It has not been a year since actress LJ Moreno started baking her first batch of scrumptious, moist, round-shaped cake balls on a stick. Her first three dozen lollicakes, as she calls the little pieces of heaven, took about 14 hours to do. It was with difficulty and challenge that LJ molded each of them by hand because she lacked the molders back then.
Fast forward to September 12 , 2011 when LJ's own pastry shop had its grand opening day. The Lollicake Factory now stands along East Capitol Drive in Kapitolyo, Pasig, ready to serve cakepop lovers, adventurous foodies, and sweet tooths. It also adds to its menu of saccharine munchies—cupcakes and actual cakes for birthdays, weddings, etc.
"I'm really excited kasi wala pang one year since nag-start yung business from the house. [Ngayon] may store na ako!," exclaims LJ on her "factory's" official first day.
Perhaps obsession and indulgence on one's sugar cravings ain't too sinful after all.
It was by accident that she discovered the cakepops while away in the States for her prenuptial preparations. LJ who is now married to PBA star player Jimmy Alapag was then meeting up with her wedding planner at the Sweet and Saucy Shop in Long Beach, California. She and her mother were intrigued by the lollicakes at the dessert studio and upon tasting them, LJ was hooked.
When she got back to the country, LJ's palate pined for lollicake. The Sweet and Saucy Shop was continents away. That gave her the drive to find the recipe, research, and eventually experiment in her own kitchen. Although her first batch came out like flat heads instead of round-like, LJ who has always had a knack for baking since she was young, achieved the delicious taste of the pastry. She started sharing them with her family and friends, who responded with satiated, happy palates.
By word of mouth, LJ's specialty was sought after by her initial network of people. By the end of 2010, she was receiving orders, baking batch after batch of lollicakes for children's parties and the holiday's demand for goodies.
"Lumakas na lang siya and yung house ko hindi na siya mukhang bahay so kailangan na talaga ng kitchen," LJ says. While she had disquieting thoughts about getting a space where she could bake and sell her lollicakes, LJ's hubby had faith in her latest endeavor. Jimmy perhaps had confidence in LJ's baking skills since she always baked and made his breakfast. LJ eventually went for it and it was just timely that a place nearby her house was available. It was fate.
"Malapit lang siya so convenient kasi even nung sa house ako gumagawa wala na akong masyadong time para sa asawa ko so kailangan talaga [malapit]. Hindi kami puwede magkalayo nang ganung kalayo.
"Blessing din yung paghahanap ng place na 'to because I was just looking around tapos yun. Sabi lang [sa akin], 'Punta nga tayo dun sa kabilang place,' tapos nakita ko 'to. Hindi ko alam na existing itong puwestong ito, e brand new siya," narrates LJ.
DEDICATED BAKER. LJ's love for baking had to take a back seat while her showbiz career kept her busy. Nonetheless, things fell in place as she was granted the time and opportunity to pursue her hobby.
After teaching herself to make the lollicakes and making dough from, well, dough, LJ decided to expand her business. She took the Master Course in Cake Decorating under Chef Heny Sison and soon she was selling round cakes and cupcakes alongside her specialty. LJ tells, "Yung ibang mga parents or the other clients, they want yung cake sa akin na rin kukunin kaya nag-cake decorating class din ako."
Even now that her factory hires more hands to work with her, LJ makes it a point that each lollicake produced contains her magic.
"In the beginning, ako lang talaga yung lahat. May problem akong mag-delegate before. Parang gusto ko ako talaga gumawa nung lahat, kaya lang hindi naman puwede yun siyempre.
"I have other jobs so I decided to get help pero ako yung nagte-train sa kanila and I make it a point, like here, I'm here everyday para ma-check lahat and gumagawa pa rin ako hanggang ngayon."
LJ has put much effort in the pursuit of her passion. Prior to marketing her pastries, she in fact went cupcake tasting, pastry shop-hopping in the States, getting as much education as she could for The Lollicake Factory.
She adds, "My stuff binibili ko sa states pa, like black chocolates. Wala namang black yung color black na chocolate dito so kailangan dun ko pa siya bilhin.
"Yung mga candy writer dun ko siya talaga binibili. And we're lucky because we get to go to the States often because Jimmy's family is there, my family's there so every year mga two to three times kami nakakapunta."
Apart from the risks of investing in the business, LJ juggles entrepreneurship with her acting projects. At present she stars in TV-5's Bagets.
"I still do tapings and stuff. Pinagsasabay ko. Yun nga lang hindi siya madali pero I love doing both. I love baking and I love acting so kailangan kong gawan ng paraan. Pero yun, may times na wala pa akong tulog.
"Like nung nag-soft opening ako galing ng taping. Anong oras na kami nag-pack up? Diretso na lang ako dito."
Certainly, her husband and their plans of having a baby are still a top priority for LJ despite the early success of The Lollicake Factory.
"Well I'm praying for that," she says. "We have to make time. Actually we've been trying for years so, hopefully, soon. Siyempre kailangan priority ko pa rin is family, my husband, tapos yung business. It's hard but I have to do that."
BIG DREAMS AND PLANS. So far, LJ has stepped up to the challenges of her business. While Starbucks just recently started serving their own version of cakepops, LJ is not disheartened. What makes her factory special are the special characters she designs her lollicakes with— Sesame Street characters, Hello Kitty, even Justin Bieber's face, which proved to be a best seller.
The most difficult design she put up with?
"Transformers! Optimus Prime! Bumble Bee!," LJ beams.
"Medyo matagal-tagal kaming nagtitigan kasi ginagawa ko dun sa mga characters, tinitignan ko yung picture niya. Yung Transformers nung ginagawa ko, naka-on yung soundtrack nung Transformers everyday pero nagawa ko naman siya."
Asked if she will eventually allow franchising of her shop since she has been getting inquiries, LJ answers, "As of now, ayoko pa."
"Siyempre pag frinanchise, hindi na ako yun. Hindi ko alam kung yung quality mame-maintain nila... so as much as possible, right now focus muna ako dito sa store and I'll take it from there kung ga'no ka-successful siya."
Meanwhile, LJ plans to pursue her original vision of "a cozy breakfast-serving, dessert café" and serve pasta and breakfast specialties.
For now, her lollicakes, which come in different flavors—super chocolate, butter cream, green tea, marble, red velvet, carrot cake— are baked daily at her mini-factory.
Do spread the love.