Piece of Cake

If you are like me, then you have had your fair share of cakes…whether it be a Black Forest Cake, an Angel Food Cake, an ice cream cake, or the traditional birthday cake. The first thought that enters my mind when I think of cakes is the layered cakes with overly sweet American Buttercream wedged in between the layers of cake that may have a sentimental message written on top of the cake to commemorate a special event such as a birthday as well as a specific amount of candles to represent the age in which that person is turning on that particular day.

The French word entremets literally means “between servings” and would usually consist of a small dish between courses in French cuisine. It would mark the end of a serving of numerous courses. Now, it is a term that is readily used in the pastry world, an entremet is a cake that is multi-layered mousse-based with various texture contrasts and varying complementary flavor concepts. There are entremet cakes that are traditional to the French pastry cuisine but it varies significantly from the cakes that are readily available in America.

The most important element of entremet cakes is the proper use of food pairings in which the contrasting textures and flavors being utilized still correlate to one another so it will offer a well-balanced mouthfeel. These food pairings can vary from coconut and mango, passionfruit and white chocolate, or chocolate and raspberries.

Entremet cakes are visually appealing as they can take on a myriad of shapes such as domes, pyramids, squares, rounds, et cetera. Typically, the different combinations involved in the production of an entremet cake include a balanced taste concept such as sweet but tangy in flavor but it also means a textural difference which consists of a mousse layer or gelee layer paired with a praline layer or meringue layer to have both a balance of crunch and smooth textures to better satisfy the palate.

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

I had the amazing opportunity of creating my own entremet cake, to be able to concept the flavors and textures that I wanted to pair together in order to create a well-balanced cake. I decided to make an entremet cake that had a bottom layer of a dacquoise meringue which is a typical egg white based meringue with chopped almonds and hazelnuts combined into it; that was then topped with a hibiscus coconut mousse that was then topped with a thin layer of genoise cake that was soaked with a coconut rum simple syrup. This was then topped with a layer of mango gelee and coconut mousse and then a thin layer of raspberry gelee. The entire cake was delicately wrapped with a joconde cake which is an almond based cake that was patterned with pink stripes.

A leaf for your thoughts

Breathe In, breathe out, college-life has been stressful lately. With so much going on in daily life, I found myself quickly overwhelmed. I thought to myself “ why isn’t everything going as planned? Why am I losing so much time?” Then it hit me, I was overwhelming myself with just thoughts rather than taking action. We’ve all faced a time in our lives where we hit rock bottom, or we’ve had issues maintaining balance within our stressful lives: here’s where you say STOP! and find peace where you can calm down and collect your thoughts. My recommendation? Queens Botanical Garden!

Queens Botanical Garden
Photographer: Gennessy Palma

With so much going on in my life, I decided I needed a change of scenery. This was the place to go, with so many species of flowers and life. I realized I needed space to calm down and relieve myself, in order to feel reassurance of myself and what I’m doing, and there’s nothing wrong with that, to feel uneasy or unassured of what your next step is and to fear what’s to come. In the end we are human; we feel, we stress. For me I get anxious but nature alleviates that, it’s even proven by researchers that nature has mental health benefits.

Queens Botanical Garden
Photographer: Gennessy Palma

Tori Rodriguez, MA, LCP stated that “ As humans become less connected with nature, we lose an essential health buffer. “ In her article she also quoted Mardie Townsend PhD, a professor of health and social development at Deakin University. PhD Townsend says “ It is associated with reduced levels of stress — which also has huge ramifications for physical health, reduced levels of depression and anxiety, increased resilience, increased engagement with learning for children and adolescents otherwise disengaged from the education system, improved self-esteem and increased capacity to engage socially.” In other terms, we need nature to thrive and succeed in life, the city life isn’t always the highlight, ever had these same pressing emotions??? That goes to you as well freshman, I understand life can be complex, balancing college and things at home, it’s all new to you, and is a heavy responsibility. Keep in mind, that in the end it gets easier, but you have to allow yourself some time to de-stress and find a way to balance yourself, as I balance myself with nature. I’m sure you can too, what’s there to lose? One can only gain from this experience, so the next time you feel the need to just let loose, try what I do! Give nature a chance!

