That’s why this cake is a vamp

7 04 2013
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The “Red Velvet Vixen”, the perfect red velvet cupcake that can only be had at Cupcakes by Sonja, #1 C03 Serendra Piazza, For Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, Metro Manila, Philippines. They’re now on the web at http://www.cupcakesbysonja.com!

IT’S BEEN a decade since I first laid eyes on the countenance of this vamp.  I made the acquaintance through – of all meansFrom Martha’s Kitchen, Martha Stewart’s eponymous cooking show on the FoodNetwork.  Like the show’s host, this new acquaintance was and still is a study in contradiction.  Fluffs of pristine white ensconce a deep dark red inside.  Bad to the core, you can say.  So bad that it’s actually so good.

Red velvet, which traces its roots to the American South, is a stunning red layer cake with delicious cream cheese frosting slathered in between layers and smothered all over the outside.  When made right, it is a cake of a delicate, tender texture with a subtle – almost fleeting – hint of cocoa that marries wonderfully with a straightforward cream cheese frosting that is often never too sweet.

Here in the Lion City, I think that the best rendition of this beloved dessert can be found at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.  I first had it at their BEANStro shop at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands.  Nowadays, I would get my fix at their Changi Airport Café.

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The refrigerated display counter at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Changi Aiport, Singapore. Note to self: Check out that yummy-looking Chicago Cheesecake!

 

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This was the first ever slice of red velvet cake I’ve had here in Singapore, at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf’s BEANStro at the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands.

 

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Who wouldn’t order takeaway if they’d put it that way? I realize I’ve been bringing a sweet little box of dreams with me quite often.

 

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CBTL’s version ia a two-layer. I would love a thicker frosting though. But essentially no complaints.

 

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This cake goes perfect with a cup of good coffee. Between the cake and the mug in the photograph, that’s like the two biggest coffee chains in one frame. Hahaha! Notice the smear of cream cheese frosting on the box’s side? That got some serious licking. Hahaha!

But it was in the Philippines where I really fell in love with this classic confection.  I do swear by Cupcakes by Sonja’s incarnation, which takes a sexier, more alluring approach with its name, the “Red Velvet Vixen”.  On their menu, they list it as a “Traditional Southern Red Velvet cupcake made with Belgian cocoa and topped with luscious cream cheese icing”.  I used to get it every week before the Merlion beckoned.

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On my desk at my former workplace, a box of Cupcakes by Sonja treats is a usual sight.

 

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This was one of the four boxes which I got from the store before leaving for Singapore.

 

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The Red Velvet Vixen is at home sharing a box of six with the likes of Chocolate Surprise and Vanilla Sunshine.

 

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“This is the Traditional Southern Red Velvet cupcake made with Belgian cocoa and topped with luscious cream cheese icing.”

If you’re meeting this cake for the first time, you may find that the moment begs the question, “Why would someone want their cake so red?”  Which to me is like asking Lynn Bracken, Kim Basinger’s Veronica Lake look-alike character in L.A. Confidential why she paints her lips in shockingly bright red and keeps her peek-a-boo locks in platinum blond.

I hear her response, “Because frankly my dear, it is pretty.  Make that, I am pretty.”

I would say that the same holds true for the cake.

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I have to say that Cupcakes by Sonja’s Red Velvet Vixen is pretty with a purpose. They’ve tied up with the Philippine Red Cross in the past for fund drives like this one.

 

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eNTeNG ready to devour a Red Velvet Vixen

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved

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Cupcakes by Paul Frank for Sonja

21 01 2013
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eNTeNG and the Red Velvet Vixen, Cupcakes by Sonja, The Serendra Piazza, circa 2009

I REALIZED that, for some reason, Paul Frank has always had cupcake–themed merchandise every season.  The first time I saw their “Will Work For Cupcakes” T-shirt, I knew exactly who to get it for.

Amidst the frantic festive feeling that defined my few days in the Philippines, I resolved to squeeze a few hours’ worth of trip back on that strip called Bonifacio High Street.  And of course, to pay my favorite cupcakes place a visit.

I did intend to sink my teeth into one of my all-time favorites, the Red Velvet Vixen, but more importantly, I went there to drop off my present for my favorite pastry chef, hailed by a top magazine as the Creative Cupcake Queen, Sonja Ocampo.

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Sonja on the pages of one of the Philippines’s top magazines, September 2010

She was out on her own vacation at the time of my visit.  But the moment she got hold of her Paul Frank loot, she sent me a text message that was just as sweet as her own confections.  See you soon, Sonja!

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I left a note with my present.

