Dessert Comes First

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

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Manila’s 10 Best Desserts, 2007
(1st of 2 Parts)

posted by in The Best... Lists

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Manila’s 10 Best Desserts, 2007: Part 2

This is a list that I should be spinning out annually, really – and I have – except for 2006, which I missed out on. (My bad). After all, if I were asked to write the story of my life, it would be told in chapters of dessert: Chapter 1: “Butterscotch Pudding”; Chapter 2: “Chocolate Chip Cookies”; and so on. The current chapter in my life would be called “Chocolates and Cheesecake,” because those are precisely what comprise my most-loved desserts of the moment. On this list alone, there are three chocolate cakes and four cheesecakes. It sounds a bit repetitive initially, but you’ll see soon enough that they all deserve their individual places of merit on this list.

On this website, I speak for no one but myself, so the desserts here are my Top Ten, and not necessarily anybody or everybody else’s. The same desserts can’t please everybody, but they sure as heck have pleased me. Here, in no certain order, are Manila’s Best Desserts, 2007. For a look back, click here for Manila’s 10 Best Desserts, 2005.

Chocolata

1. Chocolata of Sweet Bella

I met Cristina Santiago-Rivera in the boxing ring at the gym, believe it or not. Like all fans of the sugar-obsessed, we began talking about dessert, and in between jabs and upper cuts, I found out that she’s the pastry chef and proprietor of Sweet Bella, a cakes and pastries company. As part of the family that owns Melo’s Steakhouse, Cristina parlayed her dessert expertise into the family restaurant melding classical desserts with innovative design.

Cristina’s Chocolata is the first of two of her desserts that are on this list. Yes, her sweets are that good. The description of her trademark Chocolata is simple enough: “Moist chocolate cake layered with rich chocolate ganache.” In reality, it’s a dense cake with resounding notes of chocolate that echo in every bite. It’s moist beyond belief without crossing the line to being gooey or underbaked. And that ganache, oh that ganache — that fills the spaces between layers and glazes the cake — never have I tasted anything quite like it: substantial but light at the same time, yet chewy and full-bodied.

strawberry charlotte

2. Strawberry Charlotte of Sweet Bella
To say that Cristina Santiago-Rivera’s desserts are gorgeous is like saying that foie gras is just liver. Sweet Bella’s desserts are perhaps the apotheosis of edible beauty usually finished with a crown of sumptuous chocolate curls, or in the case of the Strawberry Charlotte, a cluster of imported strawberries sparkling in their lush fullness.

Unlike the traditional charlotte which is a sponge-lined pudding made in a mold, this is a torte of four nougatine layers interspersed with the fluffiest, most delicate cream sweetened with a light hand. A most majestic, luxurious dessert, this one will undoubtedly have family members fighting over every last piece, as mine did.

Sweet Bella
844-0680 / 844-9905 / 0928-5025027
1730 Banyan St.
Dasmariñas Village, Makati
sweetbellacakes@yahoo.com

Virginity cake

3. Virginity of Sucrée
Its name is quite the attention-getter, yes? But I kid you not when I say that there’s a cake out there with that moniker. Sucrée is a café-bakery that specializes in cakes with lyrical labels such as Caramela and Melania Meringue along with all-time favorites such as the Oreo Cheesecake and the Orange Rum Bundt Cake. The café-bakery recently moved to their new digs on Scout Borromeo in Quezon City after a few years along nearby Times Street, and they’ve also expanded to another branch in Robinson’s Place Manila.

Anyway, the aforementioned Virginity is what I’d expect in a cake tagged with that appellation. It’s pristine in color — almost white actually, (virginal!) – a sponge cake perfumed in vanilla caressed by the lightest layer of dulce de leche. Occasional bursts of macadamia praline add textural interest and keep the mouth enticed. Truly, while this cake is purely immaculate in looks, there’s nothing virginal about it in taste.

Sucrée
#19 Scout Borromeo, Quezon City
415-0943
Open: Mon-Sat, 7am-9pm

white chocolate cheesecake

4. White Chocolate Cheesecake of Apartment 1B
I’ve been to Apt. 1B more times than I care to count, and while I always order something new every time, I always have their White Chocolate Cheesecake for dessert. Sometimes, it’s my only reason for eating there, truth be told. A rather unassuming, squat piece of pie, the cheesecake sits off-center on a plate decorated with strawberry-puree hearts. That same “coulis” – if you will—dots the top of the cheesecake that’s somewhat obscured from view by its peek-a-boo cloak of whipped cream.

What begins as a rather adequate cheesecake transforms into a treat that tantalizes once my teeth capture and crunch into the white chocolate chunks. Immediately recognizable as Toblerone white, the familiar flavor glides and rides upon the velvetiness of the cream cheese, turning up the vanilla note of the dessert. Touches of sweetness round out the harmony and then there’s that graham cracker crust that beguiles with its straightforwardness and substantial thickness.

