Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A Piece of Cake: Chefs Aileen Anastacio and Miko Aspiras Unveil Their Collaborative Book on Cakes, Desserts and Everything Sweet at CCA Manila

From the classic New York Cheesecake to the modern New York Cheesecake Entrement, the nostalgic Pineapple Upside-Down Cake to the avant-garde Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Verrine, the colorful Rainbow Cake to the indulgent Rainbow Cake Gelato Bar, and the decadent Sans Rival to the inventive Sans Rival Petit Gateaux, fifty lavish cakes executed two ways in the distinctive culinary styles of the country's finest pastry chefs elegantly laid out in a book...'s A Piece of Cake by Chefs Aileen Anastacio and Miko Aspiras. Two of the country's premier pastry chefs collaborate for a beautiful yet comprehensive, simple and easy guide to both classic and modern desserts for home bakers and professional chefs with their masterfully written and photographed book. You too can recreate these timeless desserts with each masterpiece lovingly detailed in the book. Baking at home can be "A Piece of Cake..." 

Classic meets modern.

Homey and approachable, modern and inventive. The sheer elegance of the concept makes the book a must have for passionate home bakers and emerging pastry chefs, featuring your favorite desserts prepared in both the classic and modern way by Chef Aileen Anastacio and Miko Aspiras. The stunning cover features a New York Cheesecake executed two ways for a visual representation of the unique concept. The book is designed and structured to make baking, well, a piece of cake. With how-to guides on baking techniques, beginner-friendly and fool-proof tips, equipment, kitchen essentials and ingredients, creating your own masterpiece at home is easy, simply decide whether to go classic or modern. The collaboration took two years of both hard work and a whole lot of fun, recalled chefs Aileen and Miko. The book features fifty desserts and 100 recipes reflecting the two contrasting culinary styles of the chefs with Aileen's warm, traditional, comforting and rustic manner and Miko's modern and avant-garde approach. These styles are seamlessly woven in an elegant book that will make you embark on your own culinary journey at home. And after going through the recipes of the book and you decide to pursue a career in baking, no worries, there are a number of options. 

Formally launched last April, the secondary launch of A Piece of Cake at CCA Manila aims to highlight the institution's baking programs and short courses. CCA Manila offers the Certificate in Baking and Pastry Arts Course, a program designed to provide students with a strong foundation on baking and pastry arts supplemented by management competencies. The comprehensive program includes food safety, knife skills, baking math, green chefmanship, nutrition, preparation and serving of coffee, among others. The one-year program also provides exposure to bakeshop, patisserie and cafe operations. If you don't have the time to commit to a one-year course, you can opt to enroll in CCA Manila's Fundamentals in Baking and Pastry Arts Course. A 13-day comprehensive hands-on program with a total of 84 hours, students learn the essential skills and knowledge on food safety, baking math, techniques and methods for breads, cakes, cake decoration and chocolate confections. 

A Sweet Collaboration.

For Miko Aspiras, it was a chance meeting with Aileen Anastacio in Boracay two years ago that sparked an idea he's always had in his mind, a dessert recipe book that featured two ways of preparing the classics. For Aileen Anastacio, it was all in the timing and it was a perfect opportunity for another book. Her previous books, Home Cafe in 2010 and Home-made for the Holidays in 2012, were certified bestsellers. Her first book, Home Cafe, was even proclaimed the Best Dessert Book at the 2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards later translated and printed to Mandarin. It's that kind of day when everything was perfectly aligned, and A Piece of Cake was well on its way.

This year, A Piece of Cake is hot off the press recreating the culinary journeys of Chefs Aileen and Miko. Two divergent and contrasting styles representing two distinct culinary expressions, A Piece of Cake is more than just a collection of recipes. It's the culmination of years in the local food and beverage industry for the country's very best pastry chefs beautifully laid out on velvety smooth paper stock.

The pristine white cover of the book highlights the indulgent creations of Chefs Aileen and Miko. Two years in the making, A Piece of Cake is produced by an all-Filipino team of young professionals including one of my favorite photographers, Justin de Jesus whose eye brilliantly captures each of the indulgent masterpieces.   

