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Monday, June 29, 2015

Weekends with home chefs #2 - Santa Fonseka

Here comes the second edition of our brand new series "Weekends with home chefs".

This week we are introducing to you Santa Fonseka a really talented, dedicated home chef. I don't want to elaborate on her work, but you will be amazed seeing them. Here we go..

Introduce yourself – tell us a bit about you.


I am Santa Fonseka, PR Executive by day and cake artist in the evenings. Family and friends call me San. I do custom cakes from home and you can find my page on facebook which goes by the name ‘San Bakes’. The name itself has come from the reactions of friends and family who know that I’m quite capable of burning a salad..but to all the unbelievable questions… San Bakes? I am saying yes…San Bakes!


I grew up in the Dubai although I am from the city of Dum Biryani, which is Hyderabad, India! I am married to a Sri Lankan and hence my last name. I have 2 extremely naughty but awesome kids and my 9 year old son is my biggest critic although it’s very easy to understand if I have got it right with
reactions in the form of “awesome” for a great job or “really?????” for needs more work.

Where does your passion for cooking come from?

I am someone who has never been interested in anything to do with cooking. Growing up I’ve always loved cleaning. Also having a mom who is the most amazing cook in the world and the fact that I ended up marrying an absolutely fantastic Chef didn’t help and there was very little opportunity to try my hand at cooking.



However a couple of years ago a very good friend from office was due to celebrate his birthday and I decided to bake and decorate the cake myself. How hard could it be??? Well it wasn’t just hard it was crazy. The result was an edible enough cake that could have definitely looked better but the fact that it wasn’t absolutely perfect drove me insane and I joined a basic baking and decorating course.



Family, Friends and colleagues were happy to sample anything and everything I baked.. some even encouraged me to start taking orders as I seemed to be getting better with every cake. The best part was that I began to enjoy it thoroughly. All the fun characters, colors, different flavours were all very exciting since I have always enjoyed art. Both my kids have to deal with an extremely competitive mom in any activity involving clay, drawing or coloring!

Where do you get your recipe inspiration from?

I learnt to bake from an amazing teacher based in Dubai, Rangika Mathew from Baking Art. Her recipes have a fantastic homemade flavor and kids and adults just love the combination of the chocolate butter cake and chocolate buttercream that she has given me. I have experimented with other recipes from the internet and a hot favorite is the Mexican Chili Chocolate Mud cake. The chili is quite mild and you feel it after you’ve had a moment to savor the taste of chocolate.


Another combination that I have dabbled in for a slightly healthy option and found a big hit is the combination of cake with a jam filling instead of buttercream. A simple vanilla butter cake with passion fruit jam filling tastes absolutely divine for those who wish to avoid buttercream and go for a slightly healthier option.

Even left over cake is not wasted and made into simple cake pops that colleagues at work look forward to every often.

Are there any cooking techniques, dishes or styles that particularly intimidate you and you have yet to try?

With cake decorating there are so many new and innovative things being done around the world. One of them is blown sugar or isomalt modeling where you work with hot sugar to create stunning cake toppers. Not only do you have to work with a hot material but you also have to work quickly before it cools and sets.

The other cake decorating related issue that I am very nervous about is gravity defying cakes with little bits and even cake popping out from all over. So far I have not had an order that has been crazy difficult to assemble but I am nervous of the day when I will get something very complicated!

Share your worst cooking nightmare. Any epic recipe failures?

So far I’ve had one epic failure and I must share this experience…. I had an order for a 3D cake shaped like a local man. They wanted the character to have a big tummy which I carved out of the cake. It took me about 3-4 hours to complete the cake and the end result was splendid. 


I finished and went to bed very happy with myself and normally I sleep uninterrupted to only wake up around 5:30am when the alarm goes off. However on this particular day I got up at 4am to use the bathroom and couldn’t go back to sleep! After turning and tossing in bed for about 15-20 minutes I wondered if there was a reason that I was unable to fall asleep… I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs to check on the cake. The cake had broken at the tummy due to being so soft! For the first 10 minutes I was contemplating how to tell the customer that there would be no cake!!!! However after calming down a bit I took out a new cake board and began to redo the cake from bust upwards. By 6:30am the cake looked perfect and no one could tell that there had been an accident. The customer and birthday boy were delighted with the cake. I delivered the bottom half of the cake and asked them to serve it separately, but I must say that everything worked out in the end. 

What’s the most adventurous dish you’ve ever eaten?

The most adventurous dish that I have eaten is grilled crocodile meat during a visit to South Africa. It looked very much like fish and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised when I ate to find it tasted very much like Hammour.

I was an extremely fussy eater until I met my husband who convinced to try everything at least once and then decide if I liked it or not.

How did your cooking change your life?

The best thing about baking is the delightful reactions of little kids and even adults every time a cake is delivered. I have received hugs from happy kids and parents on so many occasions! Being able to spread happiness with a "well-done" cake and the appreciation from the customers is what drives me.

What is your message to our readers, food lovers, and aspiring chefs?

Follow your passion ‘cause when you are enjoying what you do you will never tire of it!



Thank you Santa, for sparing your precious time for Chilirush. To follow Santa, just visit and like her facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/San-Bakes/631521140238506

We will come back with another interview with one of the best home chefs next week.

To be part of the series visit http://www.chilirush.com/2015/06/weekends-with-home-chefs-interview.html 

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