Model: Lokendra Singh
Photographer: Gennessy Palma

Coney Island Boardwalk

The sun is shining, waves are glistening and are frantically running into the sand before breaking on the shore and rocks. Deep breath in, seawater fill my nostrils and mouth, coating my tastebuds. My skin bevels in a grid-like pattern, chills sprinting up my arms. All these sounds, crashing waves, laughter emanating children, screams echoing of amusement, cries of seagulls, and the loudly mellow roar of rides at work; all of it drowns into nothingness. Silence until a low snap starts to create the first sound I remember hearing in what feels like hours. The rhythm beats against my eardrums. Violins start to carry out a melody as my ears piece together an old song my grandmother used to play. Reminiscence is in my smile as I walk along the boardwalk with my bare feet; feeling everything I possibly can. The song continues, The Drifters harmonizing in throaty whispers about something happening under the boardwalk. I finally close my eyes, reveling in everything that is Brooklyn and the richness that is Coney Island.

Even Though Summer ends tomorrow, I will attempt to keep the season alive for the next few weeks with an adventure into Coney Island. I will tell the stories of the richest pinnacles of the Island and what became of them. But this week I will start with an introduction to the story of Coney Island Boardwalk.

According to nyc.gov the essence of the boardwalk has been around since the 1820’s. Back then, it was just a house that people used to host parties or to just be close to the ocean. It’s amazing to think about how many generations has past since then but the mentality of this magnetic pull to the ocean never faded or shifted in any way, shape, or form. The spot gradually became a more populated area; restaurants, hotels, halls, and more popping up along Coney Island Beach to aid people in a retreat from the city. By May 15, 1924 Coney Island Boardwalk opened to the public for the first time, giving all New Yorkers a chance to release and find fun-filled memories at such a magical place. The boardwalk was originally called Riegelmann Boardwalk in respect of the Brooklyn borough President of the time, Edward Riegelmann. He oversaw the three million dollar renovation to make this popular spot suitable for the large sum of people that would spend long hot summer days on the beach. This new boardwalk lined amusement park rides, food vendors, games, and most importantly the ocean.

Although the boardwalk has been fully renovated throughout the years due to natural environmental weathering, the purpose still stays the same. Thousands of people flock the old Coney Island Boardwalk to be close with each other and even closer to the ocean; it connects us with one another and in some ways connects us to the world.

Tune in next week for the next installment, as I introduce you to the historical side of Coney Island.

Work hard, Party Hard

Photo Taken By: Cherishe Cumma

When this current semester began I thought that I would be in for a treat seeing as I only had class for two days a week. In my mind I imagined all the sleep I would get during my time away from school, as well as how easy it would be to manage my classes since my workload decreased in comparison to previous semesters. It wasn’t until my first day of class, that I realized this semester would actually turn out to be the most complex semester since the beginning of my academic career.

As I began to come to terms with the fact that I had misinterpreted how my semester would pan out, I decided to find a balance between my academic and social life. You may be wondering: what is this “balance” word that people often speak of, which seems to be non-existent in academia? My answer to you is very simple, the way that I find balance during the semester is to practice positive reinforcement, meaning I work hard and party hard.

The process of using positive reinforcement is simple, and if completed properly can promote a positive college experience. All one has to do is to work hard during the semester, and get the highest grades possible on their assignments/exams. After executing each task and receiving a great grade, the student should then reward themselves in whatever fashion they choose. In my experience, the most fulfilling moments of life are the ones that are either spent with my loved ones, or consuming a treat that will send AMAZING sensations throughout my body. However, there are some cases where a simple outing or treat from a well-known bakery isn’t enough, and more appropriate rewards are necessary. If that is the case, I suggest rewarding yourself with an unforgettable experience such as an epic night out on the town, or a vacation during spring break that you’ll remember even when you reach the seasoned age of 100!

I decided to share this tactic, my personal tactic, with you because I’ve noticed how gloomy students tend to look while I walk through the halls of City Tech. Students move slowly through the hallways looking exhausted, and often drag into class, plop down in their seats, and let out a sigh of despair. What most people fail to realize is that the success of your academic career solely depends on your attitude towards your studies. If students go into class with a negative mindset, they won’t absorb the knowledge the professor is providing them with. However, if students go into class thinking “I’m going to do my best so that I can get good grades, and treat myself to cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery when I ace this class”, then they are setting themselves up with a positive mindset that will definitely benefit them in the long run.

