Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

Magnum White King

The 10 best desserts in Manila (and the vultures who eat them)

posted by in The Best... Lists

It was a dream brought to life: ten of the best desserts in Manila in one room for me to try. Or I wished it had turned out that way.

The food magazine I write for along with Philtown Properties Inc. presented the ten best desserts made by home chefs, specifically those who are home-based (although there were some exceptions as you’ll see later).

Of course I ate lightly the whole day and my trainer at the gym slammed me through a heavy weights routine in preparation for what I foresaw to be a no holds barred sugar high. Sigh. Sana. (I wish).

Got to the venue an hour early intent on shooting good photos of the desserts, which each had an enchanting table set-up complete with flowers and cake stands. It was more than enough to send my appetite into overdrive. From here on in there was no turning back.

In an hour and a half the venue was packed, with most people oohing and aahing over the sweet treats and pocketing the appropriate contact cards for future orders. I noted with some satisfaction that I had already encountered and partaken of eight out of the ten desserts at other events and parties in the past. It also goes to show the mileage and popularity of these desserts which were:


Chocolate Decadence Cake by Dennis Hipolito. This is a light chocolate cake in texture and flavor. Not too overpowering and perfect for those who don’t like their desserts too sweet (a misnomer in my opinion).

bt pie

Banana Toffee Pie by Roselyn Tiangco. My favorite pie and the baker I run to when I need a dessert in a jiffy and can’t make it myself.

choc rum cake

Chocolate Rum Cake by Joyce Aragon. A regular at bazaars, this cake survived the rum cake craze when everybody and her favorite baker were giving rum cakes for Christmas.


Nono’s Chocolate Oblivion by Baba Ibazeta. Owner of the wildly successful Classic Confections, this cake is named after Baba’s father. She dubs it as the “quintessential chocolate cake”: layers of chocolate cake and ganache textured with walnut praline and dusted with cocoa powder.


Macaroons by Bizu. One of the two commercial establishments on this list with two (or is it three?) branches, these macaroons are just like those found in French patisseries. Light and unassuming, in a variety of flavors and colors, this is a light and unassuming dessert (although I consider it as just a snack).


Polly’s Chocolate Cake by Polly Garilao. My mom introduced me to this cake a few years back and we’ve been good friends ever since. It’s a simple chocolate cake with a regular shiny icing and none of the frills and froufrou associated with most cakes these days. Shoot, it’s so good.

cc cake2

cc cake

Chocolate Carrot Cake by Melissa Lim. Owner of one of my favorite baking supplies stores, I had the good fortune to interview Melissa two years ago. She liked the article so much she sent me a whole cake to show her gratitude. There’s carrot cake and then there’s Melissa’s Chocolate Carrot Cake.

mango torte

Mango Torte by Tony Cuerva. Another dessert that my mom has served to the family after a burp-satisfying meal. A thin layer of meringue similar to sans rival without the buttercream, crowned with mango balls and decorated with whipped cream rosettes. It is every mango’s greatest dream to end up on Tony Cuerva’s Mango Torte.


Strawberry Shortcake by Baby Yulo. “Mrs. Yulo from Forbes” is already a catchphrase among the well-heeled in Makati. Also known for her Turtle Pie but celebrated for her Strawberry Shortcake, this cake is close to eight inches high and is a sponge cake lightly spread with two layers of imported whipped cream and strawberry flecks. As a crowning touch, the top of the cake is decorated with a few large strawberries, definitely imported, definitely expensive at P1,300.

estrel 2

estrel 1

Caramel Cake by Estrel’s. Owned by the family of Gina Navarro, who is the food stylist at the magazine I write for, this cake has been around since the ‘50s. Mouth meltingly light chiffon cake is artistically decorated with elaborate buttercream flowers in beautiful colors. You see these flowers and you know it’s an Estrel’s cake. This is one cake that is so light it practically floats off the table and into your mouth (which is why I can eat half of a 9-inch cake in one sitting).

As the early evening wore on, it was announced that there would be a light dinner (cocktails actually) served and then an awarding ceremony before we could actually nibble (or gobble, in my case) at the sweets. Trying to ignore the protests of my almost empty stomach, I reminded myself that sweet things come to those who wait.

