It never feels nice to be compared to others. It makes you feel so inadequate, so inept, and so worthless. In my case, it is something I’ve had to live with for almost my entire life. While I was growing up, I would be compared to one of my cousins who could play the piano and went to the University of the Philippines; said cousin also got called upon to be a sagala for the traditional Maytime Flores de Mayo (flower festivals in honour of the Blessed Virgin). I was always made to feel ugly and stupid; never intelligent enough…never good enough for anything.
But, if there is anything that I can do that my cousin probably can’t in order to save her life, it would have to be writing, cooking, and baking. And, of late, I’ve become more daring with regard to the latter.
Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis are aware of that the projects I have been doing lately are starting to get a little more elaborate. There was the Japanese cheesecake. And then there were cream puffs – a feat I intend to follow up with gougeres soon enough, or probably a batch of crispy, deep-fried churros. And, of course, chiffon cakes.
My mother’s orange chiffon is the standard against I judge my own and, according to her, mine is every bit as good. However, the toughest act to follow along these lines is my grandmother’s recipe for coffee chiffon cake.
The way my grandmother used to describe it when she was alive was mouth-watering enough: a light chiffon sponge flavoured with instant coffee (Nescafe was the brand of choice in those days) and slathered on top with condensed milk flavoured with more instant coffee before serving. It was a treat she would serve more as an afternoon snack rather than a dessert. (Hopefully not with any more coffee; I don’t think anyone would’ve slept after all that caffeine!)
Since my grandmother died in early 1998, no one in the family has dared to bake a coffee chiffon. Well, until now.
I cannot, as yet, disclose my recipe for a coffee chiffon. Truth be told, mine was rather dense (moist, though) rather than properly fluffy. It was, nevertheless, richly flavoured and satisfying. Probably not as good – as yet – as my grandmother’s, but it’s getting there.
And, at least, it only proves that I am good for something. And, in this case, I am – for once – incomparable to anyone else in the family.