There must be something that binds law as a profession with baking. One lady lawyer I know makes panna cotta every Friday night to celebrate the end of another harried week. In the cool quiet of her private space, she relishes the repetitiveness of stirring the hot cream and sprinkling powdered gelatin over it, watching the granules plump and then sink into the lush liquid. The heedfulness to a seemingly simple task, that of transforming pedestrian ingredients into slippery-smooth custard makes her feel whole again. “You can’t imagine how attached I can get to the problems of my clients, Lor,” she’s wailed to me.
Not too long ago I meet another lawyer, Yumi Castrillo, who also takes refuge in the kitchen. Last year’s stress drove her to the kitchen where she baked almost everyday, sending the excess to her husband’s officemates who were more than willing recipients. Like the sweet drug that sugar is, those people got hooked and soon Yumi was receiving orders for her treats.
Unlike other bakers, Yumi specializes in only one product: cupcakes. In fact, her business is called Piece of Cake because she — literally — only offers small pieces of cake. Professing adoration for the mini confections, Yumi reasons, “I think cupcakes are really adorable, very cute and a lot easier to make than whole cakes. I also wanted to offer something that’s reasonably priced and with a variety of flavors.”
Flavors, indeed! A glance at Yumi’s product list reveals a treasure of no less than 18 flavors, exemplifying this baker’s penchant for creating flavors splashed with dash and whimsy and named just so.
On this occasion, I try five of Yumi’s highly recommended flavors. Curious George (P25/piece) is a banana cake frosted with dark chocolate buttercream. When it comes to bananas and chocolate, the fruit’s mellowness is often muted by its partner’s swarthy flavor, and that’s what happens here. I only know it’s a banana cake by the characteristic black specks in the crumb. I move on.
I’m no chocoholic so I appreciate the refined character of the Chocolate Truffle (P20/piece), a sweet caress of cocoa instead of a full-on chocolate hit as the name might suggest. These would be perfect for some high society brunch or a gift to give the mom of the girl you’re trying to woo.
In terms of popularity, peanut butter really won’t win any dessert awards here in Manila. I’m nuts for the stuff which is why I’ll often go for it if it’s offered. Yumi’s Peanut Butter Cup cupcake (P25/piece) suggestively hints of the nut butter but I’d recommend some peanut butter chips or chunks to point the flavor up more. It would be a waste to mute such an exalted flavor. Personally, I’d love to try the Elvis (banana cake with peanut butter buttercream) next time.
Gladness is what I feel when I bite into Orange You Glad (P20/piece), a delicate orange cake glazed with a dark chocolate infused with the zest of Valencia oranges. Even though I’m not a fan of the fruit itself, this is my favorite of the lot. The citrus flavor rings true and is embraced by an equally high quality chocolate. There’s nothing artificial here. A second bite quickly follows my first.
You can see from the photos that these cupcakes are simple delights devoid of froufrou. I can’t help but wish that they had some sprinkles however; for some reason, I just feel that cupcakes should have them. I know that the 4-year old in my house doesn’t think it’s a cupcake unless it’s got sprinkles.
Now, when it comes to cupcakes, my favorites are plain vanilla with vanilla buttercream and red velvet. Yumi has the latter, and she calls it her Scarlett O’ Hara (P35/piece). I actually have to fight with my sisters and my soon-to-be brother in law in order to appropriate one because it’s the family’s favorite flavor. While this Red Velvet has a deep cocoa aroma accented by its cloak of white chocolate buttercream, the cake itself is too dense and is in desperate need of more leavening. Having tried the other cupcakes in Yumi’s repertoire, I think the Red Velvet is just part of a bad batch. Even bakers have bad days.
The crowning jewel in Yumi’s collection of cupcakes is her Princess Di (P35/piece), a rhapsody of blue cheese and pear, a most striking, unusual pairing that works. Here, an almost gossamer crumb surrenders an unexpected bit of moist pear, a soft variety like Anjou or Bosc. Sometimes there’s just a tiny nibble of pear, other times, none. And the blue cheese flavor is there lingering on the palate, though not rudely so. It’s almost drowned out by the lemon buttercream which, while delicious, needs to be used judiciously.
On another occasion, I’m fortunate to try the Marie Antoinette (P35/piece), a strawberries and champagne sparkler licked with dark chocolate as well as the Orange Mocha Frappuccino (P20/piece). Both are characteristic of Yumi’s cupcakes: a tender crumb that almost collapses in its fluffiness, inimitable flavors and unexpected pairings offering up a cosmos of small satisfactions.
And for goodness’ sake, do remember to eat these at room temperature.
Piece of Cake by Yumi Castrillo
Minimum order: 12 pieces (1 dozen)
Order at least 3 days in advance
Cupcake towers, personalized cupcakes, and single cupcakes available for parties and events.