31 Mar Baking Tips from a food allergy mom & professional cake maker
We’ve received a lot of compliments, particularly from the food allergy community on how helpful the blog has been. Much credit goes to Fernanda Abarca. Fernanda’s a Super Mom with many talents. While her cake making skills are off the charts, she’s sharing some baking tips that anyone can use.
By day, Fernanda is a Surfacing Artist at Dreamworks Animation. You’ll see her name in the credits on Trolls, How To Train Your Dragon, and Kung Fu Panda to name a few. By night, Fernanda quite literally sculpts cakes for Marvel, Disney, and Dreamworks.
See that hair and fuzz on Astrid’s clothing, boots and face? See that yarn and general ‘fuzz’ on DJ from Trolls? Fernanda styled and ‘surfaced’ that.
Fernanda has also been a food allergy mom since her daughter developed severe peanut, tree nut, seed and shellfish allergies at age one.
“Being a mom to a child with allergies presents so many challenges. Especially when it comes to birthday parties. Having the ability to create cakes that are allergy free for my daughter and friends to enjoy, has been a tremendous blessing to us.”
Fernanda was born in Brazil and started making cakes in 2011. Her first successful cake was for her daughter’s 4th birthday. In 2017, she was honored to be a guest Judge on the Food Network’s Cake Wars series.
“If I had a power party tip, it would be take a theme and work with that theme.”
When I worked at Dreamworks Animation, Fernanda was incredibly helpful brainstorming what eventually became Siitch, especially the blog. We met over countless coffees, me posing questions, she pointing out what content and sections would be useful not just for foodies, but food allergy parents.
“There’s so much you don’t know when you find out your child has an allergy, or any condition. There’s so many websites. It’s overwhelming. Searching takes time. Who has time?! I hope the categories help.”
Let’s dive in. A few of Fernanda’s tools and baking tips:
“One of my favorite baking tools is definitely my kitchen aid mixer. For sculpting I LOVE all my PME tools (baking pans etc) Sugar Shapers, brushes – I use cheap brushes from Michael’s or cheap makeup brushes – both are great for sculpting. And I never use anything but Satin Ice fondant, unless I am working with chocolate. My favorite chocolate to work with is Guittard. All of these products have simply proven to be the best quality for my work.”
“For inspiration, I love David Lebovitz. He has immaculate taste, and knows how to pair food so well. I have learned so many baking tips from his books and reading his recipes.”
Something I always do when making my cakes is keep everything clean and organized.
“A messy work area is a dangerous work area. If I had a power party tip, it would be take a theme and work with that theme. Bring the theme down if it’s broad so you can focus on color etc. Make good use of your products. For example, if you are going to bake a cake, bake a few cupcakes since you are making batter already. Then decorate cupcakes differently so there is a variety on your dessert table. Use any leftover cake you trim off the main cake, and make cake pops.
Last but not least, don’t be afraid of using fun products that are made to make your life simpler. Dipped chocolate Oreos, Rice Krispie treats, marshmallow lollypops are all fun and easy table fillers for your party, and normally contain no nut allergens.”
“The most important thing is to do it with love. If you don’t love it, it’s best you don’t do it. That goes for anything you are doing in the kitchen. Cooking and baking for others is a genuine act of love and service. Once that is achieved, practice a ton and learn a ton. Develop a skill in something you love to bake and do that one thing really well. The rest will fall into place in God’s timing.”
A big thanks to Fernanda for her help over the years.
To connect with Fernanda, or to see more of her work:
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