 

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One of the send-off presents I received before moving to Singapore was a box of my favorite cupcakes from Cupcakes by Sonja.

 

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Peanut Butter Nutella cupcake, which Sonja made especially for the Virlanie Foundation, and my favorite, the Red Velvet Vixen.

 

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A box of four Peanut Butter Nutella cupcakes

 

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A tight shot of arguably one of the prettiest cupcakes I have ever seen and had. Clearly, no scrimping on the frosting here!

 

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The cream cheese frosting alone on the Red Velvet Vixen can send shivers down my spine. This is that good.

 

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





Chantilly in Milazzo

22 11 2012

I HAVE the utmost respect for purveyors of good food.  I guess that’s why my admiration for Ms. Sonja L. Ocampo of Cupcakes by Sonja hasn’t waned through the years.  And her shop is always on my list of must-go-to places every time I find myself back home in the Philippines.

There is always a noble purpose, a deeper meaning when someone makes edible works of art.  Think Juliette Binoche as Vianne Rocher in that 2000 film Chocolat.

So when my new friend Michele, who just started reading my blog (yey!), told me about his brother and sister-in-law’s confectionery shop in Sicily, I just have to have a look–see.  The place is called Chantilly, the name alone evokes images of deliciousness in either one or all three incarnations – the city in France, the lace it inspired, or the cream, lightly whipped, sweetened just a touch.

We were talking earlier and I wondered if Chantilly delivers worldwide.  I’ve been bitten hard by the images of the gelato, the artisanal chocolate and the wedding cake with cascading roses in blue and white.  Visit their site at http://www.chantilly.sicilia.it/.

Oh my, pastry really does make this world a better place.

Copyright © 2012 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





The Dark Knight Rises – reviews in SMS

24 07 2012

Christian – You may have done it out of obligation. But I sure am so glad you did! (Clip from The Straits Times, Saturday, 02 June 2012)

 

THE DARK Knight Rises is easily the best superhero movie I have ever seen.

Not even front row, last-seat-along-the-aisle seating could take my concentration off of the screen.  Large nachos, a hotdog, and a liter of root beer did attempt to take full control of my synapses.  As did the sporadic manifestations of A-List, name-droppable actors that trigger “I know this guy!” moments.

But an outstanding movie cannot be reduced to the usual trip to watch images on celluloid.  The movie is brilliant, has a heart, and at a running time of 165 minutes, something I won’t mind seeing again.  And probably a third time.

My fave line?  “Do you think I care about what everybody in this room thinks about me?”  See, brilliant!

How my best friend, Batman, feels about the latest installment on his story. Hehe.

 

I’ve been told that my text messages are actually tweets – the “tweet longer” kind! Here’s the first portion of how I felt about the movie. Notice the number of recipients? I actually sent this out in five batches.

 

Part Two

 

Part Three

 

My colleague and friend Shuai got the blog “feel” of my text. Hehe.

 

A reply and a recommendation from Sonja, the original purveyor of really good, dare I say, “haute patisserie” cupcakes in Manila by way of “Cupcakes by Sonja” at the Serendra Piazza at the Bonifacio Global City..

 

The tickets have been reserved!

 

Arguably, one of the best – if not the best – movie experience I’ve had here in the Lion City.

 

Copyright © 2012 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





Nothing like the presents

30 09 2011

Send-Off Gift from Sonja L. Ocampo, Chef and Owner, Cupcakes by Sonja, The Serendra Piazza

WE CAN think of countless good reasons under the sky for giving.  But the sweetest one may be for no reason at all.

Or when it is meant to send someone off well.

A message from Sonja. She wasn't in the store when I stopped by (it was already very late). But she had left instructions to her girls about my box of presents. Sweet =)

——-

“Are you bringing that with you to Singapore?”

My youngest brother asked, nonchalantly, in between taking up spoonfuls of the scrumptious dinner that I made, his eyes set in a fixed glassy stare at the object in question.  I lifted my first-edition Nokia XpressMusic – its original casing cracked near the power-on button and its screen broken on the right side – and brandished it with the response, “But of course!”

A couple of days later, I got a text from him asking me to meet him up at Greenbelt 3 where he was hosting dinner for about twenty architects, engineers and interior designers who worked with him on his latest (successful) project.  I didn’t want to intrude so I asked to be met outside the restaurant.  He got out and handed me a brand new Blackberry Bold 9780.  “Thoughtful,” I immediately said to myself.  Not so much because of the gesture of giving me a gift, but more so because he knew I wouldn’t like the Blackberry Torch.  I’ve never been into sliding phones.

