I guess if I wanted to be traditional, I could title this the “12 Best” instead of the “10 Best.” But 10 is always a good round number when doing lists ”“ and we all have 10 fingers besides ”“ much easier to cross names off sans paper and pen. When coming up with this list, I thought long and hard about what I’d love to receive for Christmas. Obviously, it couldn’t be just all desserts, though I of all people certainly wouldn’t mind ”“ but variety is key and I myself would love to receive any, heck all of these gifts come December 25.
So here then are my 10 chosen gifts that I’d give to the food lovers on my list this year. I did a lot of shopping, browsing, and tasting to find these items. I didn’t settle for just anything, since that would be totally missing the point of giving, wouldn’t you agree?
Taza Platito stands for cup and saucer, and the memorably delicious conversation that arises over coffee and dessert. Owned by Tina Diaz who also does all the baking herself, it’s a cozy set-up that provides sweets to caterers and some coffee shops in the metro. Tina and I used to be colleagues, both contributors at a food magazine; I’ve moved on, but she’s still there, their recipe tester extraordinaire. I find it hard to believe that in the three years we worked together, I never got to try any of her pastries except for her brownies.
Let me tell you about Tina’s brownies: cut rather diminutively, these bars have bite, owing to the baking soda which opens up their crumb. High quality cocoa powder instead of baking chocolate ensures that her brownies have the softest centers and a chewy, candy-like crust. Drizzled with caramel and decorated with almond slivers, these brownies are a revelation and a good change from the overly fudgy blocks of brownies common today. Other bar cookies that Tina offers are mango bars, food for the gods, oatmeal raisin bars, prune walnut bars, and almond fudge bars (all P240/box of 24; P350/48 pcs). She also bakes up nutty oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (P250/box of 10; P450/20 pcs), as well as some mean chocolate crinkles (P150/box of 10; P250/20 pcs), the only desserts her brother will eat, so enamored is he with them.
It is Tina’s cakes however, that have no equal. She reinvigorates classics. Take her caramel chocolate cake (P495) for instance. Often called a decadent chocolate cake in Manila because of the characteristic caramel pool that it sits in, Tina has instead piped little rosettes of dulce de leche around the cake’s border. “I wanted the cake to look clean instead of sloshing around in caramel while it’s being transported,” she explains. The dulce de leche is homemade and also serves as the filling to this cake enrobed in ganache.
Another chocolate cake, but which sits on another pinnacle is Tina’s Tsokolate Cake (P520), which utilizes native ingredients with talent and class. Made from tablea, our local cacao, it’s a powerful hit of chocolate. Usually gritty, I’m amazed at how Tina has ground the tablea so that it’s smooth, almost like a ganache. This “revamped tablea” is now the chocolate base that makes up the cake and the silky frosting. A whisper of coffee rounds out the robustness of the cacao, emphasizing the pillowy-denseness of the cake. And to think that I thought tableas were only good for my hot tsokolate.
Tina, who declares it her mission to celebrate native ingredients through her desserts, has created a stellar dessert in her Pastillas de Leche Cake (P520). Pastillas de leche is a candy made from carabao‘s (water buffalo) milk, it’s mixed with sugar and stirred over low heat until thick. Usually wrapped in white crepe paper, Tina jokingly tells me, “Imagine, I had to unwrap each and every pastilla!” Seeing my shocked look, she giggles and says, “Of course not! I use the one that comes in bottles.” Sometimes I just don’t know how to take a joke. Anyway. This is a chiffon cake so soft that I can press it down with the roof of my mouth, dissolving it into divine oblivion. The pastillas, which she whips with cream, is actually present only in the cake’s frosting and filling. A nut brittle mixture provides textural variety.
It’s this riotous nut brittle crunch that echoes in another cake, the Caramel Espresso Crunch (P520 — see cover photo). Infused with Kahlua, and an intermingling of dulce de leche and cream, it’s a cake that speaks to those who adore coffee and caramel equally. I think of it as a honey crunch cake, but lots, lots better. As I bite down noisily on the cake’s honey crunch topping, Tina and I both laugh.
If there’s one thing that can’t be forgotten at Taza Platito, it’s the Double Chocolate Chip Fallen Cupcakes (P180/box of 6; P340/12 pcs), which along with the caramel chocolate cake are Tina’s trademark desserts, the ones she’s known for. I see from my notes that the fallen cupcakes are the dessert that I’ve scribbled the most about in my notes. Called “fallen,” because of its sunken middle, and “double” because of the presence of chocolate chips in the batter and on the top, Tina tells me that this is best eaten at room temperature. Why? Because it’s only then that the cupcake’s sweet density is appreciated, its echo upon echo of romantic chocolate flavor reverberates on your tongue and in your heart, and its crumbs that tumble upon themselves as bite after magnificent bite is taken. This is a dessert to serve when you want your guests to swoon to the floor.
Taza Platito of Tina Diaz
For orders, please call:
373-2732 / 926-2501
12-A Scout Tobias corner Fr. Martinez St.,
**From Roces Avenue coming from Tomas Morato, turn left at the second intersection, which is Scout Tobias. It’s very near Books for Less and Chocolate Kiss Café