Run by two generations of a close-knit family, Guam Bakery began its roots over 40 years ago.
The building itself is now a landmark for many residents, and their sweet treats have a following. With a new generation taking over, the bakery has remained innovative and creative while still maintaining many of the traditional favorites. It’s the clients that drive them to stay or change, says Christine Oftana Rosario, cake decorator at Guam Bakery.
Before you enter their doors, you’ll pass a window proudly displaying specialty cakes decorated from the creative mind of Rosario, including a steampunk themed wedding cake. And most recently she designed a Harry Potter inspired cake.
“Our first fondants were all hand kneaded, rolled and flattened. I didn’t have any arm strength, so my dad would do that and I just put the pretties on,” she says, laughing. Due to the increase in demand, her father Tim Oftana, eventually bought her a fondant sheet machine that automatically rolls it out.
Initially, not knowing anything about fondant, Rosario and her dad rolled up their sleeves and just winged it, she says.
Fondant is a stiff, but pliable, edible icing. Its pliable quality makes it perfect for an array of sculptural and artistic creations that regular buttercream and icing can’t do. Six years ago, the fondant’s burst in popularity gave Rosario plenty of practice.
“Honestly, I don’t think I’m very creative. Our clients are pretty clear about what they want and I guide them through the process giving my two cents,” says Rosario.
Client Tiffany Tam disagrees. “She is so amazingly talented and the quality of the cake was amazing. She asked a variety of questions that I would never think of and made what I wanted into reality. She truly speaks from experience and the heart. The ability to just trust somebody for a wedding cake during the planning takes a huge weight off the shoulders.”
Tam says her wedding guests ranted and raved about how beautiful the cake was from the moment it was revealed. Rosario used purple fondant and then intricately detailed it with gold henna floral designs. She topped it with two gold elephants. Even the flavors of the red velvet with dulce de leche-like cream filling had people talking.
Tam saved the top tier of the cake and put it in her freezer to enjoy on her anniversary. She’s excited that in August she can take it out and eat a piece of it again.
A very humble Rosario credits everything to her team of bakers and decorators, as well as her family.
“I don’t do this alone. Mar Baba is our extraordinary baker and Alex Lamay makes my icing. I can’t do what I do without them,” says Rosario.
Her cousins, aunts and siblings all grew up with some ties to baking. She knows which one to call about a specific question whether it be cake tools or designing tricks.
Christine Rosario has many fond memories of standing next to her dad and decorating cakes.
“My dad was my teacher. Eighth grade was our first cake,” says Rosario. She actually has no formal education in baking or even art. Her background is in theology and she taught it for several years at the Academy of Our Lady of Guam before she returned to the family business.
But she adds, “… being in the environment growing up, you can’t get away without picking up some of these skills.”
Jake, 16, and Aubrey, 12, are quickly absorbing decorating skills from their mom. “Sometimes my little one, Emy who’s 6, gets jealous, so I’ll let her play with cookies at home. She’s already decorating the cookies with proficiency – I think the future looks good,” says Rosario.
A boom in food shows brought light to cake and cupcake decorating. Celebrity food and pastry chefs came into existence.
Events and seminars then became a more common thing. Rosario goes back every three years to attend a class from her celebrity crushes like Bronwen Webber, Jorg Amsler or Ruth Rickey. “That’s exciting,” says Rosario, who is an avid Food Network viewer.
She hasn’t competed in any contests. “No accolades really. My accomplishments are having at least a fraction of the work ethic my parents have and to be able to pass it on to my kids,” she says.
She was always taught to work hard and help others, knowing that she’s part of a baking legacy built by her parents, aunts and uncles. Seeing her eldest trim and ice, her daughter decorate a cake with such focus, and the eagerness of her youngest to join in are her greatest accomplishments, says Rosario.
Her love of decorating also thrives on the numerous thanks and happiness of her satisfied clients. “The moments that make this all worthwhile are those moments when I know I have touched someone’s life because of my work,” she says.
by Sue Lee, Guam Pacific Daily News, April 16, 2016