During the awarding ceremony wherein each baker was given a special plaque, I could feel the crowd eyeing the desserts and formulating a plan of attack. People were getting edgy and were slowly positioning themselves closer and closer to the velvet ropes that separated these on-the-brink-insane people from their sugar fix.

On the go signal, I witnessed a surge of people no, more like a feverish flock of vultures descending on the helpless desserts. It was like the parting of the Red Sea except in reverse. No plates or forks had been served in advance, but those who had thought ahead had kept their saucers and fork from the cocktails. None of the desserts had cake servers and only a few of the bakers had thought to make individual serving pieces. As a result, people snapped up the four-inch cakes (hey Chubby, you really think you can eat that all by yourself?) and helped themselves to more than their share of the individual pieces. Soon, even the whole cakes were molested by fingers and hands. Forks and plates became a valuable commodity. (Hey Lor, trade you this cake if you lend me your fork), I was able to procure a fork but no plate, so when I spied a lone cardboard cake box top, I snapped that and used it as a receptacle.

It was mayhem.

If there’s one thing that can spoil my appetite, it’s a crowd run amuck. There must have been a hundred people in that small venue with plenty more spilling outside, all jockeying for position. (Here, have an elbow. Ouch, that was my eye, stupid!). Pinoys (Filipinos) have this bad habit of getting more food than they can finish, and some were even hoarding entire cakes to bring home and share with other deranged folk. Ay-yay-yay.

In the end, using my cardboard plate, I was able to have small bites (just a bite, oh no!) of each dessert. I went home with an empty stomach and a mind full of wonder at what makes normally sane people act like vultures at feeding time. It’s not a lack of food that will make people go wild. It’s too much of it. (That and no forks).

Contact numbers:

Dennis Hipolito: 0917-8486656/ (044) 8404082

Roselyn Tiangco: 8120908

Joyce Aragon: 09175232913

Baba Ibazeta (Classic Confections): 8423969/ 7462773


Polly Garilao: 8247612

Melissa Lim: 9112329

Tony Cuerva: 8509182

Baby Yulo: 8124961/ 8108078

Estrel’s: 3722965

Related Posts:
5 of the best chocolate cakes in Manila
Best mango torte in Manila

47 Responses to “The 10 best desserts in Manila (and the vultures who eat them)”

  • Ah, the Filipino mentality, you gotta love it.

    You’d think at such a gathering, people would at least show some manners.


  • Eric,
    Wow, you’re up early. :P Yes, Filipino manners. And to think that we’re known for our hospitality.



  • Wah!!! You should’ve gotten me to go there. I’ll be your bodyguard (hahahaha) with the kung-fu chopping action, lol! -K


  • Hi!

    OMG! The pictures and your comment about each dessert made my mouth water. I’m really interested in getting in touch with some of these people to try out their products.


  • Dude!

    That was a fun read! Your blog’s now on my list of fave web sites. I’m going to recommend it on my paper.

    PS. Were you refering to me, i.e., my hell-bent charge to get at the cakes?


  • Hi Tin,

    I was thinking about including the the bakers’ contact numbers in this post. For now, just tell me which numbers you want.



  • K,

    There is *no way* your good-intentioned chopping action would’ve sliced through that crowd. It was maniacal.



  • Hi Danny,

    Ha, even you weren’t as bad as the other more *hell-bent* crazies I saw last night! :p

    Glad you like the blog. I’m honored.



  • Hi Lori, I’m so jealous – you get to taste great food all the time. I think I had Polly’s choco cake at a party recently, it’s really rich and yummy. By the way, would you know about the buko pie that used to be available at a building in Buendia sometime in the 90s? The filling is fluffy and has the consistency of the white stuff in brazo de mercedes. Ive forgotten where to get it and want to have my hubby taste it sana… Please drop me a line if you know what I’m talking about. Thanks. (:


  • Oooh, those look so yummy. I know what you mean about vultures. It’s something about “free samples” that makes people go looney. Whether it’s in a grocery store or a food show, it seems that people turn into voracious barbarians! Not me, though. Never. :)


  • wow! i like this blog!

