Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Cakes That Did Not Make It To The List

[Attivo Cafe's Kahlua Chocolate Cake]

When I started this blog I vowed to publish only good reviews and just keep silent on my bad dining experiences, if any. But early on I realized that perspectives change when your choices and selections are made for the purpose of writing about it.

I also realized that I cannot cover each and every item that can be categorized under the general topic food. Which became a quandary, because if I kept silent on the bad, they would have been treated the same as the good that I won’t be able to write about.

So I have published some posts berating restaurants, though they are few and far in-between.

In the course of the past year I became very much involved in commercially as well as privately baked cakes for my cake of the month series. For each cake, there were about two to three that the family sampled, but which didn’t get actually featured for various reasons.

One main, underlying reason being, it wasn’t good enough. For the few months after I started the series I actually encountered a lot of cakes which elicited frowns and stares from whoever I was sharing it with.

Which made me decide that after everything is over and done with, I would compile all those cakes – all those fat! the sugar! – in one post. In retaliation for the money unduly spent, and the 40 pounds I gained these past twelve months.

So be warned. [Name of the cake is italicized, name of the bakeshop in bold letters]

  • Nono’s Chocolate Oblivion by Baba Ibazeta, Classic Confections, 2/F, Greenbelt 5, Makati City
    I loved this cake. Very, very light and airy, but the chocolate flavor was immensely powerful, the cocoa powder dusting and walnut praline provided crunch and textural “surprise.” However, the praline was too distracting – too hard a crunch on the soft cake. I was afraid the kids would choke on its many bits and pieces.

  • Chocolate Cake at Mary Grace Kitchen, kiosks in most food centers of Metro Manila malls
    I used to worship this cake. Very chocolatey, light but substantial, the custard filling not too sweet. But when I bought a box recently it tasted so lame, the chocolatey taste just a whisper. I chided the saleslady for the change in recipe. But she vehemently denied any change, insisting the recipe used was the same since Mary Grace started selling chocolate cakes. I guess, in between the first time I tasted it and this last time, I had tasted chocolate cakes that were more forceful, in comparison.

  • Prune Cake at Mary Grace Kitchen
    Sweet, but not as sweet as most sickly sweet prune cakes around. The sweetness is tempered by some hints of acidity, the cake enrobing the pieces of prunes very moist and hefty. Alas, the cake has been taken out of Mary Grace Kitchen’s shelves. No amount of pleading had been successful in getting me a cake. The baker said it is undergoing “re-engineering.” No need, for me. This cake was perfect. Sigh.

  • Kahlua Chocolate Cake at Attivo Café
    This was a rich, moist, perfectly sweetened chocolate cake. I had qualms about the liqueur content before we ordered, but our waitress said she ate it while she was pregnant. So. Within the first few bites, though, I was sweating and was getting red in the face, literally. I have very low tolerance level for alcohol, is why. So. I wasn’t about to give that cake to my kids. They might have inherited my defective genes.

  • Mango Torte by Dulcelin, 36 Times St., West Triangle Quezon City
    I love mangoes. Which goes to say I hate everything else that incorporates the fruit but does not make any effort for it to shine. Dulcelin’s Mango Torte is all about the crust, or cashew nougatine layer, not the mangoes. The nougatine is way too sweet and too crackly that the mango balls atop are reduced to frozen mush of bland fruit.

  • Chocolate Ganache by Dulcelin
    Touted for the use of Callebaut chocolate in the ganache, this cake is all about the icing. Which is superb. But I wish more thought was given to the cake. Because for me, the cake is the main event, and the icing is just that – just icing on the cake. A bonus, an extra. But here the cake is too dry that without the thick ganache it crumbles to unimaginable dryness.

  • Chocolate Cake by Celine, Caltex Gasoline Station, Sen. Gil Puyat Ave. (near corner Pasong Tamo), Makati City
    Too over-hyped cake, probably due to its cheap price. I couldn’t see what the buzz is all about. It’s super moist to the point of being chewy – because it is too sweet. And it tastes of fake vanilla and fake chocolate.

