Patricia Wolff's cakes look more like sculptures than food.
Patricia Wolff admits she’s a perfectionist.
She doesn’t have to tell anyone. It’s clear from her immaculate home, tastefully decorated with large canvas paintings, freshly-vacuumed carpets and a silver-embossed art piece of the Virgin Mary.
But it’s in the kitchen where her personality trait shines through.
The Mexico native has fondant down to a science and her desserts never stale in the warm Florida heat. She can transform icing into a bouquet of flowers, a cupcake into an Easter basket and a birthday cake into a hamburger. Her talent is cooking, her art is baking, and the perfectionism she speaks about isn’t a curse but a blessing.
“To me, the kitchen is the heart of the house,” Wolff says. “Always, even if you don’t like to cook, you gather with your family to eat. I just love what happens in the kitchen.”
Wolff has always loved to cook and bake, but recently she has to decided to try a new business venture by selling and catering her desserts for parties, events and more. Called Patty’s Flour Garden, it’s good middle ground between baking for her friends and family and her dream of owning a bakery.
Wolff’s kitchen is filled with sweet treats. She flits between the counters, readying pina colada and tres leches cupcakes on small white pedestals. After, she pours a glass of jamaica, a ruby-red tea made from hibiscus flowers.
“Presentation was alway the key for me wanting to eat something,” Wolff says.
When she was growing up in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, Wolff couldn’t let any of the family’s entrees go to the table unless she neatly arranged the food on plates. Her four brothers and sisters would complain.
We’re going to eat it. Why does it matter?
Her knack for presentation hasn’t wavered since she was a little girl. The Easter cupcakes she has prepared aren’t just pastel-colored morsels. There’s four designs: a pink Easter basket, miniature eggs in a nest, a chick whose head is a fondant-covered cake pop and a rabbit’s bushy tail poking out of its grassy burrow (she calls that design the “bunny butt”).
Each piece is like a sculpture, and it’s almost too hard to ruin them with a bite — almost.
But Wolff’s creations aren’t just pretty. They’re delicioso.
“I love flavors,” Wolff says. “Vanilla cake is boring. I like a challenge. I like to do different things.”
Different she does.
For the pina colada cupcakes, she makes her own nonalcoholic mix and soaks the cake in it. After they’re baked, she tops them with whipped cream icing and toasted coconut shavings. She doesn’t forget the presentation: a pink umbrella and a pineapple and cherry skewer.
For tres leches, she doesn’t skimp by using regular milk. Condensed, evaporated and cream is her way. She folds in a touch of brandy — for those who don’t mind — and tops the baked cupcakes with inch-high domes of icing and crushed nuts.
The skilled chef has a platter of other unique flavors: peanut butter and jelly, orange dreamsicle, salted caramel.
Wolff first learned her cooking chops from her mother, Betty. She would watch her, from a stool, work in the kitchen, and later teaching hired help how to prepare dishes.
When she was 13, her mother finally let her prepare a meal for the family once a month. The first time she made a bread soufflé-sandwich hybrid with Mexican creams and cheeses.
As a young professional, she would come home from work and make a cake for her family everyday. After years of the tradition, her mother and sister confronted her in something that was out of the scene of the TV show “Intervention.”
Stop making us cakes. We’re getting fat.
It wasn’t Wolff’s fault that her family of seven ate a cake everyday at dinner.
She didn’t make a cake for them again until Christmas several years ago, but their request hasn’t stopped her from cooking and baking for her loved ones, friends and fellow Plant City Woman’s Club and Garden Club members.
“I love to cook for people,” Wolff says. “It’s like telling you, ‘I love you.’”
Contact Amber Jurgensen at [email protected].