Sitting and relaxing at our alfresco, sipping a cup of freshly brewed coffee, watching our bakers busily molding dough, decorating cakes, discussing recipes….while our store attendant takes orders of cake slices from our chiller…after hearing the usual question…”What’s your best seller?” I can’t help but sigh…enjoying every bit of what was a dream now come true…Yes we are here at Twin Lakes with our second store for Greg’s Fruitcakery, where we bake right in front of you….I can’t help but look back to the days when I baked with Mom… as little as six years of age, I held a spatula and mixed fruits with her…while I dipped my forefinger to swab the last bits of fruitcake batter left on the bowl…such was it that even the batter was finger-licking good.
That was Mom—Greg or Tita Baby as she was fondly called by her friends and relatives---a Chemist by education and a mother by profession and choice---she begot 11 children of whom I am honored to be the eldest…Cum laude BS Chemistry from the University of the Philippines, elected President of the Women’s Club and reigned as the Lakambini (beauty and brains) in her years of College at the UP—that was Mom….Married to Dad—Arch. Tony Heredia—she could have paraded her talents and landed a society figure lording it over, but she humbly chose to be the Tita Baby she always was—ever ready to be the friend, the confidant, for every child, friend and acquaintance that needed her shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen…Mom loved to give and that was how she educated each one of us her children—it is better to give than to receive. “Sa langit na ang bayaran” were always her words….to every thank you she received…for her many countless favors and gifts to so many friends…each with a precious story to recount… with a memory well treasured… about their dear generous friend… Greg…
Among the special gifts she lovingly gave, was the fruitcake—the recipe she inherited from her sister Cory—that she tweaked and made an original Greg’s fruitcake…she started baking every year in June and would give her fruitcake to every friend and loved one around the world. It was such a joy to receive a fruitcake from her every Christmas. All her friends say the same…now that she is gone…”We miss her—we miss her fruitcakes…”In November of 2011 my sister dictated to me reading the hand-written scribbles of Mom—found among her things—the complete ingredients of her fruitcake including where to find each item. John and I decided that should we find all the ingredients in Canada we would bake them again. And so we did and told friends Mom’s fruitcakes were back. My cousin—Raymund—the owner of the Lacson Ruins of Bacolod—after he tried the fruitcake… said… they’re exactly what he remembered, and asked that 500 fruitcakes be sent to him by boat. So we did—I baked 8 at a time in my small oven in Canada and John did the vacuum sealing and boxing…The 500 fruitcakes left and arrived after 3 months—went through storms and floods and arrived intact in no less than Mom’s death anniversary March 22, 2012. Raymund had her picture inscribed in the boxes…”since 1960”….had made an air-conditioned wine cellar where he stored and displayed the fruitcakes. Until today some are still there after 4 years—and according to Raymund they are at their very best—with the sweet scent of her aged fruitcakes proliferating when the vacuum seal is cracked open…
As I baked the fruitcakes, the baking aroma especially when in the oven…brought me back to the days I baked with Mom. I knew the process step by step and at heart… it was almost automatic. Funny how Mom gave her recipe away to many but somehow no one could make them exactly the way she baked them. One or 2 ingredients might have been changed, the mixing process might have been different, or some other thing might have been different. They never turned out the same…
It was such a joy to receive the exact ingredients and to do them again. And this time they turned out exactly the same… Mom’s fruitcakes that everyone loved.
When friends found out it was back, orders started to pour in and I had to bake almost 3000 fruitcakes all by myself while in Canada and sent them everywhere where a friend loved to receive not just one but many—to be able to share with loved ones. Yes, Mom’s fruitcake was back… and her memory continues with every fruitcake received or given as a gift.
We came back to Manila in 2012 and soon enough we started to bake it again. I put up a facebook page so as to more easily disseminate the great news that her fruitcake was back! We called it Greg’s Fruitcakery as suggested by friends—to be able to continue Mom’s heritage, so her memory lives on with every fruitcake. And Fruitcakery instead of Bakery—and why not? We coined that name and it has become an attraction—so catchy that it is what called Megaworld’s attention to inviting us to be part of their Twin Lakes Restaurant Village here at Batangas.