My suggestion for students who find it difficult to complete a semester with great grades is to set up a reward system at each major milestone throughout the semester. For example, last semester I took a Professional Editing and Revising course, with a professor that required students to complete a specific amount of assignments during the semester. I set up my semester in a way that every time I finished an assignment I would go to a restaurant that had food I absolutely loved. In the following weeks after handing in the assignment, I would go back to working hard, and once I received my passing grade, I would reward myself by going to get a pastry from Betty Bakery. I continued this process of working hard, passing, and then rewarding myself for the whole semester, and at the end of the semester, I got the A that I deserved.

In retrospect, I would say that the reason I was able to do well during the semester is because I propositioned myself with something I love, so that I could ultimately get good grades, which I also love. By giving myself an incentive to look forward to, I pushed myself to do the best I could on every assignment so that every reward was well deserved. I feel that as college students we often find it difficult to balance our lives, so much so that we often drown in a sea of anxiety, assignments, and examinations. However, the best way for students to get the most out of their semester is too work hard and reward themselves in the process. Students must give themselves reasons to do well, just like back in elementary school, when teachers gave out prizes for passing the infamous spelling quiz. Do you remember how great it felt to get a gold star on your test when you got a 100? Well great! Now apply that same logic to your current academic life, and I’m sure that you will be successful.

Take your studies seriously, get good grades, and then reward yourselves with something that will bring you great happiness. College is about learning as much as you can so that you can get good grades, and ultimately a great career. However, college is also about enjoying your freedom , taking advantage of your twenties, and most of all living your life to the fullest. Just remember to go into class with a positive mindset, then work hard, and after you pass your classes don’t forget to party hard!

“Yes, Filter”

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and felt emotionally drained after?
You listened to them complain and complain and eventually you felt worse than them?
Or let’s get even more real.
Have you ever walked into your job or any place, and had to talk to a certain someone and it’s almost as though immediately there was a dark cloud over you?
That’s called picking up unwanted energies.

I find that lately there has been too many moments where I’ve had to work super hard to protect my energy. I don’t watch the news much. Not because I don’t like what’s on it, but I just don’t watch TV much period. Especially not at 7pm, or 11pm, or whatever time the news comes on lol. I watched it the other night; it kind of just happened, and honestly, I felt emotionally drained after. From hearing the latest of our current administration’s agenda to literally rip away civil liberties, freedoms, and the rights of people who occupy this already “great” America. To the unresolved situation with the young girl from Chicago, Kenneka Jenkins. Then on to visuals of the damage caused by the recent hurricane disasters, all piled in with your everyday violence.
In this hour long news reporting I can only recall maybe one uplifting segment.
All I could think to myself is “What is this? A horror show??”

I went from sad, to angry, to over it, to angry, to sad again, and I couldn’t shake it. It’s an eye opening experience to watch all of these occurrences from the comfort of my own home and think “This could be my cousin. This could be my sister, my brother, a friend……Could this be me??” and it becomes unexplainable how the possibility of something like that makes you feel. You hear the victim’s families talk about how much of a great person the victim was, or how the entire situation was a “wrong place, wrong time” occurrence, and it really finds a way to hit home.

It reminded me why I never really care to watch the news.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to “block out” all of the bad news of the world, that’s most likely impossible. I make sure to stay up on current events and topics worldwide.
I just filter.
I consciously monitor what I am taking in and putting out emotionally and mentally.

You know how “No filter” is one of the OG veterans of Instagram captions?
In my life I say “YES filter”. I filter out negative conversations, negative thoughts, and I release anything that does not serve me well. I filter IN love, mantras, optimism, happiness, shared laughter, positive affirmations, positive people, positive situations, and anything that makes me smile.

