"Paulette Goto: "I always tell people, ‘You're in charge of the cake. Don't let the cake be in charge of you.’"
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY PAULETTE GOTO
Paulette Goto didn’t learn to bake cakes by watching her mother. In fact, by the time she was 16, Goto was already on her own, working two full-time jobs, and no longer attending school.
However, she was fortunate enough to land at a place that changed her life. Her best friend, David Brown, offered to take her in and his parents, Ben and Linda not only provided a home but a place to find herself.
“David's parents are angels on this earth, and they said that I could rent a room from them, but they really treated me like family,” Goto says.
Her passion for baking was already in place, but Linda Brown showed her how to make the creations come alive.
“She would just use cake mixes and very basic vanilla and chocolate frosting, but I was blown away by how she decorated them,” Goto recalls. “She taught me some basics, but what they did was they bought me like my own set of tools. And when I graduated high school, I lived with them and my high school graduation gift was a KitchenAid. That's how obsessed I've been with baking. And so, I really was inspired by her.”
Linda’s influence didn’t end there. She encouraged Goto later to start a career as a chef and enroll at the French Culinary Institute instead of going into nursing. Goto remembers what Linda told her, “As long as you work hard and believe in yourself, that was a big key, was believing in myself, and you're going to do everything you want to do."
Goto will share her baking expertise with viewers during a free Palm Desert Food and Wine virtual demonstration at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 4. She will create a pumpkin spice checkerboard cake with maple cream cheese filling, decorated with cascading autumn leaves.
Palm Springs Life spoke further with Goto about baking and what tips and tricks she can pass on.
How have you navigated the pandemic, and has it changed the way you approach your business of cake making?
Before the pandemic, I had set up doing cake decorating lessons in my home and it was flourishing. I had scheduled cake decoration lessons from January of 2020 till June, four to five days a week. Then COVID came and everything shut down. Switching to Zoom was not possible, because I had all the supplies and people do not have all the tools at home. Going virtual was not an option. I was lucky to live in New York City. Even after a lot of people left the city, there were still people here that wanted some cakes. I was able to still do a few cakes during the crisis.
Even without having an order, I would make sure that I made at least two to three cakes a week just to keep posting and showing people my style and my creativity. I have to say, living in the city, business is coming back. I just had my first big cakes orders, through the pandemic I made mostly six-inch round cakes, because people weren't supposed to meet in larger groups. Now, I get orders for large cakes for 30-50 people again.
The pumpkin and spice checkerboard cake with maple cream cheese you will prepare, where did you get the idea for it?
I feel pumpkin spice is in too many places. It just drives me crazy how it's overused, but it still is delicious. This spice cake is one of my most favorite cakes, there are memories involved from my childhood, the taste just stuck with me. And fast forward years later, I got this pumpkin whoopie pie, and I remember tasting it and I thought, ‘Oh my God, this tastes just like the donut I had when I was little.’ You know how taste and smell can spur those memories? I remember being a little girl standing on the side of the street, eating that donut, thinking, ‘God, I love this.’
I asked a friend who worked at the supermarket, ‘What's going on in this cream cheese?’ I couldn't figure out what it was myself. She said, ‘I’m not supposed to tell you, but it's maple extract.’ That inspired me to take those two tastes together. In my heart, I love the spice cake, the pumpkin and maple taste. I combined them in one cake. When you slice into the cake, it's such a cool surprise: "Oh, look at the checkerboard." It's actually so crazy easy to do.
Why was this a good choice for your demo?
I love the checkerboard cake and I want to show people how easy it is to make. It works literally with any of your two favorite flavors, or your favorite colors.
What do you like most about baking?
That's difficult because I love every step so much. When I'm creating a recipe or I'm making a cake, I will literally get seduced by a gorgeous batter. I know when it's right, because I can tell just by the way it looks, like ‘That's a gorgeous batter.”’ I know when the frosting's done being mixed, just the way that it looks. I really do love every single step. I think the one I don't like is just washing the dishes.
Are there any tips and tricks you have for people who experience difficulties in baking?
Obviously, baking is a science. The ingredients need to be precise to make it work, but don't be afraid to add something else in there. If the recipe calls for one extract, but you think you want to try a different flavor, try that different flavor. It's your cake. I always tell people, ‘You're in charge of the cake. Don't let the cake be in charge of you.’ In the world of decorating, if you think you've made a mistake, because cake decorating is such a personality thing. In my opinion, I don't think there's any wrong way to pipe a flower or decorate a cake. It's your style. If you think you've made a mistake you can call that a new technique. Just embellish it and make it yours.
Have you participated in the Palm Desert Food and Wine event before? What attracted you to it?
I have not, but I'm always keeping track of food events across the country. The Palm Desert Food & Wine Festival is one that is still real. It's genuinely for this love of food and to celebrate people and chefs. Greater Palm Springs is so one community, like a food community, like everyone's there for each other. I've only heard people say how loving and how amazing it is. Growing up in Utah, Palm Springs always sounded so exotic, and I've always wanted to go. Next year will be my first time. I'm so excited to be there and become a part of it.