" Before she knew how to bake, Olive Lo recalls being mesmerised by the beauty of the wedding cake at her aunt’s marriage reception dinner. While the other children played with each other, Lo, then 12, lingered near the cake, admiring the intricate designs of the sweet confection. "
So fascinated was she that within days she enrolled in a baking class comprising women twice her age.
Lo was unfazed by the "generation gap" - her mind was set on only one thing - mastering the rudiments of baking a good cake.
"My teacher Lucy told me to bake a good cake, all you need is to learn the basics," she recalled.
Under her mentor's guidance, Lo took to baking like a duck to water and in no time, produced cakes so tasty that she started taking orders when she was only 15.
"Those days, the cakes I made were simple - butter cake or butter cream cake. I was surprised people were willing to buy from a teenager," said the ebullient pastry chef whose modest cake-making business began flourishing as more customers heard of her delightful treats through word of mouth.
Today, Lo turns out whimsical birthday cakes, sensational cookies and some of the best savoury pastries in Kuching, making full use of the various techniques she picked up from baking classes.
"I believe in mastering good basic baking methods. Whatever I've learnt, I make sure I improve on and improvise," she said, adding that she also made it a point to attend short courses whenever she travelled to Australia and Japan.
"I have a sister living in Japan while my children are working in Australia, so visiting them gives me the opportunity to learn the latest baking trends there. Knowing something new each time allows me to keep abreast of the current trends and improve."
To keep up to date, Lo attends the Food & Hotel Asia (FHA) Fair - Asia's largest international food and hospitality trade event - in Singapore annually.
"I never missed this event since my first attendance in 1988. There's always something to learn and discover from the participants from all over the world," she noted.
As Lo's baking skills grew, so did her range of cakes and she now has in hand more than 30 different flavours - from all-time favourite chocolate to rich and creamy cheesecakes, all created from scratch with the freshest ingredients.
A stickler to taste and quality, she combines her cakes and pastries to create richly flavoured desserts but with just the right amount of delicate sweetness.
According to her, women are fond of walnut cakes for their light, airy and fluffy texture while men would generally go for black forest cakes and cheesecakes.
Lo's signature cakes are much like Japanese-style cakes with their light, melt-in-your-mouth texture but they are also as beautiful to look at as they are delicious to eat.
She hand-sculpts immaculate works of art on her cakes for all sorts of celebrations.
"My customers will usually give me a rough idea of how they want their cakes presented and from there, I will come up with the designs."
Lo particularly enjoys designing cakes for children as the process of creating the designs allows her creativity to flow.
"I have to be very precise with the designs, especially when it calls for cartoon characters. Other times, I would mould cute figurines out of fondant and use them as cake toppers," she said, adding that though challenging, it was always a joy to make children's cakes.
Apart from cakes, the passionate pastry chef also makes hold-in-your-hand desserts such as cupcakes and iced cookies prepared with unparalleled level of finely detailed craftmanship as well as savoury items such as chicken crepes and curry chicken in choux pastry, which are also popular with customers who often serve them during festive seasons or special functions.
Lo's customers like her cakes for their delicious taste and artistic designs.
She attributes her success to having a good teacher and mastering the basics of each baking technique.
"I was very lucky to have Lucy guide me from the very beginning. She really inspires me to become what I am today," she beamed.
Source: The Borneo Post
Tuesday, June 22, 2010