught them more than how to make delicious cakes -she has raised their confidence and self-esteem.
The great barangay bake off!
Today is the last session and the group will be evaluated on what they have learned so far. They have been put into pairs. Each pair has four hours to produce four different types of cake: chiffon, chocolate cupcakes, puto and sponge (butter) cake.
Ma’am Wimwim VFV director addresses the participants.
She informs them that those that would like to build up a business making cakes can use VFV’s facilities at the school.
Once VFV sees that regular baking is taking place and cakes sold VFV will lend the bakers materials and equipment needed to bake in their own homes.
This news brings big smiles to everyone’s faces.
Teray has brought her 5 year old son with her (not much persuasion was needed as he gets to try the cakes!). She tells me that she is excited and a little nervous about the evaluation. I ask her what her plans are after today. She wants to continue making cakes and is really happy that she can use the facilities.
I ask Ella how she feels, ”I’m nervous” she laughs.
I let them carry on with their tasks. Soon the room fills up with the mouth watering smell of steaming and baking cakes.
In the middle of the day some VFV volunteers on a project tour pay us a visit.
The bakers are keen for them to sample the first batch of their still warm cakes. Luckily I’m also included in the tasting.
The chocolate muffins are perfectly risen, their texture is moist and fluffy. The balance of chocolate just right – not too bitter, not too sweet.
Next we sample the leche puto. They look impressive with their glossy yellow tops. I bite into one and am rewarded with a delicate egg custard taste.
All the volunteers agree that the cakes are delicious and say that they would definitely buy cakes like this given a chance. The baker’s faces light up.
A sweeter future
There is a flurry of activity in the last twenty minutes as the bakers put the finishing touches to their creations.
Keen to add an expert finish to their cakes the bakers mix up batches of icing.
Eventually the iced cakes join the colorful display of muffins and puto on the judging table.
Ma’am Lilibelle is very pleased with their efforts. The day has been a great success.
They have come so far from the first day when they had to be taught what the equipment was and were too nervous to measure out ingredients by themselves.
Today they worked as an efficient professional team and produced enough cakes to fill a shop – cakes any shop would be proud to sell. All the bakers are keen to carry on and set up their own businesses making and selling cakes to support their families.
In fact two local shops have already agreed to sell cakes that people from the group make.
Who knows? One day these bakers might run their own baking classes for others. Passing on the passion that Ma’am Lilibelle has passed on to them.
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Story and photos: Liz Avery VFV Media Intern