Let me start by saying, the name Sonja of ‘Cupcakes by Sonja’ is pronounced as son-jah not son-ya. Dami kasing nagtatanong. LOL
Now that we’re all clear on that, it’s my honor to feature on my blog one of the most passionate and humble chefs I know cupcake Queen Chef Sonja Ocampo.
Sonja is a Slavic name that means wisdom. For Sonja, what is the meaning of Sonja? Can you relate yourself to Slavic? Wisdom?
Restless. I’m really quite active and eager to learn. I constantly challenge myself to try and discover something new. I do my best to not to take anything for granted.
I always feel like I don’t really know enough so maybe I’m always in search for wisdom in the things that I do.
Piggybacking on the topic of wisdom, what have you learned since opening Cupcakes by Sonja in 7 words for those 7 years?
Always keep your foot on the ground.
You can easily ride your ego right to the top and then ride them right to the bottom again. I really try to stay grounded and grateful.
What’s your favorite color? Why? How does your favorite color inspire you? Have you created a cupcake in that color? Which one is it?
For some reason, I’ve never had a singular favorite color. I tend to move from one color to the other. I guess it depends on my mood and state of mind.
I was also into the color blue when I was about to open the store, hence the signature blue box and the colored buttercream frosting for Vanilla Sunshine and Chocolate Surprise.
Why cupcakes? Why not brownies or macarons or cake pops? What’s the magic between cupcakes and Sonja?
I think cupcakes appeal to all of us, no matter what our age is. They’re chic, elegant, cozy, comforting and cute! They are individually portioned so unlike cakes, no one has to argue about who gets the last bite. They go anywhere, at any time and are for anybody. They’re also the perfect treat for parties and special occasions. And the flavor and design possibilities are endless!
I really don’t believe in scrimping on ingredients and compromising quality. I hope that resonates in the taste of our products.
Are you a hopeless romantic or a realista? How can you translate that to a cupcake? What is a Sonja’s cupcake that has the traits of a hopeless romantic?
I think I’m both. I always start as a hopeless romantic but end up wanting to keep it real and simple. I put a lot of heart in what I do so I guess that is the romantic in me. For cupcake flavors, I always start with a variety of combinations but then I painstakingly narrow it down until it becomes simplified and clear. Red Velvet Vixen would be a hopeless romantic – its sexy and it screams with romance!
Which cupcake was the most fun to create? Why was it fun? Which one is closest to your heart?
They were all fun to make! But the most recent one would be our newest flavor- Upside Down Pineapple Passion Fruit Cupcake. It’s a classic American dessert but we put a twist by adding a passion fruit cream at the center, and topped with a dollop of whipped cream. The sweetness of the caramelized pineapples just blends perfectly with the tartness of the Passion Fruit Cream. It’s a great combo that we don’t normally see in a cupcake.
Let’s go back to Magnolia Bakery and New York! What do you miss the most in those places?
Everything! I really love New York like no other city. I learned so much in the 3 years that I lived there. I try to go back as often as I can. I miss just being able to walk the whole day and not have any care in the world.
Lots of people say, “I ❤ NY!” or “I left my ❤ in NY!” What is your line for New York? Why?
I survived NY! I don’t think I’ve ever worked as hard as I did when I lived there. It’s not easy working at a kitchen in NY, let alone at a 4-star restaurant. Bouley was really tough but it was such a great experience. I was lucky to get sponsored but they really made me work for it. I’m grateful because I’ve met so many people there who have now opened their own restaurants across the city.
The new Cupcakes by Sonja stores are winners! How did you come up with new ideas? How do you come up with new ideas for the stores and for the menu?
Thank you! I research a lot and I try to get out into the world to gather unique insights. I also like to travel and absorb as much as I can from new and also familiar surroundings.
I have a great interior decorator as well. Her name is Lisa Ampil. I worked with her on the original store. We collaborated and had many dialogues about how we wanted the design of the store to evolve. She’s great at putting all the ideas together.
Who’s the best person who have influenced you to put up Cupcakes by Sonja? How?
My mom. She would always tell me that I would end up working for the family business regardless of what career I choose for myself. It was so painful to hear. I had watched my 2 elder brothers do exactly what my mom had told them to do. The thought of it happening to me as well was just so scary. Because of those statements, I made it my mission to do the opposite. I did everything I possibly can to leave the country and to follow my own path. I didn’t want that for myself. I wanted to have options. I hated the feeling of being restricted and not having a choice. Culinary was huge at the time so I flew to New York right after my last day in school.
Shoppingero/shoppingera, visit Cupcakes by Sonja at the second floor of the Bridgeway at Glorietta 2! And soon to open at Shangri-La Plaza Mall, Eastwood City, Greenhills and TriNoma!
For more information, visit Cupcakes by Sonja online!