Apartment 1B: Gourmet Comfort Food
One Lafayette Square
132 L.P. Leviste Corner Sedeno St
Salcedo Village, Makati
Tel: 843-4075

chocolate cake

5. Chocolate Cake of Celine
It’s a somewhat strange but true fact in Manila that some of the best chocolate cakes are bought at gas stations. Shell Magallanes has Polly Garilao’s Chocolate Cake, and the Caltex at the corner of Buendia and Pasong Tamo has a chocolate cake made by someone I only know as “Celine.” I’ve never met this Celine nor do I even know how to order from her and what else she may sell, but I fondly call her cake the “Celine Cake.” This is the cake I buy when I’m feeling stingy but want an immediate, ultimately gratifying hit of chocolate.

That this cake is also sold at a gas station automatically invites comparisons to the Garilao cake, and both have their attributes. The Celine Cake is denser, with a more robust crumb, its swarthy chocolate frosting is fudgey and moist – the type that sticks teasingly to the fork, dissolving only after a few insistent licks. But what I like most about this cake is it’s sheer lack of frippery: with fork in hand, I jump in and the flavor comes up to greet me. It’s a splurge of chocolate flavor that’s sweet and uncomplicated, a cake that satisfies on all levels, and icing that has just a glimmer of vanilla.

Chocolate Cake of Celine
Caltex at the corner of Buendia and Pasong Tamo, Makati.

37 Responses to “Manila’s 10 Best Desserts, 2007
(1st of 2 Parts)”

  • Best desserts, indeed. Thanks for the tips, Lori-san. :D

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  • posts like this one are always my favorite :)

    and the cakes by Sweet Bella are gorgeous! but they look expensive, too :p how much for a whole cake?

    thanks, lori, and keep up the fabulous work!

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  • Wow! edible butterflies? I wish they have websites too…

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  • sinful!! :P everything looks so delish!

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  • That gas station’s very near me! I think I’ll drop by on my way home from the gym tomorrow…after all, that’s what we work out for, right? ;-)

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  • Thanks Lori! We’ve been anxiously waiting for this list! And what A LIST!

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  • Thanks for sharing Lori! Been looking forward to these posts :)

    Regarding Sucree, is that the same one in Robinson’s Manila (new Midtown Wing)?

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  • sad that chocolata didn’t have a picture. thanks for the post lori! i’ve been waiting for this best desserts list. i love your blog! hope you could include the prices (at least an estimate) on the cakes. :)

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  • ooops! sorry. just saw chocolata on the first picture. please ignore previous comment on it.

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  • ooh la la… have you tried the Pastillas de Leche Cheesecake at M Cafe? I myself am not a cheesecake buff but this one made me change my ways. Not sure if it’s still on their menu, though.

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  • That Chocolata is calling out to my tastebuds!

    This is bad, Lori… I might have to take on the extra pounds just to satiate my sweet tooth! There’s no stopping now! LOL!

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  • terrific list. have you tried robby goco’s molten lava cake in CYMA? its called “skolatina” and absolutely absolutely absolutely to die for! im borderline diabetic but this one i cannot resist!

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  • I visited sucree in Robinson Midtown Wing last week i tried the virginity cake and I must admit its really delicious and very light. I also tried the Torta Monja try it out guys its to die for ….

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  • hi, my friend margs showed me your blog. i bookmarked it right away! among the desserts, the only one i’ve tried is the virginity cake (because i live in qc). i miss it so much i’ve decided to order it for my birthday!

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  • Ms. Lori the chocolate cake is actually from Ceilin’s (not Celine’s=D). It’s store is located beside the Phase 1 Church in BF Homes, Pque. Definitely a best-kept secret of BF. Their cake is sold much cheaper here and of course it’s fresh, since they bake it right there. They can even write on it for bdays for free. They also have miniature cakes and cupcakes for their famous choco cake. They also have Lemon Meringue, Mango Torte, Walnut Pie and many more delicious and affordable cakes! They also sell with big discounts when cakes are more than 2 days old.

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  • Does anyone have the phone number of Ceilin?

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  • Please try to include to your list the CHOCOLATE, MINT ZUCUTTO of The Madison Grill in Trinoma, its very sinful!!!!

