By Rieze Rose T. Calbay and Myla Jasmine U. Bantog
THEIR CAKES are made with such artistry and workmanship that eating them would seem a waste. With designs ranging from stacked pillows to life-size pianos, Thomasian sisters Penk Ching and Shen Ratilla believe that the art of baking and designing cakes should not only please the taste buds, but also delight the eyes.
Penk and Shen own the esteemed Pastry Bin bakeshop in Kitanlad, Quezon City that attracts big-shot clients, from the Zobels to the Macapagals and Arroyos.
“Everything started for fun,” Penk said.
“We had no idea that there was money after eating,” Shen added.
Sugar and everything nice
The sisters’ love for baking began when they enrolled in a crash course on baking and decorating techniques in the early 1980’s.
“Our secret goes down to our hobby–eating,” Penk, a Business Management graduate in 1979 from the old UST College of Commerce, said.
Penk used to work for banks while Shen, who finished AB Behavioral Sciences at the Faculty of Arts and Letters, took a Master’s degree in Management at the University of Columbia. After some years, Penk, who was five years older than Shen, quit her daytime job to devote her time in cooking, while Shen studied abroad to gain more knowledge in baking.
The two decided to put up a bakeshop in their home in Quezon City in 1986, which they called “Pastry Bin,” as they usually lay cakes on a bin. Pastrybin offers a wide variety of pastries and breads. The shop’s trademark cakes are rolled in fondant icing–a mixture of powdered sugar and glucose mixture, kneaded and shaped in many forms.
They immediately got positive response. “Feedbacks were good and many come back to get our services,” Shen said. In fact, the sisters said they are beside themselves with happiness when customers tell them how they and the shop have become “part” of their lives, for providing cakes from weddings to christenings.
But right after Penk and Shen baked a five-layered cake fashioned like a gift and decorated with silver beads and pink ribbons for the 1994 wedding of the Ayala scion Fernando Zobel and his bride, Catherine Silverio, the sisters hit the big time. Numerous high-end customers followed the example of the Ayala couple and asked the sisters to bake them fantastic cakes for magnificent events.
“That experience has always made us smile,” Shen said. “It turned out to be a big leap for us–from servicing ordinary clients to dealing with high-end ones.”
Today, the baking siblings have had their cakes served in Malacañang weddings, such as the nuptial cakes of Beaver Lopez and Jackie Ejercito in 1999, of Mikey Arroyo and Angela Montenegro in 2002, and of Datu Arroyo and Kakai Manotoc in 2003. They were also the designers of Gerard Salonga’s life-size piano wedding cake, as well as of the pillow wedding cake for Claudine Barretto and Raymart Santiago. They also do fruit cakes ordered by Sharon Cuneta.
Pastrybin products have reached other shores as the sisters have received big orders for their baking products through the Internet. To date, their products have been ordered in Dubai, Hong Kong, and the United States. Foreign customers, the sisters said, have expressed admiration for and delight at Pastrybin products.
In 2005, Penk and Shen were cited finalists in the 2005 British Sugarcraft Guild Convention. The two launched last year their first coffee table book, Caked in Sugar, which chronicles their struggles to becoming full-time “cake architects.” The book for bakers and cake enthusiasts includes six chapters of glossy photographs of the sisters’ most prized creations in almost 21 years.
“It’s more of a compilation,” explained Shen. “It documents the cakes that we have done for many personalities.”
The two sisters said they have “sweet memories” of UST.
“It’s funny that every time I bake a cake, I would always remember the lessons I had during our college days,” Penk said, referring to her Management courses in the University. She now conducts seminars and workshops on entrepreneurship for the College of Commerce.
In 2005, the University recognized the siblings’ accomplishments by naming them Entrepreneurs for the Year.
“We are really happy that we have studied in UST,” Shen said. “It is a good school where everything is balanced–from religion to education.”
From this recognition, Penk shared her joy for having been tasked to make UST’s 2011 cake.
“As I was about to take the trophy, former rector Tamerlane Lana shook my hand and told me, ‘You will make the 400th anniversary cake of UST’,” Penk said.