  • Death by Tablea at Chocolat, North Wing, SM Mall of Asia, Pasay City
    Too smoky, the cake exudes the taste of inferior cocoa beans that had been burnt while roasting. Perhaps to mask its low quality? The native hot chocolate cup also tastes the same.

  • Classic Chocolate Cake at Chocolat
    This is better than the tsokolate cake, though it’s too simple and straightforward, and the chocolate is not as forceful as I would have liked.

  • Tsokolate Cake at Tsoko.Nut, SM Makati, Makati City
    In this series I wanted to feature local ingredients, as much as possible. So I tried this one, and gave up.

  • Italian Chocolate Cake at Starbucks Philippines outlets
    This is a rich cake – a take on Starbucks’ classic chocolate cake, gussied up with thick ganache, mocha layers and chocolate chips. But it was way too rich, the chips too hard.

  • Truffle Cake at Gloria Jean’s Café outlets
    Truffle chocolate topping so thick it goes halfway down the cake. This cake would have benefited from using the best baking chocolate there is. But it opted to use something more inferior in quality, and it suffers. Besides, the cake (the other half) is too dry.

  • Brownie Cheesecake at Indulgence Cafe, Perea Street, Legaspi Village, Makati City
    This is a good example why brownies are not favorite toppings for cheesecakes. It doesn't add any dimension, which results in a cloying, hard-to finish slice.

  • Death by Chocolate at Indulgence Cafe
    Supposedly you will be smothered to death with the amount, and variety, of the chocolates involved in this cake. To me it is tasteless. Not one kind of chocolate shines on its own, and it's so disappointing. Death to this chocolate cake!

  • BTS Cake at Karen’s Kitchen, Adalla Street, Palm Village, Makati City (also available in UCC Cafes)
    Chocolate ganache cake, dulce de leche, whipped cream, chocolate shard layers. Soft, playful, whimsical. Delicious. Luscious. I don’t know why this didn’t make it to my monthly feature. Perhaps because of its name? I was celebrating an infant’s monthly birth day, after all. But I should have closed my eyes, and renamed it. The friend I shared a slice with didn’t know what BTS meant, and when I asked a guess, the reply was, in all innocence, better than sugar? Maybe I should have adopted that monicker. Delicious is still delicious by any other name.

  • [Karen's Kitchen Strawberry Shortcake]
    poor, sad-looking strawberries

  • Strawberry Shortcake at Karen’s Kitchen
    I should be grateful to Karen’s Kitchen when it provided me a strawberry cake in the middle of the rainy season, when all that my eldest asked was a strawberry cake for his birthday and nothing more. All commercial bakeshops and private bakers I called said no strawberry cake is available so out of the season. But Karen’s had one, and I thought I was saved. The website declares the cake is one of its bestsellers, and the person who took my order confirmed this. I wonder why. I wonder who likes this cake. Not for a thousand years will I begin to like a tiny morsel of it. Nor will my kids. The looks of it alone made me want to cringe. I will be giving this to my son? And it tasted as bad as it looked.

  • [Alba's Tarta de Sta. Teresa]

  • Tarte de Santa Teresa at Alba’s, Jupiter Street, Makati City
    This was included among the top 20 commercially produced cakes in Metro Manila, in an article published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer. I’m sure the author did not really try all those cakes she cited. She has a scapegoat, in that she qualified that the list is a compilation of recommendations from foodies and bloggers. Everybody else except her.

    This was one of the most accessible for me, so I tried it. It was eye-candy, and upon the first bite it was nice. Now there are cakes that make you eat mouthful upon mouthful of. This cake, you set aside after the first one. Too boring and too bland. The yema balls and icing taste the same as the cake. It’s not even sweet enough to be a cake. Not even eggy enough. Nor buttery enough. It tastes…nothing. Which is a waste, since with just a little more sugar and some lemony essence, this cake would be incredible. As it was, it was a case of having your cake and not
having to eat it, too.

Needless to say, I did not venture to try another cake from that top 20 list. And never will.

