This post – more than any other I believe – will demonstrate just how seriously I take DCF readers’ recommendations. And it will also show (embarrassingly enough) how many slices of cake I can polish off single-handedly.
By now, you know about my failed first attempt at getting to Cake Planet. DCF tipster RJ’s email to me aptly titled “Hidden Cake Spot” had me experiencing fever dreams about the “…best I’ve tried turtle pie, banoffee pie, and a new cake I just tried last night whose name I forget (fresh buttercream sandwiched by walnuts and meringue layers, then topped with a dark chocolate ganache)…” Alright, enough already!
Less than a week later on my second visit (ha, “attempt” is more like it!) I re-read RJ’s email again and proceed to wipe drool off my chin as I get into my car. “Okay RJ, last chance,” I mutter as I put my car into gear and take off.
But the dessert goddesses are on my side today and lo and behold, yellow lights glimmer from behind rain-spattered glass. Once inside Cake Planet, like a hunter perfectly attuned to her prey, my eyes zero in automatically to the display case. It’s a ravishing sight: 12 – oh my pounding heart – 12! desserts sit there, jutting out like gems on shelves.
I don’t notice it right away but while each cake has a caption, some have what I call “cheeky side comments.” The Turtle Pie trumpets, “This made us famous!!!” (All triple exclamation marks theirs). NY Style Blueberry Cheesecake proclaims, “Compare our version with Sugarhouse!!!” and the Banoffee Pie heralds, “Definitely better than Banapple and Contis!!!” I chuckle. I like cheeky.
The server doesn’t bat an eye at my order of four cakes and is even appropriately blasé when I inform her that this is just Round 1. It augurs well when bakeshop staff are unfazed by their clientele’s excessive dessert consumption; it can only mean that their desserts are repeatedly returned to.
I’m about to sink my fangs into the turtle pie when the server, who’s placing the last plate down on the table asks me what my name is. When I tell her, she looks alarmed and rushes to the back. I wonder what it is that I possibly could’ve said until she returns, several sheets of paper fluttering in her hand. In Tagalog she tells me, “If you were to come over, John wanted you to autograph this, please.” The paper is a printout – and in full color at that – of my article, (How To) Be One Of Manila’s Best Home Bakers. I’m quite flattered by the request and so I write out a short note.
John’s printout, my “autograph.”
But dessert time isn’t meant to be mine just yet. After I return the printout to the girl and I pick up my fork, the server points to the door this time and says excitedly, “Si Sir John, nandiyan na siya!” My back is to the door so I turn around and – through the glass – come face to face with a tall, youthful-looking man. When he sees me, his eyes widen and for the second time in less than ten minutes, I’m met with a truly genuine look of alarm. Lordy, what is wrong here!!! (Triple exclamation marks mine, now).
This is John Sta. Cruz the owner and baker of Cake Planet. “I can’t believe you’re here!” His excitement is palpable. “I’ve been trying to find a way to get you to taste my cakes!” Turns out John’s been a DCF reader for years, and one of the more regular ones at that. “That post, your travel one,” he remarks somewhat pensively, “that was deep!”
John has brought with him a delivery of cakes so I use the time that he’s puttering around in the back to (finally!) feed. It’s no wonder that the Turtle Pie is what made Cake Planet famous. Ensconced in a chocolate pâte sucrée (shortcrust), its bottom is gilded with caramel and a thick chocolate middle that’s punctured with walnuts. It’s a secret hidden beneath a chocolate shell coating that crackles under my fork’s weight. Mmm, good pie: I know it when I taste it.
Let’s talk about sansrival-type pastries, those with layers made from meringue and fillings made from a planet of possibilities. Here, John offers two: a Mango Empress which is suffused with mangoes and cream and the ingenious Chocolate Macadamia Sansrival. Now, I’ll make it known that I prefer my sansrivals to be crispy, an audible crunch surged with sweet imbues me with undeniable pleasure. However, there are those who prefer chewy, which is what these two aforementioned desserts are. Textural preferences aside, I appreciate the almost yema-like flavor and softness of the Mango Empress, and oh, is that a stray walnut that I bite into? It delights. The Chocolate Macadamia Sansrival is an imaginative combination of John’s and one that rewards the eater with an exploration of velvet chocolate roused with the characteristic butteriness of macadamias. And somewhere in the interplay, a coffee note subtly reveals itself.