Recreating a New York Classic.

At CCA Manila's USDA Theater, Chef Aileen Anastacio prepared one of her signature desserts, the New York Cheesecake featured on the left side of the book's cover. The traditional components of the familiar New York-style cheesecake are laid out by Chef Aileen, from the Graham crust, the silky smooth cream cheese and toppings of fresh berries. It's cheesecake the way you remember it. And still love.

And it all looks easy. Then again, Chef Aileen makes it look easy with years of experience in preparing some of the most indulgent cakes in the metro like my old favorite, the Cappuccino Mousse from the days of Goodies N' Sweets (for more on Chef Aileen Anastacio, see my previous post, At Home at Marmalade Kitchen).

For over two decades, the renowned pastry chef, author, cooking show host, entrepreneur and consultant Aileen Anastacio continues to pave the way in the local culinary scene with her successful enterprises. Currently managing C'est Si Bon Corp. and Marmalade Kitchen, Inc. where she supplies sweet confections to various institutions as well as private dining and consultancy services, Aileen Anastacio adds the final touches to her classic New York Cheesecake with a masterful flair...

...and that's how you recreate a classic. Her pro tip? Try to pick berries with the same size for decorating your creation. Separate the oddly-sized berries for symmetry and balance.

The soft and dense texture of Aileen's classic New York Cheesecake takes you back with the very first bite, with the richness of the cheesecake perfectly balanced by the fresh and tart berries. As with all desserts, each creation must first feed the eyes before the palate. And this one does exactly that. You just don't expect anything less from Chef Aileen. 

Weaving a Modern Spin to a Traditional Dessert.

Known as a maverick and trailblazer in revolutionizing the local pastry scene, Chef Miko Aspiras adds his own progressive and inventive style to traditional desserts garnering recognition and awards along the way including gold medals in the Philippine Culinary Cup, Hong Kong Food Exposition, and the World Association of Chefs Societies. He was Esquire Magazine's Chef of the Year in 2015, and one of the much-anticipated highlights of the 2016 Madrid Fusion. Accolades continued in 2018 when he was recognized by Philippine Tatler as T. Dining's Best Pastry Chef. But Chef Miko just doesn't slow down, constantly pushing the envelope with his passionate and creative mind. Like his take on the classic New York Cheesecake...

...with the New York Cheesecake Entrement. The multi-stepped process includes not only the traditional Graham crust and cream cheese filling but blueberry jelly, strawberry mousse, a vibrant red glaze, green "hull" plastic mass and sesame seeds. But don't be intimidated, the book takes you through each step...

...with clear and easy-to-follow instructions (for more on Chef Miko Aspiras and his diverse culinary endeavors, see my posts, Elegant Indulgence In A Box From Workshop Bespoke Bakery by Le Petite Souffle on his signature pastries, Canned Goodness: Garde Manger's New Enlatados on his savory creations, Bite and Sip: Scout's Honor Craft Cookie Shop's Craft Cookie Milkshake Version Upgrade and Ready for Cookie Camp at Scout's Honor Craft Cookie Shop on his refreshing take on cookies, Culinary Crossovers: Le Petite Souffle Opens Second Branch at Mega Fashion Hall and Find Out Why Freezer Burn Is The Hottest Spot in Bonifacio High Street). I first met Miko when he was with one of the metro's prestigious hotels in charge of their pastries during the early days of my blog. Since then, my blog has been blessed with numerous features of Miko's creative mind and his various projects. And it always feels good to feature an old friend whose been a part of my food blog's growth through the years.

The light and casual banter between Miko and Aileen entertains the guests at the launch, with good vibes all the way. It's undeniable, the chemistry between two of the country's top pastry chefs is more than good. And you can feel it, which makes the casual demo so much more engaging. 

A few more sprinkles of sesame seeds to replicate the surface of a bright red strawberry, Miko's New York Cheesecake Entrement is done.

