Meet Simonette delos Reyes-Ferraren: The funnel cake queen
KITCHEN SPY - KITCHEN SPY By Heidi Ng () - July 15, 2004 - 12:00am
Simonette delos Reyes-Ferraren is enthusiasm personified. She tells us that everything at her California Funnel Cakes Café in Pasay City were recycled from her old furniture. The old tablecloths have been transformed into curtains. The chiller is 50 years old. An old shoe rack was converted into a magazine rack, while the brocade mat, tea carts and Simonette’s tea cups are all old, too. She is definitely proud of her café, which is right inside her house, and definitely confident about her best-selling product, the funnel cake.

The funnel cake might be new to most people, but the name Simonette delos Reyes might ring a bell. She was 1970 Binibining Pilipinas, representing our country in the Miss Universe competition in Miami Beach, Florida that year. There was tremendous pressure on whoever was going to the 1970 Miss Universe contest because Gloria Diaz won the title the year before. She comes from a family of beautiful women – her sister is another Binibining Pilipinas winner, a cousin was Miss Philippines, and Philippine STAR columnist and one of the Philippines’ most beautiful women, Tingting delos Reyes-Cojuangco, is her niece.

After the competition, she lived in different cities of the world, such as Berlin, Paris and Los Angeles. However, it was in Los Angeles where she honed her craft as a baker. She sold ensaymada, using a recipe she learned from baker and teacher Salud de Castro, to the Filipino stores in her neighborhood.

She made decorated birthday cakes, too. She remembers fondly when a friend asked her to make a Voltes 5 cake for her son. She labored on the cake the whole night and, when she delivered the cake, her friend commented that the cake was too lovely that even her guests did not want to touch it.

It is with this same passion that Simonette perfected her funnel cake. She found the recipe among her mother’s things and diligently worked on it. Since funnel cakes then where served only at the Knottsberry Farm and Magic Mountain theme parks, she worked on perfecting her own recipe, along its different flavor variants, for nine months.

The funnel cake is said to be "crispier than a pancake, more interesting than a doughnut, tastier than churros, and has more toppings than a waffle." She showed us how a funnel cake is made, and she let me try making one, too.

It is like a pancake but fried. The dough is crunchy, especially while it is still hot. What makes it a sinful dessert is the myriad of toppings she serves with it. The banana-butterscotch is topped with homemade butterscotch sauce and ripe bananas, while the apple cinnamon is topped with sweetened apples and powdered cinnamon! The cappuccino in vanilla ice funnel cake is topped with whipped cream that Simonette makes at home. It is creamy and light, but is surely wicked for those on a diet. The chocolate sauce is also homemade, and she makes her own marshmallows as well.

She first sold funnel cakes door-to-door around her neighborhood in the States. She earned $77 on the first day. She opened a kiosk in Westwood Farmers Market, in front of the University of Los Angeles. The students would line up in front of her shop at 6 a.m. even if her store opened at 8 a.m.

When she returned to the Philippines, she started to sell her funnel cakes at bazaars, but realized the potential of her cakes. She now sells them at the café in her home in Pasay City.

Aside from funnel cakes, she also sells cakes and pastries, like walnut caramel apple pie and black-and-white fudge cake. Her gourmet ensaymadas and chicken puffs are sold at the café, too. The pasta sampler, served with four distinct sauces, is also a pleasant surprise.

Her passion for baking and cooking has finally paid off, although she would be the first to admit that cooking was not her first love.

She says, "When I was taking cooking and baking lessons, I would doze off when the teacher would talk about cooking, but I told my classmates to wake me up when the teacher resumed her baking lessons."

Currently, she gets to show off both her cooking and baking skills and even makes her own Roquefort salad dressing. It’s a shame she cannot share her recipe for funnel cake because it is her best-kept secret. However, she gives us her best-selling recipes for two cup cakes, which sell like hotcakes.

Before we parted ways, she told me that "I think if you are interested in doing something, you will do it very well." Now, that is food for thought!
Chocolate Cupcake
450 g. sugar
1 cup butter
4 eggs, large
Dry mix:
300 g. all-purpose flour
2 tsps. baking powder
2 tsps. baking soda
50 g. cocoa
Wet mixture:
1-1/2 cups milk
3 ice cubes
2 tsps. vanilla

Cream 1 cup butter with the sugar. Prepare the wet mixture in one bowl. Set aside. Prepare the dry mixture, set aside. After beating the butter, slowly add alternately 4 large whole eggs. Combine by beating in the wet mixture and the dry mixture. Remember to end with the dry mixture. Pour in paper baking cups and bake for 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Cheese Cupcake
90 g. sugar
another bag of 90 g. sugar
3/4 cup butter
6 egg yolks
30 g. cheese
45 g. sugar
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
Dry mixture:
240 g. all-purpose flour
2 tsps. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Wet mixture:
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp. orange extract

Cream 3/4 cup butter and first 90 g. bag of sugar till it becomes light and creamy. Add six yolks and the second bag of sugar. Beat again until light and fluffy.

Sift the dry mixture. In a separate cup, combine orange juice, milk, water and orange extract. When combined, slowly beat in dry mixture and the orange juice mixture. Begin and end with the dry mixture.

In another bowl, beat six egg whites and the 45 g. sugar plus 1/2 tsp cream of tartar until foamy.

Fold in all ingredients. Add the grated cheese at the end. Pour into cupcake molds. Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Top with more cheese while hot from the oven. Sprinkle with sugar.
* * *
For inquiries and orders, contact Simonette Delos Reyes-Ferraren at 1670 Donada St., Pasay City, with tel. nos. 523-0007.

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