May 20, 2011
After getting canned without reason, the day after her maternity leave was up, Paula Cinini was not sure what to do; she had always worked as a journalist. To find some solace in this devastating situation, and cope with her mother’s passing, Paula dug up her mother’s old, partly-burned, worn recipe book and began baking.
The good book with mom’s recipes, burned pages, and finger prints throughout.
Baking is something Paula was taught to do with love. Baking reminded her of when she would help her mother and Italian grandma make pasta as a little girl. Paula took her skills into the kitchen and talent with words and built a blog that has been going strong for over three years. But, she didn’t stop there. Along with the help of her husband Alexandre (he taught himself chocolates, and Paula taught him cupcakes), and daughter Helena, Paula began to bake for their friend’s parties and events.
A cookie on a stick order going out for the weekend.
The popularity of her blog The Cookie Shop, and moist (yes) cakes, cookies, and cupcakes spread, and soon she had a business that she loved. All of her goods are sold virtually and baked right at home, with the help from Alexandre, who is in charge of the chocolates. Together, it is an entirely in-house operation that has transformed their home.
Paula and Alexandre.
Alexandre’s white chocolate, caramel, and macadamia and chocolates.
Sugar cookies with killer frosting. I ate about four of these.
When asked about her first sell to a total stranger, Paula reveals that her client, a São Paulo University physics student, grabbed her and gave her a massive hug right there in the parking lot, where she admitted she was a huge fan of Paula’s blog, and “couldn’t wait to try her cupcakes!” Paula was clearly onto something.
Paula deep in concentration.
Brazilian baking is a bit different that of the U.S. or France. In a country where cake is a part of every afternoon snack, Paula admits that Brazilians are pretty particular about their cake, “They have to be more moist (yes) and the fillings sweeter. You can’t mess with these two things too much because people are particular.” In Brazilian cakes the main event comes from the filling and not so much the frosting, although that is good too.
Our moist wedding cake: orange cake with layers of pistachio creme filling. Still drooling.
Straight from Roger Rabbit: my sister in-law’s coconut cake with fudge filling and sugar icing.
Fresh ingredients like pistachios, fruits, walnuts, and the very best flour fill her cakes (and kitchen).
The Cookie Shop.
Tools of the trade.
The secret ingredient for Brazilian sweet-makers is condensed milk. Paula laughs, “The French patisseries deplore Brazil’s use of it, but no one really cares, because it tastes so good.” It is rumored that the white sweet gooey stuff is making a comeback stateside.
Due to good ol’ twitter, Paula has recently joined forces with a group of over 50 bakers, other bloggers, and sweet-makers forming a sort of “online oracle” where anyone with a baking emergency can find help within minutes. They call themselves the “Doceiras Tweeteiras” (The Tweeting Sweet-Makers) and have formed a support group for women home alone that exercise creativity and challenge themselves to tackle new recipes and projects.
Paula says her first cake order was a disaster. After the third attempt, the recipe was right, but she had not transported a cake before and had to readjust and rebuild part of it in front of the birthday girl’s house! To achieve the extreme moistness of Brazilian cake require a process. It takes Paula three days to build a two layer wedding cake, with time to cool, let it settle, then add the filling. The waiting period is crucial to make sure the cake sets properly.
No matter how long it takes, The Cookie Shop’s aim is always to create magic.