It’s the ‘Coachella for bakers’—and the book yields bewildering flavors and stunners
Best Desserts” just keeps getting bigger and better.
What originally appeared in Inquirer Lifestyle as listings of the best sweet treats have evolved into the series of books by Lifestyle staffer Vangie Baga-Reyes and the highly anticipated “Best Desserts” events at SM Aura.
“Five years ago, if someone told us that our ‘Best Desserts’ would run to its fifth year, we would have been incredulous,” wrote Inquirer Lifestyle editor Thelma Sioson San Juan in the foreword of Inquirer’s Lifestyle’s “Best Desserts 5.”
This fifth edition of the book is the biggest yet. Baga-Reyes produced a list of over 120 concoctions from 90-plus dessert makers. And all these treats were available for tasting at the “Best Desserts” 5 event held June 3 at SMX Convention Center at SM Aura Premier. It was co-presented with Goldilocks and Petron Gasul.
“We started small, but the response was overwhelming, and it has grown through the years,” said Millie Dizon, SM’s senior vice president for marketing and communications. “We were overwhelmed by the crowd that stayed on even after the event. This has been the biggest and the best so far.”
The events have been the result of a partnership between SM and Inquirer. “We’ve always had a close relationship with Inquirer,” said Dizon.
“The relationship goes back to the time Mr. Sy was starting out and Mr. Rufino, Ms Marixi’s father, believed in him and gave him several breaks—and even was his ninong in the wedding. I have also worked closely with Ms Thelma on several projects, which have been spontaneous but surprisingly successful. ‘Best Desserts’ was one of those we discussed casually over lunch… I thought more people should know more about the book and suggested that this be held in the mall. Aura was new then and the timing was perfect.”
Over 2,500 dessert lovers attended this year’s event. “It was a fantastic turnout. We’re so happy that we’re able to discover more dessert makers and we’re proud,” said Inquirer CEO and president Sandy Prieto-Romualdez.
A portion of the proceeds from the event will be donated to Gota De Leche Foundation which has been the beneficiary of “Best Desserts” for the past several years.
(A book purchase allowed entry for two.)
“It is through the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the chefs’ generosity and creations that we are able to find the strength in pursuing our duty to serve,” said Gota De Leche’s Paolo Salvador Grijalvo.
The book featured a mix of chefs, home bakers, restaurant owners, hotel professionals, who were honored in the event. Some came from as far as Bataan, Bacolod, Cebu and Zamboanga.
A number of the bakers, like Dedet dela Fuente of Pepita’s Kitchen, have been featured in previous editions of the book. This time, Dela Fuente’s Halo-Halong Bilo-Bilo made the cut. “It’s a Filipino dessert that the entire universe will enjoy eating,” she said.
Her spread included her “Best Desserts” entries of previous years. “I’m so blessed and thankful,” she said. “What I want to tell the people is that Filipino desserts can be compared to or are even better than American or European desserts. Be proud of our desserts.”
Actress Maricar Reyes-Poon is a “Best Desserts” first-timer. Her Chocolate Cake is featured in the book. “It feels really good,” she said. “My chocolate cake is a classic with a little twist. I made it for two reasons. One, I love chocolate. Second, I want people to feel special. Now, with social media, people are always comparing themselves to others. ‘Oh, I’m not traveling, I’m not like this, I’m not like that…’ In a small way, I want our cake to be able to communicate that everyone is special. That’s what we try to do. If you give our cake to someone, they’ll feel loved. And then when you eat it, you’ll feel nice also.”
Social media influencer Liz Uy’s Mood Chocolate Chip Cookie is in “Best Desserts 5,” too. “I was very very surprised because I’m new in the business and their standards are really high. For them to include me, it’s such an honor,” she said. “It’s the Coachella for bakers!”
It was Uy’s son Xavi who inspired her to start baking. “I really just wanted to bake something for him. When he grows up, I want all his friends to come over and I want him to be proud of something I make, whether it’s this or spaghetti. I want his friends to be like, ‘Did your mom make cookies?’ Parang may lure for them to come over. It started there.”
Uy would send cookies to friends and bring them to shoots and they were such a hit that she decided to start selling them. At the event, she launched her new flavors Oatmeal Cranberry and Double Chocolate and she also introduced chocolate chip cookies in a smaller size called Nibbles.
Fabulous Baker Boboy’s Tres Leches is in the book. “It’s ultra-light, it’s airy, it tastes elegant. It has no butter. The soaking itself is decadent. The sweetness is balanced by the tartness of the berries,” said Boboy Consunji.
Chef Miko Aspiras is a “Best Desserts” regular. This time, he has two cakes from The Workshop at The Grid: Bibingka Inspiration and Strawberry Inspiration. “For Strawberry Inspiration, the ganache is made of strawberry-flavored chocolate from Valrhona and instead of using cream, we use strawberry puree. Then I put the flavors of bibingka in an entremet (multi-layered mousse-based cake). I want to elevate flavors that we already enjoy,” he said.
Agapita and Greggie Mercado of Aging’s Food Delight have two creations in “Best Desserts 5”: Cutechinta, their take on kutsinta, and Choco Butternut Cake, inspired by their favorite Dunkin’ Donut. “It’s a family favorite so I made our different version,” said Greggie Mercado.
“Best Desserts” has become a family affair for many of the bakers. It’s a multigenerational experience, with proud and supportive grandparents, parents and kids in the event.
Chef Carol Tentativa Lavin, whose Carol Cake and Sapin-Sapin Cheesecake are in the book, said, “My business used to be called Chef Carol Patisserie but my five kids are involved now so I changed it to Lavin Homebaked Traditions. They were the ones setting up here today,” she said.
While “Best Desserts” has room for the well-loved classics, it is also a celebration of innovation and creativity in the world of desserts.
Krookies from Flavors at Holiday Inn and Suites Makati, a croissant-cookie hybrid, are an example. “I combined croissant and cookies and added a filling inside. Chocolate was the first flavor I created but my favorite is vanilla. We also have caramel,” chef Michael Sison said.
Even people on a diet had something to enjoy at “Best Desserts.” There were Paleo Almond-Lemon Chip Cookies by Jamie Lao of Paleovore, and Keto Lava Cake from Café Maxims. “The Keto Lava Cake was supposed to be available for just one month but it sold so well it’s now part of our permanent menu,” said chef Michael Lopez.
Goto Monster’s Jean Hill is thrilled that her Puto Bumbong Waffle is not just in the book but also on its cover. Her delicious leche flan ice cream was in “Best Desserts 3.”
“I just want to keep pushing the envelope and make something different but familiar. We have a lot of ingredients in the Philippines that we should use,” she said.
San Juan said, “‘Best Desserts’ is a reflection of how better the Filipino is at being an entrepreneur and a creative artist in the kitchen. This project of Inquirer is actually to make us feel what’s good and sweet about the Filipino.”
“Best Desserts 5” was a feast for the eyes and the palate. “Look around. These desserts prove one thing: that we eat with our eyes first,” Baga-Reyes said. “Visually stunning desserts are the trend now. We always say that dessert is the best part of the meal and we’re lucky that the best of the best are with us every year.”
Inquirer Lifestyle’s ”Best Desserts 5” will be available at National Book Store beginning next week.