    A suggestion — maybe you can try out the goodies of Cake2Go, it’s this small cake shop in San Juan. I’m in no way related to the owners, but I think it’s worth a try?

    8 Jade Garden, Santolan Road, San Juan, MM

    Tel# 414 2585
    Cel # 0915 274 5101


  • How many pieces of each dessert were there? Don’t tell me there was only one of each cake?


  • Hi, I got here through World Class Cuiscene. Nice review of desserts here!


  • Cynthia,

    I do taste great food that’s true, but I also have my share of bad food. It all balances out.

    BTW, that buko pie you described sounds amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever had it. Sayang, let me know if you’re successful in your quest.



  • Hi Anonymous (whoever you are),

    I like people like you. Thanks for the tip. I will check them out and blog about it. Watch out for that one.



  • Hi Anonymous,

    I’m glad you found me through World Class Cuiscene. Thanks for the kind words. Please drop by again.



  • Wysgal,

    There were varying amounts. I think each baker was asked to bring enough to serve 50 people. Problem was that some people got enough to serve 4 people leaving other people (like me) with nothing. Wah!



  • Do you have the contact numbers of everyone? Or better yet do what magazine will all these be featured in? (Although it will probably take a month or two before that issue hits newstands).

    Email me pretty please at wysgal (at) hotmail (dot) com! Thanks!


  • am i super glad to discover this blog! read and enjoyed your previous posts. love it!

    btw, the buko pie that was mentioned is called Unbaked Buko Pie and was available at the Mondragon House in the 90s.


  • Hi! The pictures look great! What a luck girl you are – actually seeing and tasting all that glorious food!I may be pushing it a bit too far, but, can you please post the contact numbers of ALL the yummiest desserts featured? That would make us food lovers forever grateful. :)


  • C-

    Welcome to dessertfirst! Stick around. The posts and pictures will only get better. :)

    Thanks for telling me about the buko pie. Unbaked, huh? It sounds good. Too bad they don’t sell it anymore.



  • I must say, this is one of the best blog on Pinoy food atbp so far.

    I thoroughly enjoy your articles. Well thought, well written and well crafted.

    Kodus and thanks for unselfishly sharing your mind through your blogs.


  • Anonymous –

    I wish you’d left your name so that I could thank you by name. Thanks so much for the praise. This food blog really is my creative outlet to unleash my food passion, and I’m glad you appreciate it. :)



  • Thank you for the article and contact numbers. I have ordered Baba’s cookies for birthdays and as xmas giveaways. Her “almond roca” is also very good. Joyce Aragon does good cakes and dulong.
    I sent a copy of your article with pictures to my group of food friends, and to my friends abroad as an enticement. If they come to Manila they should be forewarned!


  • I was there and it was WILD. Just as I was about to cut myself a slice of Choc Oblivion, someone forked my slice using his index, middle and ring fingers. YUCK! Pero super sarap. I live and die for Choc Oblivion, Mango Pie and Strawberry Shortcake (que mahal nga lang).

    Love your site, Lori!



  • Garch-

    Yeah, it was really out-of-this-world gross. Kadiri talaga.



  • Hi, Lori.

    With regard to the meyhem that ensued at the event, I can only agree with Direk Peque Gallaga that it was una cochinada – good ol’ fashioned kababuyan. But, in light of getting to sample the city’s best sweet treats, it was to be expected. (Even then, though, it was excessive!)

    But, seriously: to have Bizu’s macarons de Paris, Baby Yulo’s strawberry shortcake, sheer chocolate oblivion, and the only banana-toffee pie I’d eat in this country all in one place at the same time! I’d willingly swim with the sharks for all that. ^_^


  • Hi lori, great dessert blog. BI :)

    I’ve linked this great post in my blog. Thanks for sharing these home based desserts — now, I get to try them :)



  • sorry, not my blogger blog but in my other blog –>


  • Hi my name is Jay.

    Reggie Aspiras in her PDI food column recommends Chocolate Ganache by Karen. She said it’s the best Choco Ganache she’s ever tasted.

    So to put an end to my curiosity, I called and ordered Chocolate Ganache and White Chocolate Sansrival.
    Mmmm… mmm. And you gotta try it. I must say it’s really good.

