Banapple is a new bakery-café that gets its name from its two bestsellers: Banoffee Pie and the Apple Caramel Crumble Pie. Banoffee pie, (also Banoffi), was invented in 1972 at The Hungry Monk Restaurant in East Sussex, England. A meditation on caramel, this pie consists of banana chunks reposing on a shortcrust layered with caramelized condensed milk and then garnished with tufts of billowy whipped cream. The caramel, also known as dulce de leche, is easy enough to prepare at home although a certain amount of courage is required. Going from condensed milk to the sticky, chewy, toffee-like treat involves boiling a can of the viscous substance for anywhere from three to five hours, covered with water at all times. Failure to do so invites the risk of injury to life, limb, and kitchen ceilings. Scary, but a reward awaits the brave. The more adventurous boil their cans in a pressure cooker, hastening the process to just 45 minutes; the most cautious of all will either bake the opened cans in an oven, stirring occasionally or cook the condensed milk over a double boiler. Zzz. Dulce de leche is available locally, so you can spare yourself the anxiety.
Whichever route one takes, Banoffee pie is a gem for caramel lovers. Banapple’s version (slice P65/whole P480) has two layers of dulce de leche ensconcing ample and thickly sliced cuts of banana atop a buttery graham cracker crust made pleasantly gritty from the white sugar. There’s the requisite swath of whipped cream and then a deviation from tradition with shards of dark chocolate as garnish. I suspect that the bananas have been tossed in a little too much calamansi juice (to prevent blackening), because the acidic flavor comes through a little too strongly, but it doesn’t deter from the appeal of this pie. If a dessert has bananas, it’s guaranteed to be a hit with me.
Banapple is owned by husband and wife team GJ and Maricel Jimenez. He does the business, she does the baking. The pair have been long-time dessert suppliers of several well-known restaurants and coffeeshops, so opening their own café is but a natural progression. “It’s a dream come true,” Maricel enthuses, her eyes twinkling, her joy apparent. The realization of a dream can be exhausting however ”“ since Banapple opened last March 31, the pair has been powered on pure adrenaline. It’s all more than worth it I can see, since their little shop has captivated dessert lovers near and far, me included. I’ve been here twice in one week, spending over P1,500, and tasting practically everything on the menu.
The other “namesake” of Banapple, the Apple Caramel Crumble Pie (slice P75 /whole P560), is topped with a more-than-generous streusel crumb, of which I taste some breadcrumbs. Not sure why, though. The cinnamon flavor is muted and there’s no hint of that famous dulce de leche (the “caramel” in the pie’s name, I presume). Some people will complain that there’s too much streusel topping and my Bin says that the crust is too thick, but since streusel and crust are my two favorite things in a pie, I can’t complain.
Another classic, pecan pie, has been upgraded with the deluxe addition of chocolate chips to make it a Chocolate Chip Walnut Pie (slice P65/whole P480). Unlike other nut pies, this one is not too sweet, so it’s suited for those who aren’t nuts about dessert (pun not intended). The filling is a bit too “gelatinous” in texture for me, however ”“ too many eggs and overenthusiastic beating ”“ and I find the crust a bit too tough, a result of overmixing. Nut pies should have a lush, stick-to-your-teeth texture deep with corn syrup and sugar, perfumed with vanilla, and tempered by the addition of roasted nuts.
Banapple does creative things with their dulce de leche, and this is represented in their Super Caramel Fudge Cake (slice P75/whole P700). I have this cake on two separate occasions and while the cake is on the dry side the first time around, the second time is a revelation. It’s moist with a dense crumb and a complex cocoa flavor that teeters on the intoxicating. Cocoa powder displays its complexity when baked in a chocolate cake, and this one is a fine example of it. A caveat however: the caramel (dulce de leche) that frosts this cake is very sweet, as dulce de leche is, anyway, and some might not be able to handle it. I, for one, would have to be shot up with an intravenous liquid glucose drip in order to declare that something has too much sugar.
If I didn’t know how to bake, I’d swear that Banapple’s Chocolate Chip Brownie Overload (P35 piece/whole P260) is the same batter as that of the Super Caramel Fudge Cake. After all, brownies are similar to cake except for a few differences: brownies have a higher ratio of butter to flour (for fudgey-ness); more sugar (for “bite”); and less eggs. Banapple’s brownies have a lot of bite to it and are not overly sweet. The fact that these chocolate blocks are plied with miniature chocolate chips that fall off with every bite only add to their irresistibility.
- from center, clockwise: Old Gold Oreo chesecake, chocolate chip walnut pie, Banoffee pie, Super Caramel Fudge cake
Underneath the Banapple sign outside the store is a tagline, “Pies and Cheesecakes.” Even though they sell more than just pies and cheesecakes, Maricel says that they added the tagline because those were the products they began with. The baker is a whiz with cheesecakes, adding her own creative stamp, a move that I appreciate. Her Cadbury Old Gold Oreo Cheesecake (slice P110/ whole P1,020) is bejeweled with nuggets of the fine dark chocolate layered on top of an Oreo crust. The cake itself is terrific, not too sweet with that dense, filling mouth-feel characteristic of cheesecake. No gelatin here, thank God! Other cheesecake variants I will come back to try are the Two-Nut Caramel Cheesecake (slice P75/ whole P700) and the Snickers Fudge Cheesecake (slice P85/ whole P800).
In itself, Banapple is one of those places that I can see myself whiling the day away in. The terra cotta and yellow space has homey, rustic touches punctuated by earthenware accents. A small pile of magazines in the back keeps boredom at bay and restless children at play. The coffee here is good too, the latte especially, and there’s a short beverage list of both hot and cold. Full meals are served here as well since Banapple is open from 7:30 am-11pm.
In-between snacks and morning pastries are embodied in the bakery’s muffins and savory pies. The muffins (P40/each) sport these large mushroom caps — a fascination ”“ crispy around the edges and softly tender and aromatic within. Their taste reminds me of those muffins from S&R (PriceSmart), the ones that come six to a pack and have that “stateside” smell and flavor to them. As for the savory pies, hand-sized empanadas (chicken, tuna, cheese & mushroom – P75/each) made with an old-fashioned shortening crust enclose the filling of your choice. More than enough for one, they’re hearty and have knocked off Red Ribbon’s empanadas on my “Best” list. Heavy and substantial, these ain’t no puny pies. These are best toasted before eating.
I’m not a fan of cookies outside of my own home. I’ve always maintained that cookies are best when they’re fresh out of the oven, and the longer they sit out, the more crumbly they get. Plenty of cookies that I’ve tried haven’t proven me wrong until Banapple came along. Their Fat & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies (P40 each) are just that: fat AND chewy. How they’re able to maintain a singular moistness and superior texture to their cookies is a wonder. Thin and a stupendous four inches across, they’re a testament to the wonders of bakery baking. I do detect a margarine flavor in the cookie however, and if you’re a fan of cookies from a box-mix (Bettey Crocker, Pillsbury, etc.), then you’ll love these.
Don’t leave Banapple without trying their Banana-Apple Sweet Bread (P110/loaf). Embodying the charm of this bakery-café, this loaf is superlatively moist and pillow-soft, almost the texture of a cake. The banana flavor is evident and refined by the apple in the batter. They play well together. I dare say that this is the best banana loaf of its kind that I’ve come across in Manila.
225 Katipunan Ave,
Blue Ridge Q.C. (across Kopi Roti)
Open Mon-Sun 7:30am-11:00pm
Special thanks to GJ and Maricel Jimenez of Banapple and Miggy, a loyal Dessert Comes First reader who gave me the heads up on Banapple!