Toronto woman makes the most uniquely decorated Filipino-inspired cakes
A Toronto woman whose studies in Manila were derailed by the pandemic has gradually turned her independent business into an homage to her Filipino background, her garden and her art.
Kwento was started by Shannon Nocos near the beginning of the first wave of lockdowns in Toronto and around the world.
"I had been enrolled in culinary school in Manila at the Ducasse Education program, and then the pandemic hit. I had to come back to Toronto to wait out the lockdown. I was anticipating going back to Asia by the summer, so I started Kwento to keep practicing what I had learned from school," Nocos told blogTO.
"I didn't want to start looking for work because I was supposed I would go back after a month or two, or so I thought, so Kwento was meant to just be a very small Filipino meal kit business. By the summer I realized I wasn't going back to Asia anytime soon so I kept pushing Kwento further."
Nocos has partnered with meal service business Kusinera, another project highlighting Filipino cuisine, to distribute her cakes.
"I think what has really laid the foundation for Kwento was the number of collaborations I’ve done with other small businesses. It’s been really cool to build a community with other amazing people in and out of the city," says Nocos.
"What started as a little project is now my full-time job. It's very rewarding to boot-strap this business and see it progress into what it is now, but with that being said, I am totally comfortable with growing slow and steady."
She actually started out on the savoury side herself, but was surprisingly yet quickly drawn to the world of cakes.
"I started making food that utilized the vegetables and herbs I grew in my garden. But I started to get a little overwhelmed with the production in my kitchen, so that's when I started to look at baked goods. Now I have my own studio kitchen where all the baking and decorating happens," says Nocos.
"Prior to even coming back from the Philippines, I started to plan my garden as a way to kill some quarantine time. I specifically chose edible plants and flowers for my garden, knowing that I would want to experiment with them somehow. So once my garden started to flourish, It was almost a no-brainer to utilize them on my cakes and desserts."
It turned out that Nocos was able to express herself in the decoration of her cakes even moreso than in the process of baking or cooking. Her decoration can take the form of patchwork, pointillism, artfully placed flower petals or even new takes on old school piping techniques.
"I definitely love to take on challenges and try new things and I think that's reflected in the designs that I come up with. With baking cakes the process is always the same, but the outer layer is where the fun is at," says Noco.
"I went to art school for my undergrad and I was always good at the tactile classes like woodshop and sculpture-making. So with decorating, I feel like my tactile skills naturally come into play. I also try to utilize colour and composition to create designs that are visually appealing."
Though the outside of these cakes may be what captures your attention, the flavours inside are what keep people coming back, and they're far from ho-hum chocolate and vanilla. Her best-selling flavour is ube macapuno, made with ube halaya, covered in a light meringue buttercream and filled with coconut sport, a jarred macapuno product.
"The name Kwento comes from the Tag-lish (Tagalog-English) phrase 'let's make kwento,' which is what you say when you want to share a story, or share an experience. I learned this phrase while studying abroad in Manila. My classmates came from all over the Philippines and I was one of three international students," says Nocos.
"We often hung out after class, and this phrase always came up when we were sharing our stories and learning about each other. I think that the name Kwento was appropriate because at the time, I was pivoting my career, choosing to go in this direction and deciding to do what I love, and also learning so much through this experience."
Nocos is working on a website with a full ordering system, but for now you can order by sending her a DM or email.
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