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  • The Strawberry Shortcake looks divine. :)

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  • i just picked up my mango charlotte yesterday from sweet bella! i actually ordered two, one for me and one to give away. i was super excited about it! the presentation (box and all) was pretty, disappointed that there were no chocolate butterflies, nevertheless, i couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into it. truthfully, i was a bit disappointed..possibly because i expected so much given the price and all… however, it did not meet my expectations of a great cake! it was mediocre. it’s very similar to the mango bravo of contis, which i believe to be better and cheaper. i guess on to the next part of the list! :)

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  • i ordered strawberry cake from sweet bella 2 weeks in advance. when i called the day before of the pick-up date, they said that i do not have any order, after insisting that i ordered directly from the cellphone listed here, they said that they forgot to list down my order but will do the cake immedietly for my pick-up tomorrow. when the next day i called that i will pick-up the cake, they said that the cake got destroyed and will do another one!
    SWEET BELLA CAKES MAY INDEED NICE AND DELICIOUS BUT THEY ARE NOT RELIABLE AND PROFESSIONAL.

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  • I’ve tried the chocolate cake of Ceilin in Caltex Pasong Tamo and I must say I’m disappointed. Though seems like the cake wasn’t fresh.

    Nothing beats Karen’s Chocolate Ganache. =)

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  • I love desserts! I found this site useful before I left for my vacation to Manila last december. Had to try virginity cake.. let me tell you, it is out of this world! Not too sweet, frosting is light and creamy… perfect! My husband tried the sex bomb – very intriguing name- and was hooked to it. So for pasalubongs, I had food for the gods(FOG) and butterscotch bars.. well, was I glad I did. I had to taste test it before i gave it to my co-workers and neighbors and the FOG was out of this world- it was moist and buttery! It melted in my mouth. As for the the butterscotch, it was also good, but I was expecting some butterscotch chips in it.. it didn’t have it. Ii also bought some of the coffee beans for pasalubong, and it was a good blend. At work, I brewed 2 carafes of coffee and served the FOG and butterscotch bars… it was a perferct match! Now, Sucree needs to figure out how to ship the viriginity cake to California :)

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  • When on vacation I’m always looking for something new and interesting, during my last trip to Manilla I was lucky enough to stop at Sucree, the virginity is as good as mentioned and then some but my god did you try the SexBomb!

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  • great list! we agree sucree’s virginity is one of the best cakes we’ve tried.. along with their gateau negra (to those who love chocolate and coffee mousse) and the calamondin (uniquely made with calamansi!) that makes for a very refreshing dessert… can’t wait ’til we try our next slice.. or make that sliceS!

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  • I agree! Virginity cake from Sucree was divine. I wanted to bring it back to California with me, but was advised that it wouldn’t taste the same after the 13 hour flight. So I brought the Food for the Gods instead. I was not disappointed at all. It was moist and buttery. When will Sucree come to California?

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  • hi! phone numbers of Cielin’s Cakehouse: 772-1650 659-1386 their choco cakes are also available at caltex stations with the treats outlet.

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  • ooops! i meant caltex stations with coffee plus outlets (in julia vargas corner meralco ave., wilson corner ortigas, and alabang-zapote, among others)

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  • my husband loves sucree’s virginity! have you tried their sucree torte? chocolate lover that i am, that’s my favorite. we’re based in florida and we always try to bring home a selection of their other nibbles, as well. my son always gets his choco chip cookies (their huge!), the butterscotch bars are my husband’s choice and i agree with lisa, the food for the gods are yum!

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  • oh, Ceilin’s cakes! I gotta try their choco cake next time. We bought a cake from them last weekend, i guess its mocha chiffon. its good too!! :)

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  • correction on my earlier post… Cielin’s cakes are in Caltex stations with Coffee Plus outlets (try ortigas corner wilson, julia vargas corner meralco ave and along alabang-zapote) . btw it’s spelled i before e ;-)

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  • just a correction: cielin’s (it’s i before e) cakes are available at select caltex stations with the coffee plus outlets (try julia vargas corner meralco ave, ortigas ave corner wilson st., alabang-zapote road)

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  • na intriga ko sa chocolate cake of celine
    ma try nga….to think that station is like a few blocks away lang from me =)

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  • try desserts of Decadent Desserts. They are in Makati also. They offer dessert buffets and belgian chocolate fountains. they have a super wide range of desserts.

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  • I’ve tried the Chocolate Cake of Celine (not Ceilin or Cielin) and it’s really the best! Absolutely the moistest chocolate cake I’ve tried since Kookie Monster’s before. Here’s the number that I have… 707.7585.

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  • dear lori:

    hi, cam here, ex ateneo, met you again in la grotta thru mila. thanks for the tip on celine cake. needed to be ‘stingy’ within budget but spread the chocolate love to 3-an uncle who gave me an expensive gift, a friend who let me use her employee discount to home/ofc equpt and a friend who took me to peter cetera – cheesemax! heeh, best things in life are free and chocolates!

    cheers, cam :D

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  • what is the meaning of zucutto

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  • I have a definite cravings for cupcakes. Bella’s cupcakes are delicious. A friend gave me this pineapple up side down cupcake from Mommy can Bake. Ever since I super crave it all the time. Sadly online orders lang sila. :(

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