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Keeping the Faith

as this pastry chef endures his toughest fight with Lubag ( X-linked Dystonia Parkinsonism)

Alvin Smit-Amor

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Words by: Mye Mulingtapang | Originally published in Juan in EU- Facets 2020

AK2S

Alvin Smit-Amor came from a poor family in Pangantucan, Bukidnon. For those who stay home, options are few. But for somebody who experienced poverty, there is no other way but to leave. He had an ardent wish to change his life and make it big abroad. To fast-track his economic condition, he went to the Netherlands for good personal reasons. For greener pastures, as the oft-repeated line goes. He was undocumented for eight years and lived in fear for so many years.

“I was scared because what would happen if I was caught? Would they send me back? I made sure my bike had lights, I did not go to the red light district, I did not drink, all to avoid being noticed by the police,” said Alvin.

Alvin lived in the perceived threat of detention and deportation. He did not let this totally consume his thoughts and take energy away from everything else in his life. He worked hard and supported his family back home as a house cleaner. He made friends and never gave up. Then, he met the love of his life and they got married in 2015.

 

With his dreams of becoming a pastry chef, Alvin bolstered himself and took larger leaps. He baked cakes, pastries, and Filipino bread and sold them online through Amor Kitchen. Just when he thought everything is going well, he was diagnosed with X-linked dystonia-parkinsonism before the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Just when he thought everything is going well, he was diagnosed with X-linked dystonia parkinsonism before the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

X-linked dystonia parkinsonism is a neurodegenerative movement disorder that has been found only in people of Filipino descent. Over 500 cases of XDP have been reported so far, all in the Philippines in Panay Island.

The 38-year-old pastry chef considers his relationship with XDP conflicting. However, he considers himself as a person with great willpower because despite everything he never let his trembling hands stop him from doing his passion.

“I have accepted it but it scares me sometimes. I have become more aware of my illness, but the path is still long for me. I find serenity in baking,” shared Alvin.

This illness can affect everyone but still has little recognition because diagnosing it is difficult. Alvin’s condition gave a new meaning to his life. He turned his life around. He did not abandon his dreams when he had had every reason to lose hope and quit. Alvin is guided by his experiences and struggles. He found meaning in his pain. The adversities were his wake-up call to do the things that will help him become an instrument to other people to accept their illness and still enjoy life.

“Pursue your dreams and work hard to make a name for yourself so people will know who you are. They will know your story. As Christopher Reeves once powerfully stated, once you choose hope, anything’s possible,” shared Alvin

Follow Alvin Smit-Amor and Amor Kitchen on social media and know more about him and his baked goodies.

Mango Chiffon Cake

Course cakes, Dessert

Equipment

  • 8"-diameter 3"-inch high pan
  • oven
  • parchment/baking paper
  • large bowls
  • electric mixer
  • sauce pan

Ingredients
  

Part 1

  • 1 cup sifted cake floor plus teaspoon more
  • tspn baking powder
  • ½ tspn salt
  • 6 tbspn white sugar for egg yolks

Part 2

  • ¼ cup corn/canola oil
  • 4 egg yolks at room temperature
  • tspn Mangoness Flavoring w/food color

Part 3

  • 4 egg whites at room temperature
  • ¼ tspn cream of tar

Part 4

  • 6 tbsp white sugar for egg whites

Swiss Meringe Buttercream

  • 3 egg whites
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature cut into small pieces
  • 1 tspn Mangoness Flavoring with food color

Instructions
 

The Sponge

  • Preheat oven at 160° C
  • In a large bowl, combine Part 1 well. Add in Part B. Beat with an electric mixer or by hand un wisk until smooth and well blended.
  • In a separate bowl, beat with an electric mixer Part 3 on high speed until frothy. Gradually add in the sugar Part 4 and beat until stiff peaks are formed.
  • Gradually and gently fold in egg whites into egg yolk mixture.
  • Pour batter into an ungreased 8” round, 3” high pan.
  • Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Invertpan into wire rack immediately and cool completely.
  • To release cake from pan, carefully run a thin knife around sides of pan and invert cakeonto a cake board.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • In a large bowl, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over (but not touching) simmering water on a saucepan to heat the mixture. Whisk constantly until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is very warm but can be touched (about 70° C on an instant-read thermometer). After about 2 minutes, remove the bowl from the saucepan.
  • Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg white mixture until it is fluffy, cooled to room temperature, and holds stiff peaks (the mixture should not look dry). This process may last for about 6 minutes.
  • With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the salt and the butter, a few pieces at a time, beating well after each addition. If the frosting appears to separate or is very liquid after all the butter has been added, continue to beat on high speed until it is smooth and creamy for about 3-5 minutes more. Add Mangoness and beat until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Frosting

  • Cut cake in half horizontally. Fill and frost with buttercream and decorate as desired.

Notes

Use Philippine Mango Puree for filling and topping for best results.
Keyword cheesecake, filipino, mango