  • Swiss Cake, Potato Almond Crunch, et. al., at Becky’s, 1061 P. Ocampo corner Bautista Street, Manila
    For me and for a lot of my officemates and friends, no other brownie tastes as delectably and as incredibly good as Becky’s cherry walnut brownie. Super moist, dark chocolatey, rich but lightly sweetened, it’s perfect with tea, coffee or vanilla ice cream. I would have gathered bar upon brownie bar to make into a cake, or maybe ordered a box of uncut brownies. But Becky’s also sells cakes, so I had to try them. The most famous is the Swiss Cake, sworn to by loyal fans. And the Potato Almond Crunch, because of its novelty, and is supposedly a healthier alternative. I bought a slice of each, and all other else on the showcase cabinet – caramel cake, coffee cake, box cake, and more, but I forget their names. I forget, because not one cake is memorable. Too sweet, too dry, uninteresting. I’ll stick to the brownies.

  • [a slice of Conti's Mango Bravo]
    what's so bravo about the mango?where is the mango?

  • Mango Bravo, at Conti’s Deli, Serendra, Bonifacio Global City
    Again, a cake that doesn’t live up to its looks and reputation. Crusty broas (lady fingers) and some mangoes, which taste like it’s been put together in a rundown street bakery. Conti’s makes good business – some friends and I had to wait a full two hours for a table on a Friday evening. But the food complements the piped-in music – instrumentals that make you feel like you’re in those tacky wedding reception venues in Intramuros. The food likewise is like in a wedding reception – unimaginative, and smells and tastes of the warming, chafing dish. I was looking for salvation in the cakes, but they, too, tasted appallingly cheap.

  • Shortcake by Qitchen, Quezon City
    I wanted very much to try Qitchen’s strawberry shortcake, or the mango shortcake. Or even just the peach shortcake that uses canned peaches. But until now I haven’t had the opportunity to do so. I kept pestering the lady answering my calls (at 63922-8380308), but she kept telling me the shortcakes are not available, and promised to call once they do make one. She never called, and she stopped answering my calls.

  • [Costa Brava's Caramel Cake]

  • Caramel Cake at Pasteleria Costa Brava, Bel-Air, Makati City
    Everybody loves the caramel cake by Estrel, but everybody agrees that its location is too far when you’re in Makati. Especially since they don’t deliver. So, I was told, there’s an alternative that’s acceptable, though not good enough (nothing would be good enough compared with Estrel’s). And it’s located in Makati. I think my expectations were too high. The caramel cake looked a lot like Estrel’s, but was too far from taste and texture. The chiffon wasn’t fine enough, and the caramel was too thick. This may be good news to some, but at Costa Brava the caramel is not your amber-sweet, gooey syrup. It’s akin to sweetened burnt gravy that’s coagulated when put overnight in the ref.

  • Kesong Puti Cheesecake at The Coffee Beanery, Shangri-la Plaza Mall, Mandaluyong City
    This cheesecake has a coconut biscuit crust and sports cubes of kesong puti (local white cheese) on top. The crumb is light, but the taste and texture is like it’s 0% fat, and lacks a little sourness that could have elevated it to something worthy of writing about. The kesong puti adornment is also a tad too hard.

  • Mini Cakes at The Tea Republique, G/L Pacific Star Building, Sen. Gil Puyat Ave. cor. Makati Ave., Makati City
    The Tea Republique features cakes and desserts sourced from several bakeshops. Except for the ube cake, which is by Goodies & Sweets, its mini cakes are from The Purple Oven, and most of them – grandmother’s chocolate cake, sans rival, blueberry cheesecake – are negligible.

  • Mango Furumaji at Bread Talk outlets (most Metro Manila malls)
    I have seen this being made by way of the see-through window separating the sales counters from the kitchen. Fresh mangoes are used, and the piping of a happy face on the cake captured my kids’ fancies. But it’s not always available, and I wasn’t amenable to substituting with Bread Talk’s other cakes, which are mostly indecipherable.