I was not always in the place I am today. I have had to let go of many people and many things I used to enjoy partaking in along the way….casualties of the filter. I had to be dedicated to being my own life’s gatekeeper. Watching the news a few nights ago, I felt pity and helpless seeing some of the situations I was watching. I was filtering it in, in a negative way; which is something I used to do (and still sometimes do) naturally; take on everyone’s issues as my own instead of finding productive ways to help with them.
I took in these transferred unwanted energies and let it plant its seeds and grow.

Now when I think of protecting spiritual and mental energies, I use these analogies:

  1. Only light gets rid of darkness. Picture yourself as a huge lighthouse sending out positive light and love in all directions, everywhere you go, to everyone you meet, to every space you occupy, near and far.
  2. Stop being a negativity sponge, soaking it all up, allowing it to bloat you, and then waiting to either dry up or be squeezed out aggressively.

So instead of allowing the news, or anything else for that matter, depress me or dim my light, I think of ways to send love and positivity. Lighthouses help people find their way, help them feel safe and guided. When someone is experience darkness you do not go dark with them, you help them see light. Someone is unable to tell their family they love them today, I’ll make sure to tell mine. Someone is unable to hug their friend or sleep in a warm bed, I’ll be sure to be thankful and grateful every day, and pour love and happiness back into everyone and everything I can.

What’s in your life that you know you should have cut ties with a long time ago yet still haven’t? Filter out grudges, animosity, complaining, self-doubt, negative beliefs and comments about others, and instead filter in all things positive. Fill your mind with encouraging and loving words. The best way to protect yourself from negative energy is to be a source of positive energy yourself. My counseling professor said in class last week “Anytime you are talking about someone, speak as though they are standing right behind you” and it really put into perspective some things for me. It affirmed my belief that having the right mindset will serve as it’s own filter for what you put out into the universe.

It’s very important to create a foundation of awareness of the energy we’re encountering on a daily basis in our lives. We need to use our filter to cleanse, ground, and protect us from energies that are darker, heavier, and more negative.The better our filter is working, the more we become the people we strive to be; our best selves, living our best lives. If you don’t believe me, try it, watch your life blossom baby!

 

The Right to Remain Silent

By Robine Jean-Pierre

In my Elements of Music course at NYU, the professors pointed out that the rests, or pauses between sounds, make up a piece of music just as much as the actual notes do. The intro to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is so powerful and memorable, in part, because of the rests.

If we take things outside the realm of music, we see that silence is a crucial part of communication. Some of us may be more talkative than others, but no one is ever speaking 100% of the time. We pause when we are listening, when we are thinking about what we want to say, when we feel respect, nervousness, concentration, guilt–it all depends on the scenario, and so it is important that we understand these distinctions.

The Silence of Concentration

The quietness in a library tells you that people are focused and busy at work. The silence in a church might tell you that people are deep in contemplative prayer. A classroom is usually quietest when the students are taking a test. In these examples, the silence itself is not the focus; it is simply a result of some deep, inner process at work.

The Silence of Unity

There are times when silence is the main focus. In school, we often had moments of silence in observance of 9/11, and we did it to demonstrate respect for the friends, relatives and heroes who lost their lives that day. Whenever people take part in a unanimous display of solidarity, it moves me. There is something so powerful about everyone agreeing to stop what they are doing and focus on one shared experience.

The Silence of Disunity

There are other times, however, when silence represents disunity rather than harmony. You might be familiar with what is called “the silent treatment.” Imagine you insulted your father by doing something very foolish behind his back, and now he hasn’t spoken to you for days. Obviously, it’s not because he has nothing to say. I personally hate the silent treatment. One of the easiest ways to hurt me is to deliberately ignore me–but the people who are enforcing it are usually the most hurt of all. They feel that their silence, rather than their words, will more effectively convey their pain, frustration, or disappointment.

Using Silence Constructively

Since silence can convey a message or emotion that is either positive or negative, I want to suggest ways in which we can intentionally use it to promote effective communication.

The Silence of Consideration

In my personal experience, I do not like it when someone answers my questions too quickly or abruptly, as if they knew what I was going to say before I said it. A pause before replying to someone’s question can actually be beneficial for both parties. If, for instance, my sister asked me, “What classes do you think I should take next semester?” pausing will give me time to come up with a thoughtful answer. Plus, it will make her feel important, knowing that I cared to give her my time and thought, rather than hastily dismiss her with the first answer that came to mind. (I highly recommend reading the book Skill with People by Les Giblin; it is a thin handbook full of advice on how to communicate more effectively.)

