Of all the desserts, cake is the most ingrained word in the English language—perhaps because it is present in celebrations and special occasions. Its presence alone invokes a festive mood.
Just consider idioms. When something is easy, you say it’s a piece of cake. Something that makes a good situation even better is called the icing on the cake. When you want to express that you can’t have something both ways, you say “you can’t have your cake and eat it too.”
So it isn’t a surprise that even a global pandemic can’t stop cake from being a part of our lives. Here, two different brands present cake in their own ways to prove that a moment can always be made special with this confection.
Newly opened only three months ago, Dylan Patisserie is a European-style pastry shop along Jupiter Street, Makati City that looks to give consumers a more sophisticated taste of cake.
“We were delayed in opening a year and a half because of the situation of the world but we somehow managed to open during the pandemic,” says general manager Nikola Ivanov.
“Filipinos are foodies and love desserts so we thought that the Philippines would be a great market for our product. Our cakes are balanced in flavors and aren’t too sweet so you can taste every layer of flavor.”
Nikola believes that too much sweetness can ruin a dessert. That is, too much sugar overpowers other flavors you’re meant to enjoy.
This stamp isn’t more evident than in Dylan Patisserie’s De Hazelnut Praline. “Our signature cake has vanilla, milk chocolate, and hazelnut. The idea is to feel all these flavors. So the first layer would be vanilla because vanilla is the most neutral flavor. After that you feel the milk chocolate and then get a taste of the hazelnut cake. At the bottom you have a crispy praline so it has crunchiness for texture. Texture is important as well.”
But these sublime creations are luxurious in scope, thanks to ingredients that frankly take you on a global journey: French butter and cream, Belgian chocolate, and American flour.
“We do not use gelatin [for our cheesecake] simply because gelatin makes the cake chewier and you don’t have the proper experience of eating cheesecake. Cheesecake should be creamy and fluffy. It should melt in your mouth,” Nikola explains.
“The most important thing when buying a cake and taking it home is that you should not eat it straight out of the chiller. It needs to soften. Leave it outside until it reaches room temperature and your experience and taste will change,” says Nikola Ivanov.
Nikola also has a tip for those who order cakes: “The most important thing when buying a cake and taking it home is that you should not eat it straight out of the chiller. It needs to soften. Leave it outside until it reaches room temperature and your experience and taste will change.
“For instance, chocolate in room temperature versus chocolate straight from the chiller tastes 10 times better. The chiller and cold freezes all the flavors and changes its texture. So if you experience it at room temperature, you really get to taste all the flavors.”
Since many people gift cakes to others, Nikola believes that packaging needs to be presentable as well. “Packaging is something you present to people so you feel proud of your present.”
Dylan Patisserie also offers single servings of their cakes in the form of French pastries. Instead of selling cake by the slice, they made each flavor into a distinct pastry with its own unique shape.
Rich and Maxine Sanz had big plans right before the pandemic. Rich—CEO and founder of FoodAsia Group, which includes brands like Bibingkinitan, Lava Cheese Tarts, and Magnum Cafe—wanted to set up an F&B company in Shanghai where his then-girlfriend Maxine was working.
But things didn’t quite work out the way they wanted to.
“In February 2020, the pandemic broke out while I was here in Manila for Chinese New Year and I couldn’t go back to Shanghai. This was when we had to cancel our plans in China and refocus in Manila,” says Maxine.
“At the same time, my parents wanted to let go of the bakery portion of their catering business, so I had a lightbulb moment. Instead of closing it down, I thought of creating a new bakery brand together with Rich and combining his experience in building startup brands and my corporate marketing experience.”
By October 2020, Butternut Bakery was born and Rich and Maxine managed to open two stores in two weeks—one at SM Mega Fashion Hall and one at SM City North Edsa. Today, the brand has six stores around Metro Manila.
“To maximize our retail stores and add another layer of revenue source, we made sure that our stores were hybrid, ready to serve both physical walk-in customers plus online orders,” says Rich Sanz.
Known for their fun marketing campaigns and cakes with a homemade feel, Butternut Bakery quickly found a following. To protect this new customer base, the couple wanted to make sure that their operations wouldn’t be crippled by another lockdown.
“To maximize our retail stores and add another layer of revenue source, we made sure that our stores were hybrid, ready to serve both physical walk-in customers plus online orders. We had all our channels open from our e-commerce website, GrabFood, Facebook, Instagram, and Viber,” says Rich.
Although they have hit the sweet spot with their current product lineup, it’s the seasonal cakes that have left long-lasting and thrilling effects on customers.
“Despite our clear direction of expanding and scaling the brand, the limited edition cakes became our personal compromise into keeping ourselves and hopefully our loyal fanbase excited. It’s definitely helped with our growth by being able to offer something new to existing clients. It has also helped us acquire new clients who get intrigued by our seasonal cakes,” Maxine says.
A recent seasonal cake they launched is the La La Leche Flan cake, a chiffon cake layered with a tangy dayap curd embraced in Chantilly cream, topped with a generous serving of smooth leche flan, and finished with candied dayap slices and 24k gold flakes.
It had all the makings of an Instagrammable hit, but more importantly it allowed the brand to play and learn. “The La La Leche Flan cake was a huge leap of faith because as much as we loved the product ourselves, we didn’t know how the market would respond to it. Thankfully, it was very well received. With all of our seasonal cakes we have to limit the complexity of our product and make sure that it’s viable for the scale of our operations,” explains Rich.
While classics like Mocha Chiffon with French Buttercream and the Moistest Carrot Cake Ever have become bestsellers, the brand’s love for innovation continues to knock out customer expectations as seen in their 5 Layer OG Brazo de Mercedes. It’s a Brazo de Mercedes in cake form with five pillowy layers of meringue with creamy vanilla-kissed yema filling.
“Despite our growing number of cakes, each is lovingly handmade by our team. Each delicate flower on top of our mocha chiffon cake is hand-piped to perfection. We don’t cut corners and take shortcuts, whether it’s ingredients or automated machines,” says Maxine.
The cake is a catalyst of any celebration. As Julia Child once famously declared, “A party without cake is just a meeting.”
The brand also came up with smaller cakes, cheekily named Baby Cakes, as an intimate yet ambitious marketing method to virtually offer baby steps to those who may not want to commit to an entire cake. “The Baby Cakes have definitely taken on a life of their own and have become a part of our clients’ lives in many ways.”
As Filipinos gather around the table this holiday season, the cake is easily the single most defining symbol of the occasion. And one thing is for sure: The cake is a catalyst of any celebration. As Julia Child once famously declared, “A party without cake is just a meeting.”