  • Red Velvet Cake, S’Mores Cake, Belgian Chocolate Cake, at Red Ribbon
    The Red Velvet was debuted in time for mothers’ day last year, but I would have never given it to my mother. It was like eating a parchingly dry fruit cake, which I detest to the core of my being. The S’Mores, a take on the campfire classic, is too sweet, while the Belgian is so-so. The tried and tested Mango Cake and Ube Cake are still the best of Red Ribbon’s, for me.

  • Red Ribbon's S'Mores Cake

    Cakes of the Month - The Cakes That Did Make It To The List
    Cakes To Give and Receive
    Divine Chocolate Cake, by Divine Sweets (Puerto Princesa, Palawan)
    Cakelines, by Jon-Rhiz (Cavite City)
    Dayap Chiffon Cake, by Kiss Cafe (UP Diliman, Quezon City)
    Belgian Chocolate Cake, by a La Creme (City of San Fernando, Pampanga)
    White Chocolate Mousse, by Gateau de Manille (Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City)
    Mango Cake, by Red Ribbon (with outlets all across the country)
    Ube Cake, by Goodies and Sweets (several locations across Metro Manila)
    Mango Charlotte by Sweet Bella (Dasmarinas Village, Makati City)
    Strawberry Cake by Vizco’s (Baguio City)
    Almond Chocolate Fudge Cake by Malen's (Noveleta, Cavite)
    Caramel Cake by Estrel's (Quezon City)
    Marshmallow Cake by Estrel's (Quezon City)

    Other Cake Features
    Pinkie's Fondant Cakes, Pinkie's (Dagupan City)
    Sans Rival, et. al., House of Sans Rival (Dumaguete City)


    Anonymous said...

    Glad you liked Karen's Kitchen coz it became a favorite here in the office since we had their Chocolate Ganache cake last December. BTS is way better than their strawberry cake. I recommend you try their mango cake especially now since it is in season.

    Never buy cakes at Becky's Kitchen! when I say NEVER, I mean NEVER!=P it's too dry and unforgetable. Just go for all their brownies and add some crinkles too.

    Kai said...

    Oh okay, mango cake then. I'm actually impressed with Karen's cakes - very fine, so elegant and lady-like, except for that strawberry shortcake.

    About Becky's cakes, yes, I know that now. But there are a lot of fans of that Swiss cake who swore to heavens. Egads! ;-)

    Red Ribbon Bakeshop said...

    I never taste Tarta de Sta. Teresa,looks yummy.


    i♥pinkc00kies said...

    I love Chocolat's Deep Dark Classic choco cake & Conti's Mango Bravo thoguh :)

    I agree, Estrel's caramel cake is waaaaay better than Costa Brava's. Waste of money sa Costa Brava.

    WInner talaga ube cake in Red Ribbon. I also like their choco-mocha crunch or coffee crunch cake.

    Unknown said...

    I had to comment about the kAHLUA Chocolate cake, can you read the name of the cake again, that is why it's called Kahlua becoz it has alcohol content..... duh!!!

    Kai said...

    Yes I generally avoid cakes with liquor prefixes to them, although in cooking/baking with spirits the alcohol content usually evaporates with the heat.

    Note that I don't have any disparaging word about Attivo's Kahlua Cake - I was just describing my physiological reaction to it. I was saying that I could have included it in the monthly feature, if not for my defective (!) system.

    And that is why the cake is highlighted here in this post - for those who have no problems in ingesting alcohol, this Kahlua cake is awesome.

    Anonymous said...

    Keeping mum on ur bad cake experiences wud hav been the better decision. Tastes and likes are subjective and differ from omperson to person. Giving negative reviews on cakes you or ur family didn't like is unfair to the cakes and cakemakers you judged with your senses.

    Unknown said...

    Oh I love cakes! At gusto kong tikman silang lahat, and uunahin ko yung Strawberry Shortcake, sana ginandahan yung pagdesign para katakam takam. :)

    Mukhang masarap din yung Tarte de Santa Teresa, mabili nga yun para sa birthday ng pamangkin ko, favorite color kasi nya yellow eh.. :)

    May I ask po kung sino sa kanila nag o-offer ng wedding cakes? Thank you in advance! :)