14ymedio, Marcelo Hernández, 22 August 2018 — René calls himself “artisan of the sweet” and for more than a decade he has been making birthdays and weddings happy with enormous cakes full of merengue that have become more sophisticated every day. His cakes now sport fountains, dolls, tiny spinning mechanisms and even couples that dance. His creations are in high demand despite the high prices. “This is to be enjoyed,” says the pastry chef, who fishes in the troubled waters of a country with a high consumption of sugar, a country where diabetes affects a million people out of a population of about eleven and a half million.
Scientific studies have indicated that among the habits and dietary attitudes of Cubans, the excessive consumption of sugar stands out, representing between 20% and 25% of total energy requirements. Sweets, soft drinks, shakes and other preparations loaded with sucrose are common at the country’s tables and, in many homes, take the place of fruits, vegetables and proteins, more expensive in the markets.
For René, the high sugar intake of his compatriots is exactly what guarantees his business. “This is a profession that is fighting with dentists and nutritionists,” he jokes, saying that many of his customers ask him to make “dough that is not tasteless but very sweet.” Covered with chocolate, multi-layers with custard and crepes made of colorful meringues, the baker does not skimp on adding more and more sugar.
However, indoors, when he sits down to eat in front of his own plate, René avoids this ingredient. “I can’t even look at sugar because I have had diabetes for a lot of years, so I prepare these cakes and my wife is the one who tastes them to see if they are any good,” he says. This week he has a commission for a three layer creation with a fountain for a wedding. “I’m going to make it a cataract style and get a liquid chocolate preparation that’s good, very sweet,” he says.
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