The Silence of Listening

I have often heard it said that God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we could listen twice as much as we speak.  If you are anything like me, you get irritated when people cut you off mid-sentence (especially when they start their sentence by saying, “Not to cut you off, but…”). I once read somewhere that a person lasts an average of 17 seconds of listening before he/she feels the need to speak again in a conversation.

The basic fact of the matter is that we cannot listen and talk at the same time; even the greatest “multi-taskers” must admit this. Being a good listener means having a willingness to stay silent while someone else has the mic, whether that is for 17 seconds or five whole minutes (I know, that’s a long time, especially for our generation!). If you never pause to listen, and you are the only one speaking, that makes it a monologue, not a dialogue.

The Silence of the Wise

I will end with a word of advice: sometimes silence spares you from a lot of trouble. Think of all those police shows where you have heard this portion of the Miranda rights: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be used against you in the court of law…” It would be smart for an arrested person to exercise that right, rather than say something foolishly that would further incriminate him or her. On a more relatable note, whether it’s the school bully or a family member, silence can be the strongest defense against someone’s antagonism. It can keep you from saying things you will regret, or from stooping down to someone’s level.

I hope this helped you to see silence with a new perspective. I will leave you with a poem I wrote below, titled (of course) “Silence.” Thank you for reading.

The absence of sound.
The brief moment when thin air rests in your ears.
A dull void, empty, cold,
yet as leaden and suffocating
as darkness itself…
are these the definition of silence?
Possibly… but I offer a different interpretation.
Silence
is the ear-splitting screech of raw, pure thoughts
huddling, hesitating in their last moments of privacy:
some yearning anxiously for their spontaneous departure;
others holding on, settling at the bottom of
the ocean floor we call our conscience.
Silence
is the thick black cloth
that envelops these thoughts
(providing protection, yet restraint):
some too fragile to be forced out
into the open;
Others so dense, unstable,
EXPLOSIVE,
that they would drop
like bombs
on the world.

Virtues from Motherhood: The Mental Health Monsters

In August artist and Linkin Park front man Chester Bennington took his own life. He like many other immensely talented individuals, was not immune to their own minds and tragically Chester lost his battle, my condolences to him and all those who love him.

Mental health issues have been in the headlines for healthcare, judicial and medical reform for years; it is the animal that everyone can see but everyone is scared to address for fear of waking an untamable beast. Anyone who has gone through a point in their lives when they struggled with depression, anxiety, panic disorders, multiple personalities or any other mental health issue, knows that it is not just about winning a battle, it is a war you fight, in silence, in your own head, every day. Some are lucky, they are able to overcome the obstacle in their minds, they are able to seek help and find a way to manifest and overturn those heavy stones that make it almost impossible to move day in and day out. Others though, they aren’t so lucky and the disease wins, those who take their own lives don’t want to die, they just want to the pain to stop.

In high school, I had a classmate take his own life, he was such a great kid, he was always smiling and laughing and he always wanted to be friendly with everyone. Nobody could believe it when the school told us that he’d passed away. It was then that I realized that you could be trapped in your own mind, with what feels like no way out. I have anxiety, I imagine I’ve probably always had it. In high school, I saw a psychologist once a week, my parents sent me and at the time I just thought they were punishing me but looking back maybe they saw something I couldn’t maybe they knew they could help me by sending me there, I don’t know. At the time, I wasn’t making the best life choices, I was spiraling out of control and I couldn’t seem to get a handle on what I was feeling, I just reacted.

That doctor was the first person who ever suggested that maybe what I was feeling was anxiety, she asked me if I ever felt this way or that way, and a few of them resonated with me but I wasn’t sold on the idea. What could she know about me anyway? My parents hired her, she didn’t know me or what I was about, so I dismissed her and eventually stopped going.

