Connecting Foodies

Estrel’s old-fashioned caramel cake

Cook-Magazine-July-2008---1_ManilaJuly, 2008 - By: Edgar O. Cruz

This column was supposed to sum up the best cake in the metro: my usual survey of tinseltown’s demanding palates, but stars and other showbiz types kept picking Estrel’s Caramel Cake as their favorite, that I had to drop the rest and declare this showbiz favorite the hands-down winner. And I can back this up with informal testimonies!

It is Megastar Sharon Cuneta’s favorite cake. Kris Aquino mentioned it in her K magazine sometime back. “I’m a suki!” exclaim a ABS-CBN News and Public Affairs personality who begged not to be identified as she is prohibited to do endorsements. Foodie Doreen Fernandez’s wedding cake was made by Estrel’s, giving it the reputation of being THE foodie’s cake. Food blogger Wyatt Belmonte recalls giving it to a friend some four years ago, which the recipient had yet to forget. For photographer Condrad Delfino, it’s the cake he sees at every posh party he shoots. The staff of Princesa ng Banyera gifted Ara Mina with Estrel’s for her last birthday, with the actress raving, “It’s an extraordinary cake!.”  


According to Optical Media Board Chair Edu Manzano, his office serves it to guests, and he notices that they all go out smiling. Best friends, comedienne Eugene Domingo and director Andoy Ranoy, had a squasable as to who would bring Estrel’s to his party. She cannot recall how it was settled, but she explains Estrel’s has become a MUST in parties. She adds, “In a potluck, no one will disagree.” Comedian Roden Araneta swears it’s the guaranteed pleaser among his friends. Cinema One and Velvet channel head Ronald Arguelles says tongue-in-cheek,” Mataray sila. You just can’t go to the store and get your cake. You need to order first.” But he owns up that he keeps coming back anyway.

Cook-Magazine-July-2008---2_ManilaIts easy to understand why these entertainment are gooey for the confection. The cake is eye-candy, tasty, and the sweetness is just right, all the good qualities many people desire in cakes. Made of oil-rich chiffon cake, it has a light texture. It’s a caramel cake due to the smooth and spreadable light-brown caramel/custard icing with its distinct burnt sugar aroma. Thickness is just right, neither too thin nor gloopy. The pastel-colored butter rose blossoms just melt in the mouth, and not all cloying. The dainty lattice that boarders the edges, sides and top are a nice finish touch. The cake is symphony of tastes and texture.

To many, Estrel’s has turned out to be more than a cake to behold but rather a delicious sin. ABS-CBN Star Magic Publicity Manager Rikka Dylim recalls, “We’ve always had Estrel’s Caramel Cake at home in every occasion ever since I can recall. That’s because Tita Estrella, where the name came from, was a best friend of my tita. Honestly, I took her cake for granted as child, even to the point I preferred the commercial ones. Now its back and famed. It’s like comfort food for me. It brings back all happy childhood memories.”

To entertainment journalist/publicist Emy Buan, Estrel’s reminds her of a toss to womanhood. She got her three-tier coming out party cake from Estrel’s.

HOOKED

Cook-Magazine-July-2008---3_Manila

I tasted Estrel’s Caramel Cake once at a Star Magic birthday bash and I was hooked. I can’t really partake of it muchas I’m sugar—troubled, but I can write about it. But the emotional effect is so strong I could still vividly recall the image. Everything is to die for: decoration, aroma, mouth feel and the taste. I love it because it is far from being commercial; it recalls old fashioned cakes bakers used to display in their escaparate during the ‘60s.Once I used to ogle at when I was a kid, but these days Estrel’s cakes look more professionally done.


Estrel’s was a nameless cake source operating on Lepanto St. in Quiapo when it started operations after the Japanese occupation. The name came from Estrella, the single woman who started the cake shop. She wanted it to be small private operation, so she did not bother to put up a proper cake shop. This allowed her to produce a product of consistent quality that the cake gained the reputation of being the best cake of the post-war period. It thrived on this reputation until she passed away and the operation closed down.

Estrels_Caramel_Cake_GeburtstagGina, Joy and Mia Navarro, Estrel’s nieces, decided to scale-up operations a few years ago. The recipe is tightly guarded family secret and naturally, only family can replicate it. According to Gina, they have been involved with Estrel’s operation since they were kids. They feel they have been part of the operations ever since. Under their direction, the caramel cake gained super status, all the while maintaining a small and specialized operation to maintain high product quality. So high that they only recommend a shelf life with a maximum of two days, not like commercial cakes that can stay in their shelves for what seems like weeks.

Being old fashioned is Estrel’s cakes main selling point. People seem to be attracted to the retro design, it looks like the sort of cake your mother or favorite cake shop of yore used to make. This quaintness is definitely a charm. Estrel’s may not have marketing savvy of corporate cake makers, but its limited clientele, mainly through word of mouth, are satisfied. They’re ready to drive great distance for a taste of this delicious sin. An all-or no-occasion cake, Estrel’s caramel Cake is perhaps best given out on special occasion as it is in every way a special cake.

HANDLING

Cook-Magazine-July-2008---4_Manila

Only the eight-inch cake for P500 at Estrel’s all the time. Even this one is not a sure thing, unless, of course the customer reserves one in advance. Walk-in regular and new customers have the habit of finding the product shelves a cake in advance. For the 10-inch cake (P800), you must order it a day before. For bigger cakes for birthdays, wedding and debut parties, give it a week.

The decoration on Estrel’s Caramel Cakes are fragile. They don’t travel very well. I finally realized my ambition to buy it recently. Ordering the 10-inch type a day before, it was ready for pick-up in the light green collapsible box. Placed on a shelf in the airconditioned store together with the day’s stock and other special orders, I rushed it to a cab and held on to it as if my life was at stake. After a half hour of uneventful travel, it reached the special person it was meant for. What happened? It was intact but partially melted. It’s good the receiver appreciated the partially melted cake, saved perhaps by her awareness of Estrel’s reputation.


According to Gina , balikbayan customers manage to take back the caramel cake back home by placing them in deep Tupperware containers. Instead of the rose blossoms, they decorate it with the sampaguita flowers. The décors tend to be less high than the roses, so they tend to hold better. She adds, ”Some of my fiends have frozen and microwaved them by the slice without change in quality.”

Estrel’s Caramel Cake is available at Estrel’s cake store at 54 Scout Tobias St., cor. Scout Limbaga, Barangay Laging Handa, Quezon City.
Contact Estrel’s by landline (372-2965 or 371-7938) from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p. m, Mondays to Saturdays and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.