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

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

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