Fast forward years later, I was now a young mother. I was now responsible for a whole other life, not just mine and every single thing I did not only affected me but her too. That was a whole lot of pressure, that I tried to carry in stride, but eventually the thoughts got to me and followed me around. What if I never finished school? What if I was stuck in my parents’ house, what if, what if, what if. The racing thoughts made my stomach drop, I felt like I’d eaten rocks and it drove me to act irrationally. I got academically dismissed because I couldn’t sit still or focus in classes and I missed my finals. It took me years to get my mind in a place where I could get through school, and even now there are days when I don’t want to walk into the classroom.

Today, I still have anxiety and some days it’s quite and other days it’s a roaring noise that deafens me. The weirdest things might trigger my anxiety and I’m not proud to say I’ve just gotten better at hiding it rather than dealing with it. What people don’t understand though, is that sometimes I seem really mean or disconnected with them or a situation and I seem angry, but I’m not and it’s just my anxiety manifesting itself that way. Sometimes a situation makes me anxious, sometimes there are too many people in a room or too many conversations happening at once and it overwhelms me. Some days I have a ridiculous fear that anxiety is just making worse and approaching me just triggers a nasty reaction that I don’t mean to give you. Anxiety is heavy, it’s random and sometimes it hangs around for a few days and makes me want to just lay in bed and avoid people and places. None of it means that I’m mad at anyone, that I’m antisocial or that I’m blowing you off it just means that today my mind got the best of me and I thought myself into a corner that I need space and time to get out of.

Mental health issues are not a joke, and you never know what the people around you are dealing with, so be kind, always. And let the people you love know that you love them because some days the battle they’re fighting might be too large for them to fight alone, they need you. Mental health issues are not a weakness, they are a disease and they are debilitating, so the next time someone asks you for help, listen.


If you, or someone you know is struggling here are some resources that can help. Never ignore the signs.

Suicide prevention hotline

Half of us

NYC Mental Health

Body Confidence

Feminism is a movement that calls for the equality of all men and women, the value of each individual and their place in the world. However, it is often so hard to fight for these ideals when you, yourself, do not know your own worth.

Body confidence and self love is a step towards knowing your own value. It is something I still struggle with and I sometimes falter in terms of self-esteem. This is not just a problem of mine… Everyone has at least one insecurity– Man or woman and in between.

This post is a message to all:

 

So, tell me, what makes you the most confident? 

 

 

(All artwork by Pebbles Calungsod)

Breakfast for Dessert

I can easily remember the days in my childhood where pancakes were served as breakfast. It was amazingly delicious…nothing was quite as delicious to me as pancakes, at that time. I loved being able to help with making the batter and learning how or when to flip the pancakes. The way in which the sweet aroma of pancakes would instantly fill the room would only make the breakfast experience that much better. Pancakes were such a treat to me as a kid. It was one of those meals that I never got tired of eating and I still am a fan of this food.

As I got older, I began making my own pancakes for my entire family and myself. And every single time that I do, it reminds me of my childhood. Now, I’ve become so much more experienced in that now I create my own syrups and fruit compotes or coulis to pair with my pancakes rather than the traditional maple syrup or the more commercial brand of imitation maple syrup.

And just as in America, how the popularity of pancakes continues to exist as we have continued to enjoy pancakes…there are other variations of pancakes in a bunch of other countries. One that is widely popular is the French version of a pancake as well as others like the Italian crespelle, Jewish blintzes, Russian blini, et cetera. The crepe has been savored for years and can be prepared to be either sweet or savory with respective fillings. As I learned in my advanced pastry arts classes, the literal meaning of crepe is translated to pancake in French. And while it can be used for breakfast just as pancakes are…crepes are more versatile in which they can easily become a dessert such as with crepe suzette which is sweet crepes that are cooked with sugar and usually has Grand Marnier (Orange liqueur) poured over it in order to ignite it. This allows the alcohol within the liqueur to evaporate which results in a caramelized sauce.

Image by: Shell Tu

Now, crepes have become even more popular as with the creation of the crepe cake which is layered crepes with a variety of fillings wedged in between each crepe layer. It is a tedious process but is simply delicious. It all starts with the crepe batter and then it is poured onto large cast-iron hot plates then it is spread with a rozel and flipped with a spatula. After all the crepes are prepared, then the filling is made which can range from ganache or caramel to fruit curds or whipped cream. The crepes are then stacked with the filling thinly spread in between then it is ready to be eaten.