Bold, vibrant and innovative, the New York Cheesecake is reinvented with Miko's avant-garde magic for an indulgent and unique dessert that tastes as good as it looks. And that's the inherent beauty of A Piece of Cake, offering readers two different ways of enjoying classic desserts.

Witnessing the distinctive styles of two of the country's renowned pastry chefs up close is an experience in itself. And you can relive that experience with each page in A Piece of Cake.

At the end of the demo, guests were invited to sample the decadent creations from Aileen's classic New York Cheesecake... Miko's New York Cheesecake Entrement, as well as many more equally tempting creations... Aileen's Caramel Cake (L) and more indulgent bites. It was a fitting conclusion to the launch and demo, when the sense of taste completes the circle. Almost immediately, one can appreciate the culinary journeys of Aileen and Miko with each luscious bite of their signature desserts. 

Aileen's Coffee Sable, an intricate dessert that pleases the eye and palate, was another popular dessert that day. Recipes for all these masterpieces, from cakes to pies, tarts, cookies, bars, confections, flans, pudding and even ice cream can be found in the book to set you off on your own culinary journey right in your home kitchen. A Piece of Cake is priced at P 1,500 and may be ordered online through their website at

Baking, as everyone knows, is all about precision in measurements, portions and temperature that demands an exacting discipline. Unforgiving with little room for error, baking anything requires you do it right from the very start. But the pay-off is well worth it after that first bite. And just like the desserts, the book is carefully crafted in a concise style lavished with drool-worthy images.  

CCA Manila was the perfect venue for the secondary launch of the book, a pioneer in the field of culinary education. The Cravings Group Operations Head Bea Trinidad accepts a copy of A Piece of Cake from Chefs Aileen Anastacio and Miko Aspiras (for more on The Cravings Group, see my posts, A Farm-To-Table Dining Experience at Sisterfields by Cravings and #BrighterCravings2018: Celebrate A Merry And Bright Christmas with The Cravings Group).

A Gathering of Culinary Icons.

Seen at the launch was another icon in the country's food scene and an old friend, Chef Sau del Rosario, a staunch advocate in the promotion and preservation of local regional cuisine (for more on Chef Sau del Rosario, see my posts, Flavors of Pampanga: The Kanyaman Filipino Food Festival by Chef Sau del Rosario at Novotel Manila's Food Exchange as guest chef for Novotel Manila, Local Flavors Shine at Diamond Hotel's Filipino Culinary Pride where Chefs Sau and Miko headlined for the Diamond Hotel's Filipino Food Festival, Flavors of Pampanga: Samsaman, A Capampangan Boodle Fight with Chef Sau del Rosario at 25 Seeds and Flavors of Pampanga: Farm-To-Table Dining at Chef Sau del Rosario's 25 Seeds on Chef Sau del Rosario's restaurant in his hometown in Pampanga). Chef Sau is also an accomplished book author...

...with his own book, 20 Years of Love + Cooking (for more on Chef Sau del Rosario's book, see my post From Page to Plate: Chef Sau del Rosario's 20 Years of Love + Cooking). Chef Sau's book details his own personal journey to becoming one of the country's top chefs. Sau del Rosario is also the current president of the Philippine Chapter for Disciples Escoffier International Asia, a culinary partner of CCA Manila with the Institut Culinaire Disciples Escoffier Diploma in Culinary Arts Program (for more on Disciples Escoffier, check out my post, The Spirit of Escoffier: The Disciples of Escoffier Gala Dinner at Sage Bespoke Grill). Good times and good vibes all around...

And now it's your turn. Begin your own culinary journey by grabbing your copy of A Piece of Cake by Chefs Aileen Anastacio and Miko Aspiras or inquire about CCA Manila's culinary courses on Baking and Pastry Arts and make life sweeter...

For more information on the book, A Piece of Cake by Chefs Aileen Anastacio and Miko Aspiras, visit their website at

For more on CCA Manila and their various programs, visit their website at or call 218-8566 or 0917-505-9370 for inquiries and more information.

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