Sweet Therapy: How cakes helped one baker heal

Community News & Features Jan 25, 2019 at 4:45 pm
Fely Grace Palmares and John Almirante, owners of Felicity Cakes and More.

Fely Grace Palmares and John Almirante, owners of Felicity Cakes and More.

By Irish Mae Silvestre
The Philippine Reporter

“I bought an entire $100 discounted cake decorating set and realized I had to learn how to use it” – Fely Grace Palmares, owner of Felicity Cakes and More

Eggs, flour, butter and sugar. It’s hard to imagine how the simple act of baking can be a source of relief for someone with a chronic illness. But for Fely Grace Palmares, 34, baking became her haven after she was diagnosed with lupus a few years after moving to Canada.

“I’m a nurse so I know the consequences of it and how it can affect your organs,” said Palmares, who had lived with the symptoms for most of her life before her diagnosis.

There is currently no cure for lupus, which can cause several issues such as arthritis, fever and fatigue. Instead, patients often learn to manage their symptoms.
And that’s when Palmares discovered baking as her own form of therapy.

“I bought an entire $100 discounted cake decorating set,” she recalled. “I realized I had to learn how to use it, so I took a cake decorating class at Michael’s and I found myself enjoying it.”

IMG_2938Palmares said that she doesn’t consider herself particularly creative apart from the occasional scrapbooking projects. But she discovered a new hobby and started volunteering to bake cakes for her friends’ parties. She said that while she truly enjoyed the process, it wasn’t without its challenges.

“God knows how many cakes I threw in the trash,” she said. “It was all trial and error.”

Wanting to hone her cake-making skills, she enrolled in a course at George Brown College.

debut 4 tierA nurse by profession who also taught at university in her home of Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, baking opened up a whole new world for Palmares.

“I went from wearing a nurse’s hat to wearing a chef’s hat,” she said. “It was totally different, but it was a lot of fun.”

One day, Palmares came across a storefront in a plaza near her neighborhood. The small space, which had its own kitchen, was perfect. So, in November 2018, she and her husband, John Almirante, 41, opened Felicity Cakes and More.

The Scarborough-based bakeshop on Victoria Park Avenue specializes in custom cakes and a wide array of desserts. Palmares’ Instagram page features some of her creations: traditional Filipino treats like puto topped with cheese, a roll of ube brazo, sleek multi-tiered cakes, colorful cake pops and a whimsical unicorn cake.

She added that the most complicated part of owning a business has been time management. Palmares has since cut down her hours at VHA Home Healthcare where she works as a registered nurse. She juggles managing the store with her husband, John Almirante, 41, who’s a nursing instructor at Seneca College and Osilla Institute.

IMG_3302Despite the challenges, she said that the Filipino community has been extremely supportive. “It’s been amazing,” she said. “We were just at the Pinoy Radio and Filipino-Canadian Association of Vaughan and their president told us how if [Filipinos] want to help Filipinos, we should patronize Filipino businesses.”

In turn, Palmares supports causes and organizations by providing free cakes and treats. “They help us by referring us to their members,” said Palmares.

Christmas was extremely hectic, she said, with ube cakes flying off the shelves. She does, however, get the occasional odd request. “I was asked to make a cake that had the marijuana design,” she said, laughing. “I just put loose leaf tea leaves on top to replicate the leaves.”

While many business owners might lament the stress of owning a business, for Palmares, the effect of owning a bakery has reaped nothing but benefits. “It’s amazing where I get all my energy. When I started baking, I experienced less fatigue and my blood test results were the lowest they’d been since I was diagnosed in 2011,” she said. “My rheumatologist said, ‘Whatever you’re doing now, just keep doing it.’”