Awi Chaves’ Cakeistry CDO: Sweet Dreams are made of these

May 2, 2015



It’s quite difficult to pigeonhole Ma. Aurora “Awi” Riego de Dios Garcia-Chaves as an artist: cake decorator, sugar artist or sculptor?


Ever since her creations burst into Cagayan de Oro’s social scene barely three years ago, orders have been coming thick and fast that she and her husband Kaye “Kap” Fumar Chaves have hardly any break putting out their custom-made, completely hand-made fondant cakes on time.


Ms. Chaves “Cakeistry” makes custom made, one-of-a-kind cakes for all occasions.


“I like to believe I’m not just making cakes to last for a day but rather creating memories that will last a lifetime,” Ms. Chaves said. And what memories they are!


A quick cross-section of Awi’s creations doesn’t quite cover the length and breadth of what she can do: a line-up of genuine sugar Longchamp Le Plaige bags made from gum paste; a moist chocolate cake with choco panels and filigrees; a Father’s Day cake for a CB/radio enthusiast; a kitchen themed cake from the Japanese anime series Nadesico complete with a hand-made 5” high doll of Akito Tenkawa and a miniature kitchen complete with utensils, stove and oven; a 3-foot high cream cheese and mocha pound wedding cake decorated with fresh liliums; a 9-inch moist chocolate cake with an Eskimo theme complete with cream cheese igloo pound cake and Eskimos; and a Kagay-anon classmate’s gift to her German hubby: a MAN diesel truck; who liked it so much he didn’t permit it to be eaten and brought it back with him to Germany! But you get the idea…


“Her cakes are really good, compared with things I’ve seen here and abroad,” says Carsten Radke, a professional chef from Berlin, Germany married to Kagay-anon Jennifer Abarado and owner of La Vetta, an upscale French Med resto in Limketkai Center.


Frank Peter Kliem, a visiting Konditor meister from Gottingen, Germany said, “Her work looks very good and very professional – I like this work very much and think it is a really good handmade work with really good and nice details- all together a very nice cake.”


Indeed, Awi inherited her artistic chops from her Nanay’s side, Purificacion “Purie” Riego de Dios of Cotabato City whom she first saw baking a chiffon cake and learned how to mix the batter manually in one direction making mostly marble and chiffon cakes on her Northern Hill electric oven.


The second of 5 siblings (1 sister and 3 brothers), Awi inherited her love for cooking from her mom as well, recalling how everyone in the family cooked, and the house specialties including kare kare, bulalo and arroz caldo.


The family moved to Cagayan de Oro in 1969 when Awi was two because her Tagalog dad Melecio “Miling” Garcia was assigned here as the operations manager of a local logging firm.


She wasn’t particularly interested in cooking and the arts during her younger days, though she recalls going the extra mile for her art projects in grade school and having a penchant for charcoal sketching, scrap books and photo albums, and home-made pizza.


In high school she recalls cooking with her gang at Lourdes College of Lani Malferrari, Malou Neri and Sandy Pedrajas as well as taking lessons from the dean of Kagay-anon cake decorators in the 1980’s, Lydia Robillos of the famous Rosita’s Bake Shop.


However, she didn’t do much cooking or baking after her graduation from Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan in 1988, until she became a full-time mother to her four kids (3 girls, one boy) and wife to hubby Kap.


However, in 2008 her interest in cooking and baking was piqued when she started reading food magazines and took baking and cake decorating lessons from Chef Ma. Erwina “Booboo” C. Maramba of the Wilton School of Cake Decorating at Pearlmont Inn.


“When I first met Awi, she was a newbie in cake decorating. Immediately, I saw a great potential in her,” recalls Chef Booboo. “Firstly, she was never satisfied with her work, no matter how much I assured her that it was okay, considering that it was her first time. Secondly, she was inquisitive, always asking questions. And last but not least, she was patient, trying endlessly to perfect what she perceived to be an imperfect creation.”


In 2009, Awi’s interest in fondant cakes was fanned by Chef Jesuit Paul Nugas, but when her first fondant cake ended in disaster she didn’t touch a cake a year after that. But she took heart from the encouragement of Chef Maramba who kept on encouraging her to pursue her interest in cake decorating.


“I prodded her to give cake decorating a chance because I know talent when I see one. You either have it or you don’t, and Awi had it,” Chef Maramba said. “She was just too scared to try. Thank God, she finally listened and so Cagayan de Oro is reaping the rewards. I am very proud to have started her on her journey.”


Finally, exactly three years ago to date, she resumed her cake decorating with a wedding cake for a former employee. She posted the pic of that cake in Facebook and the social networking site took care of the rest.


High school classmate Adelfa Flores-Turner, who now lives in the US, coined the name “Cakeistry CDO” (for Cake Artistry) while her sister Ma. Theresa “Mayette” Lonergan came up with the tagline: “We transform your cake ideas into a sweet reality.”


It’s only been 3 ½ years since June 2010 but already Cakeistry has delivered hundreds of made to order mostly fondant one-of-a-kind cakes for all occasions. That’s around a cake every three days on the average. When you consider how many man-hours it takes to come up with one, that is a monumental achievement in itself considering the artistry that goes into making one and Awi makes them practically by herself.


On the average, it takes over 48 hours to make one from conceptualization to delivery.  Many times the couple’s been up till the wee hours of the morning putting the finishing touches on yet another masterpiece.


“The weather, believe it or not, is a big factor in covering cakes in fondant and decorating with gum paste figures or cut-outs, and a sudden change from warm to wet weather can ruin your preparations,” Awi notes. To address this “climate change” issue, Kap built her a new 130 sq.m. work area annex to her dining room where all the cakes were made previously. It has a separate baking and decorating areas, the latter with climate control to enable Awi to have better control of the temperature and humidity.


Already, Cakeistry is evolving into a new direction with Awi’s “illuminated cakes”.


“It’s something doable but no one dared to venture doing,” she notes.”I wanted something positive and bright so I came up with the idea of a ‘chandelier’ cake.” Since making the first one, orders have been coming thick and fast that she has hardly been able to cope up with the orders. Nevertheless, she is happy other cake decorators have picked up the trend and are now also filling in the gap.


But illuminated cakes are just the second step from Cakeistry’s fondant cakes. Awi says  she has so many ideas she can’t put them all down which is why she always stays up late.


 “I have never wanted to be ordinary. Rather, I want to sent the standard and start a trend!”


With the way her loyal customers keep coming back for more, it’s safe to say Cagayan de Oro’s reputation as the artistic center of Northern Mindanao, in cake sculpturing at least, is in safe hands.


–  I N D N J C  –

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