Marielos Chan wasn’t born a Michigander, but she’s sure found her sweet spot here.
Originally from Belize, Chan traveled to various places before settling in Michigan on Christmas Eve in 2000. And while she hasn’t always lived here, she has always had a passion for cooking and baking.
“I come from a household of amazing cooks – from my mother, whose Spanish rice I will never be able to imitate, to my dad’s chicken that is out of this world!” she said via email. And now, she has blended her cooking lineage with the place she calls “home” to earn a spot as the 2016 Awesome Mitten Michigan Birthday Bake Off runner-up.
This was the fourth time Awesome Mitten held the birthday bake off competition to sweetly celebrate Michigan’s birthday on Jan. 26. Michigan turned 179 this year. All contestants’ creations were to be in the cake, pie, cookie, or brownie category. Then, there were two separate voting tiers: general public and professional, which depended upon the contestants’ experience.
Chan, who runs Kanarella’s Creations out of her Belleville home and also works for Toasted Oak and The Baronette Renaissance in Novi, was among 11 entrants in the professional category. The work-of-art treats were judged via voting by the public on our website, and winners were announced Jan. 27.
Chan said she aimed to keep the outside design of the cake “clean and simple,” which, she admitted, can be hard for her. “If you know me, you know that the bigger, the shinier, the most complicated the better,” she said. Though, if you take a look at the gold-painted exterior and delicately-placed fruit on each tier of the cake, you quickly realize “clean and simple” is anything but ordinary.
“I wanted to emphasize the state of Michigan as being a gem,” she said, referring to the gold-painted outline of Michigan she created with homemade fondant. But still, Chan’s main focus was highlighting the interior of the cake by incorporating many Michigan-made or Michigan-grown ingredients.
And she said she believe she did just that.
She used eggs from Charlotte; Pioneer Sugar made in Bay City; honey from Metamora; Guernsey Farm Dairy milk; Calder Dairy heavy cream; Sanders cocoa; blueberries from Traverse City and Faygo for her cake. The way she organized the cake also was very strategic, as she paid homage to Michigan’s seasons and some of its most well-known companies.
“The strawberries and blueberries were used to represent some of the seasonal fruits our state is well known for,” she said. “The bottom tier of the cake is a Faygo crème soda cake with a Bavarian cream filling mixed with a berry and honey compote. The top tier is a Sander’s chocolate and Faygo Rock N’ Rye cake with a Sander’s chocolate filling.”
Chan said she and her coworker found out about the competition just a week before the contest deadline, but decided to compete anyway. And what’s more? This was Chan’s first baking competition (though she says it “definitely” won’t be her last!) and she’s a self-taught cook and baker.
But that last part is about to change: Chan recently enrolled at Schoolcraft College to obtain her culinary degree and to “gain further knowledge and learn new techniques.”
Although her creation ultimately came in second place to a beautiful design from Christina Richey of Christina’s Cakery, Chan said she had a great time competing as well as seeing votes in support of her cake come in from all over the world: Belize, El Salvador, Mexico, Canada and several states, including Michigan and California.
“I enjoyed every part of it, and although in the end I did not win, it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time!” She said.” I think what I enjoyed the most, was to see how many people that I’ve lost touch with support me and like my cake.”
To see other entries to the 2016 Michigan Birthday Bake-off, find The Awesome Mitten on Facebook.