Even after scraping off the excess, the Banoffee Pie still has so much ice clinging to it.
I can’t agree with Cake Planet’s claim that its Banoffee Pie is “better than Banapple…” It comes to table embarrassingly frozen – the server tells me that it’s meant to be that way (?!) – but if I need a sledgehammer just to eat the darn thing, then forget it. So I ask if the slice can be microwaved and it’s better afterwards but I’m not convinced. A barely-there crust teeters under sizable bananas, and no wonder, because they support a behemoth of cream. A dessert desires balance and this clearly doesn’t have it.
As I taste, John and I talk. He listens to my comments and suggestions and then he tells me his story. I’m impressed that he’s had no formal training, instead, honing his craft by baking and supplying to cafés, all names that are familiar to me. “[But] I really wanted to open my own store,” he avers. Cake Planet opened just last November, “… and when I did, it was a dream come true for me. But it’s a lot of hard work!” No wonder, since John holds down a full-time job, hence his store’s rather unusual hours of operation.
Brief mention is made of my own cheesecake business way back when and as if on cue, my Second Round of desserts arrive. John offers two types: the aforementioned NY Style Blueberry Cheesecake and a Cookies & Cream variant; no cheeky caption on the latter except for a self-described “… blend of Belgian white chocolate, cream cheese, and chocolate cookies.” John tells me that he makes the cookies that make up the crust and the marbling. I want this cheesecake to succeed but frankly, it’s too salty for me and I’ve been told my salt tolerance is almost too high. The Blueberry Cheesecake is better, it has a well-made shortcrust that crumbles on contact, the perfect base for a cheesecake that once tasted, disappears almost like a dream.
The Chocolate Walnut Temptation is the name of DCF tipster RJ’s unforgettable “… fresh buttercream sandwiched by walnuts and meringue layers, then topped with a dark chocolate ganache.” Yes RJ, it is very good, one of those edible examples that proves that chocolate is the quickest route to undiluted rapture; and if one chances upon a bite of walnut along the way, then so much the better.
Pass on the Moist Rhum Cake which is neither moist and nowhere near rummy. Opt instead for the Samba Dome, a confection that’s as fascinating as its name. Arresting in appearance, it is indeed shaped like a dome and makes eloquent use of three distinct chocolate textures. There’s the chocolate génoise base, whisper-like with the complexity of cocoa. Then there’s the mousse middle that exploits the seduction of chocolate and its deep complexities – “…lots of egg yolks, butter, the good stuff,” John tells me. Lastly, there’s the outer core, a chocolate glaze traced with its white chocolate counterpart – it’s simple, straightforward, and shiny. Ideally, I try to taste all three components together in one full forkful; then I try another, and then a third. I’m undecided about which is the most delicious and so I try the tasting all over again. Before I know it, my slice of Samba is gone, the Dome demolished. And to think that I don’t like mousse.
I’ve eaten 9 slices of cake … or is it 10? I’ve lost count. As I pay my bill I recognize the giddy feeling I get after ingesting way too much dessert. I could live on this kind of planet where cakes create their own constellation circling around a supernova of sweetness.
91 Doña Soledad Ave., Better Living Subdivision, Parañaque City
02 621.2857 | 0915 449.3119
Open 1:00 PM to 1:00 AM Monday-Saturday; 4pm – 12mn on Sundays.
From SLEX, turn right at SM Bicutan, follow the road until you see PNB-Bicutan branch on your right.
Pasta and coffee served here too.
Note: Special thanks to DCF reader RJ, who shared his “hidden cake spot” with me. I owe you a slice of cake and coffee, RJ. Email me.