PasteleriaManila.com is the latest iteration of Ces Lopez’s beautiful baking venture that started in 2009.
In truth, Ms. Lopez is not a stranger to baking. In her childhood, she woke up to the fragrant smell of freshly-baked bread and the indelible sights and sounds of the family-owned bakery–clanging oven doors, sacks of flour, giant tubs of shortening, and the like. She also learned vicariously from Chef Paolo Lopez, a brother who was engaged in product development with several successful food chains like the French Baker and Starbucks.
As a licensed nurse and former flight stewardess, Ces is obviously a people-person whose talents and creativity eventually turned to baking. To arm herself with the appropriate skills and right credentials, she completed an intensive baking and pastry course.
Last February 2009, she helped her son and his high school classmates raise money for charity through the sale of baked treats.
She thought: what could be irresistible as well as inexpensive and easy to eat?
For this first creative effort, Ces innovated on her favorite pastry–brazo de mercedes–a traditional Spanish-influenced dessert in the Philippines. Brazo de mercedes is light fluffy meringue wrapped around sweet eggy custard usually prepared as a foot-long pastry roll. She decided to render the dessert as brazo bars–individualized servings in wax-paper cups. The better way is to think of them as Brazo sandwiches with the meringue as the buns (shaped like rectangular bars) and the custard as filling or palaman.
What started as a fund-raising project for her son’s high school, the brazo bars soon evolved as a modern baking concept and a viable business opportunity. Compared to the traditional brazo de mercedes, the custard in Ces’ brazo bars is creamier, lighter, and with very fine texture and consistency. Aside from the classic egg custard filling, she also offered other flavors and fillings such as mango, strawberry, walnut, and toasted coconut. These collective innovations were so successful that her brazo bars won the top spot at Anton Diaz’ Ultimate Taste Test 2.0 in September 2009. The commendations did not stop there. After barely two months, Ces’ chocolate chip cookies similarly won the top award at the Ultimate Taste Test 3.0 in November 2009.
With the brazo bars as the flagship offering, Ces opened a store cafe in Alabang Town Center in July 2009. Unfortunately, the store had to close by year’s end as it was crippled by the devastating typhoon Ondoy as well as personal family problems. After the store’s closure, she decided to continue as a home-based venture that sold her baked creations through week-end bazaars, night markets and social media outlets. Through the years, Ces continued to improve and broaden the range of her baked products. In early 2017, she decided to innovate on broas, another traditional Filipino pastry. The traditional broas is the local version of ladyfingers–light, whitish-yellow, egg-based biscuits that looked like, you guessed it, a lady’s precious fingers. In her rendition, Ces decided to create another sandwich-like pastry similar to her earlier brazo bar concept. Two finger-wide broas sticks function as the opposing ‘buns’ enclosing a sweet, flavored filling. At present, her broas sticks come in three flavors: red velvet (with cream cheese filling), ube (with filling made using the Good Shepherd Convent’s famous ube jam), and dulce de leche (with caramelized condensed milk filling).
The pronounced turn to caramel cakes in 2019-20 offered countless possibilities and opportunities for originality, artistic expression, creativity, and product innovation. Pasteleria Manila pioneered the production and presentation of very affordable caramel cakes in trays. For one, the flat and wide surface of the caramel cake, irrespective of size and shape, presented a new canvas for apt and eloquent messaging. Dedications and messages—sometimes short, sometimes kilometric and letter-like that covered the entire cake’s surface, sometimes witty or naughty, sometimes profound or sacrosanct—were an early favorite of patrons and customers and became a unique selling point. That these messages were free of charge was another winning move. The incorporation of edible portraits, K-pop personalities, and cartoon characters also became a popular means to personalize the caramel cakes. Calendars soon became graphic reminders of the days or dates associated with the most important highlights of our customers’ lives—birthdays, anniversaries, promotions and what have you.
Caramel cakes are also new openings to move away from usually-trodden paths and add new product value. With the ample ‘canvas’ space available, a cake can incorporate a particular floral design such as cherry blossoms together with either a calendar or an edible portrait. And the fun does not stop there! Exuberant customers may also choose novel add-ons such as caramel- or chocolate-covered strawberries, salted pretzels, Ferrero Rocher, and peanut butter chips. As conceived, PasteleriaManila.com is an online store that seeks to raise awareness and broaden the market for Ces’ baked creations. It offers a modern and direct means to purchase and enjoy baked products through varying means of payment and access. Through PasteleriaManila.com, she promises an enduring commitment to offer enjoyable, high-quality, and innovative baked products to as many discerning customers as possible. That commitment is being tested and proven by the on-going COVID-19 pandemic together with consequent restrictions. Almost without skipping a beat, Pasteleria Manila soldiers on and continues to be a friendly source of tasty treats for all.