In the space that is Rustan’s Department Store, where everything smells like money and the controlled lighting makes all the customers look like a million bucks, shines a little spot called Frostings.
A splash of color and the promises of old-fashioned treats beckon, complete with attendants in light blue. I’m compelled to come closer and I do. Cupcakes in a rainbow of hues glimmer up at me, their attractiveness difficult to deny. Or resist.
A cupcake venture that saw its start at The Block in Quezon City last year, Frostings has since moved to spaces in Galleria and in two Rustan’s Department Stores (Shangri-La Mall and Makati). What’s striking is the sheer variety of flavors on offer: Swiss chocolate topped with Toblerone nuggets, the now ubiquitous red velvet, ube, black forest, lava, lemon meringue with burnished swirls, and so on. Twenty-two flavors all in all brought in fresh everyday from Bulacan, no less, with a cupcake of the month to boot. (This month it’s sans rival – photo below.)
I’m equally blown away when I meet one of the owners of Frostings, Ernest Vergel De Dios. His baby-face looks and idealism reveal his young age, 21, and his manner is endearing. Painfully shy and modest, he tells me that this is his first time to be interviewed and he’s nervous. I laugh lightly and tell him that I don’t bite.
Ernest says Frostings is the brainchild of his mom, Dulce, who is General Manager of the supermarket bakery brand, Lemon Squares. She wanted to bring the cupcake concept to the Philippines after being inspired by the cupcake boom she saw on a US trip. “[She wanted to] translate the tastes and flavors she [had studied in Europe] to cupcakes… she had the concept but didn’t have the time to execute it,” he explains.
This was three years ago when Ernest was still in college mulling over a topic for his thesis in his Entrepreneurial Management class. So Frostings became his proverbial “baptism by fire” in the business and today, he’s the President of the (cupcake) company. It was still in the conceptualization stage when Sonja’s Cupcakes debuted. (Sonja Ocampo is widely considered to have begun the “cupcake craze” in the country with her eponymously named store.) I ask him what he thought about that. “Of course I got a little intimidated. We already had the plan. My mom said, ‘Naunahan ka na,’ so of course I was pressured.”
“How would you compare your cupcakes to Sonja’s?” I ask.
“Frostings is more modern, more attuned to the Filipino taste. The other existing cupcakes offered locally are more American in taste and appearance. Ba’t ganoon? The Filipino taste is one of the best in the world… Swak talaga, it’s not too sweet, yung icing tama lang, plus yung cake, soft cake.”
I find Frostings cupcakes lighter (as opposed to less dense) and it’s less sweet too. Boiled icing (also known as marshmallow icing or 7-minute icing) is more frequently (but not exclusively) used than American buttercream. Certainly, if you’re one of those who don’t like too-sweet desserts, you’ll like these. The cupcakes are obviously crafted with plenty of thought and care, and consistency has been spot-on in the three months that I’ve been sampling them. I prefer American-style cupcakes since I’m not crazy for boiled icing, but I’d certainly welcome these on a dessert table. Frostings is also the only place in Manila that sells Whoopie Pies, a traditional American sweet composed of two cake-like chocolate cookies sandwiching a marshmallow filling. It’s pretty good and quite addicting. The other non-cupcake treat is a miniature Apple Pie. There’s a skewed crust-to-apples ratio, so if you’re not big on crust then stick with the cupcakes.
For store locator and more information, visit website: www.frostingscupcakes.com.ph
Extra premium (those with liqueur): P70
Premium: those with buttercream icing – P50
Regular: those with boiled icing – P35