The page started to grow and every Christmas orders from every city nationwide poured in—not just individual orders but dozens and even hundreds—all shipped by courier service. As our fruitcake is vacuum sealed and well packed, it continues to age as it takes a long ride to its destination—sometimes months—and yes she always arrives in good shape. The only thing she cannot take is to be subjected to fumes and heat that would end up re-baking her and ultimately spoiling her.
Our ready instructions are to keep them in a dry and cool place till Christmas and to freeze thereafter. Sure they can age if kept out but in a cool environment.
We developed a wedding gift concept of a mahogany box of 10 half-pounder fruitcakes—that would last and age over the years—so the bride and groom partake of one fruitcake with each wedding anniversary.
We started very humbly baking from home a few at a time and one recipe after another to be able to reach the 5,000 fruitcake mark every Christmas. For every fruitcake sold we gave 5 pesos towards the support of the scholarship of a child—to continue Greg’s favorite charity of education for the children of the less fortunate relatives and friends. We had one scholar and are to give another scholarship soon.
We proceeded to expand the basement of our house so we could produce more and meet the demand. This time we were baking many other kinds of cakes and bread. We were quite settled baking from home, when our lease contract had to expire. This caused a moment of unsettlement on what to do next—as we were literally losing our commissary. So where are we to bake?
Little did we know that this problem gave in to the beginnings of our store concept—where we bake our cakes and bread right there for our customers to enjoy the aroma of freshly baked bread out of the oven… chocolate cakes, vanilla, and all the other flavors mixing and baking….So this gave way to our Twin Lakes—Greg’s Fruitcakery & BAKESHOP, where one can physically watch every corner of our baking process. Every space, nook and cranny is fully utilized and kept in tip-top shape and cleanliness.
Our windows are lined with wooden shelves—the details of which I designed carefully expedited by the fine carpentry work of our Contractor partners. It was a joy to work on this design and details and come up with what it is, inviting everyone to enjoy every detail. After all coming to Tagaytay is really to be able to have a restful experience—free from heat and pollution and of course with beautiful restful things to see and experience.
Here people and come and ask “what’s in the oven?” and whatever bread/cake is immediately devoured…Everyone loves our concept. They love our country style—of wood and brick… high ceilings with exposed trusses…they all just say the same thing…”How lovely… we feel so at home…”
Yes, this is exactly what we love to replicate in Greg—her inviting stance of friendship and care… her house and dinner table where everyone is invited and feels at home… this is Greg and this is what Greg’s Fruitcakery is all about…”your second home away from home…” It throws you soon enough to a typical front door of a bakery in Italy—the Baguettina or a store in Cordoba…the sweet smell of freshly baked goodies and freshly brewed coffee is so inviting, you just find yourself coming in to be received with friendly smiles from our staff and bakers…
I cannot end my story without giving due credit to my sparring partner and better half—my Canadian hubby John—every item of our Bakeshop has been carefully chosen, crafted, tweaked, adding an ingredient or two to make it what it is. They say our bagels are superb and better than those they’ve had in the States. Try them and let me know—we have 6 varieties—wheat, everything, sesame, onion, cinnamon raisin, blueberry…and yes we do toast them and lather them with cream cheese for you…
Our little store has become a place where new friendships are ignited and honed… from relatives that come introducing themselves as one of those couples Mom had organized a wedding for… and now they come with a full blown family of kids that have finished full courses and are practicing professionals. What a smile it must put on Greg’s face each time we experience such an encounter.
Kids come rushing to our colorful rice crispie ferris wheel and turn it around and around… I love seeing how child-friendly our place is just like Mom’s—everyone is welcome and at home!
So come and enjoy our store with us! Everyone is welcome! Do drop by and make us a stop each time you come to Tagaytay. We promise to always have something new for you to try and to always give you a pleasant happy memory to take home…along with your choice pasalubong for your loved ones…from Greg’s….
Along the Tagaytay-Nasugbu Hiway, past Splendido's and Sonya's Garden on your right, we are 1KM away on your left... you won't miss us...