Every child has a special sweet tooth for cakes. But not everyone has the luxury to get a slice whenever he/she pleases.
Verna Mariano, a seasoned baker and a mom of three, vividly remembers the first time she fell in love with this German dessert Pinoys love: Black Forest cake.
“I grew up in a modest household,” Verna shares. “And cakes are something we would get to enjoy only on special occasions.”
When she was 12, Verna went with her sister, who was then working at PCI Bank in Makati, to attend their office Christmas party.
“My sister knew that there would be loads of amazing food for me to indulge in,” Verna relates. But what caught her eye was this iconic red box with a dainty red ribbon at the far end of the buffet table. What was inside the box teased her palate even more — a chocolate cake layered with vanilla whipped cream and decorated with chilled red cherries. A creamy, chocolate-cherry dream, indeed!
“It made my mouth water with delight,” Verna recalls. “It tasted heavenly. At that time, I didn’t think of wanting to learn how to bake since my mom couldn’t afford an oven. Instead, I wanted to make a lot of money so that I could buy my family a box of Black Forest cake every day!”
Of cake, love and dreams
Verna did make a lot of money — not as a baker, though — but by helping talented pool players in the country.
“I was supporting my husband who is a billiard enthusiast,” shares Verna. “The pool players (rookies/newbies) we were managing needed help with sending emails and contacting different organizers in international tournaments abroad.”
And so the Mariano couple put up Bugsy Promotions.
“I accompanied players on their travels abroad. That’s also how I got immersed in the billiard world, from just meeting people within the industry to finally helping the likes of Ronnie Alcano and Dennis Orcollo realize their dreams of becoming world champions. We were also able to organize international billiard events,” adds Verna.
But some good things never last. Sponsors shifted to boxing and football, which led to a slump in billiard events.
“I don’t recall when I stopped organizing tournaments. But we still managed players until three years ago,” she says.
After several years, Verna veered away from the limelight and went back to her first love: baking.
“I was going through a very difficult time in my life. And my kids pushed me to go back to baking,” Verna shares.
In 2017, she put up Mudcakes by V, a home-based bakery in Teachers Village, QC, with the help of her three grownup children — Hadley, 27; Vernice, 25; and Verene, 22 — who have been big fans of her baked delights since they were little kids.
“Her mud cake is the best,” enthuses Verene, Verna’s youngest child. “Ever since we were kids, once we would smell her freshly baked goodies from our rooms, we would run towards the kitchen before she even got the chance to call us.”
Verna took up a certificate course in baking at the Center for Culinary Arts (CCA), Manila, back in 1997.
“At that time, I had two little kids that I wanted to impress and bake for,” relates Verna. A year later, Verna bought her first oven. “It felt like buying my first car!”
While at CCA, Verna still made it a point to learn the recipe of her favorite Black Forest cake.
“I even remember telling my teacher that Black Forest tops my list of cake recipes to learn. And I did it eventually,” Verna enthuses.
However, Verna had a change of heart when she had her first big bite of mud cake and realized that Black Forest “is just rich in heavy cream.”
“Mud cake now tops my cake list. I spent 23 years of my life perfecting the recipe. And my kids love it, too!” says the doting mom.
Mud cake is a classic chocolate cake — no fuss, no frills.
“But it gives you a ticket to a trip down memory lane — to childhood recollections of special family gatherings and eating homemade desserts,” notes Verna.
What sets Mudcakes by V’s mud cake apart from others is its texture and the rich, five-hour cocoa fudge icing, which complements the soft cake base that has the right balance of sweetness.
Verna continuously improves every single dessert or pastry that she creates, and it shows. From her decadent mud cake to her new Premium Carotte Cake down to her guilt-free Coconut Sugar Cookies, every single item on Mudcakes by V’s menu is made with TLC.
(Ordering Mudcakes by V is a piece of cake. Just DM Mudcakes by V on Facebook or @mudcakesbyv on Instagram.)