    I don’t know her last name but you may try her delicious desserts.
    Her number is


  • Anton-
    Thanks for linking my blog.

    Thanks for the numbers. I’ll try it and let you know. :)


  • Hello, Lori! I’m a friend of “Mrs. So” and she’s just has the highest praises for your cooking and writing. Love your site.

    Cynthia — I know the buko pie you’re talking about. It’s from Buendia restaurant! The taste is divine. They closed their resto in Mondragon building. I dunno where they transferred or if they even did. Someone said they may have closed for good. :(



  • Im diabetic, but what the heck!!!!


  • Hi! I’ll be opening a baking supplies shop here in pasig. hope you bakers out there will be able to visit it someday :) It’ll be located in Caniogan, Pasig City. It’s near C-5, cainta, etc. Watch for it okay?!


  • Tony Cuerva’s Mango Torte is nothing compared to Dulcelin’s Mango Torte! We used to order from Tony until we tried Erlinda Morelos’ Mango Torte….the combination of the crispy-chewy nougatine crust, rich cream and sweet, fresh mangoes is absolutely scrumptious!!!

    You featured them as well in one of your articles=)

    They have a stall in Tiendensitas now!



  • hahaha…like vultures huh. you must have all been silently laughing at the sight, at the same time getting horrified at your work’s utter destruction.

    this “hospitality” trait is very much misread by our very own sociologists. it’s a mistake to market this abroad just the way it “is”. our homegrown brand of hospitality is contextualized in the rural home. some foreigners took note of our humility & openness to welcoming visitors. this is why we love to talk about our very own “hospitality” with our foreign visitors (which they find weird given our supposed southeast asian humility). unfortunately, our hospitality refuses to open its arms to the bigger world. it remains in the realm of “halika, kain tayo”, or “upo ka”, to name a few.

    pag tayo-tayo na, bahala ka dyan no. kakain ako, at kukuha ako para sa kapatid ko, nanay ko, kaibigan ko, at…..hehehehe


  • Sorry, but I am a true Filipino in taste and I guess most of our friends, too. we still prefer our local desserts like kakanin, casava cake and leche plan plus a lot of my friends have problem with their blood sugars.

    they look good though.I hope that it is not all icings and toppings .


  • We had Joyce’s Rum Cake last Christmas… it was divine! i was looking for Ms. Gina Navarro’s contact number because i wanted to inquire about food styling and i came across your blog. Thanks for posting the contact numbers we could call for that intstant dessert-fix! They’ll be under the YUM Group in my phonebook from now on. =)


  • my wife started a cake shop a few months ago and so far we had very good response, please try visiting , thanks


  • is there another contact number of melissa lim? tried calling her but invalid number.


  • WoW… I definitely have to go try any of the desserts in the photos you have just shown. Thank you for sharing such an interesting and informative article. – Manila


  • Great desserts! I am droooooling…

    You might want to correct though, French “macarons” not “macaroons” :-)


  • we already tried the buko pie at mondragon bldg in makati, but sad to say that the bakeshop was already close and i got the supplier for the buko pie, had several deliveries at our office and our chairman from KL love it so much, but Ms. Amor Zantua transferred from Taytay to Pagsanjan and i can’t locate her anymore. . . our chairman is asking if any other bakers had that kind of buko pie (refrigerated)


  • Ministop has recently launched a killer dessert that really melts in the mouth. It’s a “cassava cake with a twist” due to its very distinctive recipe and special leche flan topping. They call it “Creamy Cassava Cake”. It’s almost similar to “Chef Myra’s cassava cake with real butter” that Chef Nancy Reyes-Lumen mentioned in her Business Mirror article, “Cookie Jar” here….


  • Hi Lori,

    Your blog is one of my favorite guides when I’m in the mood for food trip.

    I’ve tried Estrel’s and I loved it. I wanted to try Chocolate Carrot Cake – But I couldn’t reach Melissa’s number. Do you know where I can contact her? I’d really love to try this one. Thank you.


Leave a Reply


DCF the Book

Dessert Comes First: The Book
Available at all Fully Booked stores

Signed copies and FREE shipping available for Philippines. Email me.

Order via Amazon (International)

Follow Us