Actually, I’ve never been into gadgets.  With cell phones, as long as I could text and handle calls, I’m perfectly fine.  And I’ve never received one as a gift.  So I was really surprised.

Why am I thinking of this anecdote?  Yesterday marked my third month here in Singapore.  And I couldn’t help but look back to all of the presents I did receive days before I got on that Singapore Airlines flight.

Sometimes it’s nice to reminisce.  Here are some of them.

Brand new Blackberry Bold 9780 from my youngest brother. The other one, the "Curve", was for my other brother.

 

I love that the Blackberry came with a free holster.

 

Sonja makes the best cookies!

 

...And of course, cupcakes! They're the very reason she put up her pioneering store in the Philippines!

 

From Thea, an Onitsuka Tiger bag, "handmade to the highest standards!"

 

And from Batman himself... another Batman!

 

 

Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





My kind of Thai

17 06 2011

At Thai at Silk. Vintage Mickey Mouse T-shirt from Hong Kong, Nixon "Time Teller" in Blue X, a stalk of lemongrass with an orchid.

IRON MAN wouldn’t hear any of my pleas to split the bill with him.  I knew the dinner was quite expensive.  But I knew all too well that in this place, it was always worth every peso forked over.  Or in Iron Man’s case, swiped with his pre-approved plastic.

Yet another one of our “the-best-laid-plan-is-no-plan-at-all” dinners transpired last Wednesday night.  Iron Man and I sort of agreed to foot the bill for the night, but the self-proclaimed “excellent orderer” me decided on the place on my own – Thai at Silk at the Serendra Piazza.

Thai at Silk has always been one of my usuals.  Batman and I used to frequent the place.  And since I knew very well that having amazing company – Mike & Thea, The Flash, and Iron Man – would take care of 50% of an unforgettable meal, I had to make sure that the restaurant of choice could deliver the other 50% – great food.  And in the case of an establishment that brandishes directly the country of origin, the place better deliver authentic food.

The Flash, eNTeNG, Mike, Thea, Iron Man.

And that has struck me as something consistent with Thai at Silk.  One sip of my favorite Tom Yum Kung (Hot & Sour Shrimp Soup) never fails to conjure up images of how people from the Northern part of the country would make this soup with plenty of freshly caught shrimp, then people from the South would add pounded roasted chilies in oil to give the soup its characteristic deep orange color and powerful kick.  This same soup embodies the ideal of Thai cuisine, a perfect balance of all the four tastes – sweet, sour, salty, and spicy.  To this day, I maintain that Thai at Silk makes the best Tom Yum in Manila.

Tom Yum Kung

Around the soup, I built a spread that continued to showcase this balanced play among the four tastes.  The Roti with Choo Chee Kung had wedges of slightly charred roti bread elegantly served alongside a dipping sauce of minced prawn in reduced red curry sauce.  I usually would break the roti by hand, and dip each piece into the sauce.  But Thea recommended doing it one better – by dusting each dipped piece with white sugar before eating.  It was superb.

Roti with Choo Chee Kung

To the uninitiated, the Tod Man Kung (Thai shrimp cakes) would seem to be deep-fried, dried-out breading with a sporadic sprinkling of minced shrimp.  But no.  Each cake is Thailand’s answer to the Italian Veal Milanese!  Tender chunks of fresh shrimp are lightly breaded, formed into cakes, then deep-fried yielding an appetizer that does whet the appetite – tender and juicy on the inside, crunchy on the outside.  On their own or laced with the special sweetish sauce, these are cakes you would fight to have and eat too!

Thai shrimp cakes

For our entrées, we had Pla Lad Prik Sam Ros (deep-fried fillets of fish with tamarind chili sauce), Kaeng Khiaw Waan (green curry chicken), Deep-Fried Black Pepper Soft Shell Crab, Phad Thai (stir-fried flat rice noodles), Pineapple Fried Rice, and steamed fragrant Jasmine Rice.  All of these, save for one revelation, were excellent as always.  I’ve never been the one to ask for soft shell crab.  The reason why it found its way to our selection was the enthusiastic recommendation of our server.

Lad Prik Sam Ros (deep-fried fillets of fish with tamarind chili sauce)

 

Deep-Fried Black Pepper Soft Shell Crab

 

Pineapple fried rice

 

Phad Thai

 

Iced lemongrass tea

Thai at Silk’s Deep-Fried Black Pepper Soft Shell Crab is one huge blue crab cut up into pieces, breaded and deep-fried, before being tossed up in their special black pepper seafood sauce.  It was surprisingly quite tender!  I didn’t have to fight with the “soft shell” with chewing that would be a lot of jaw work.  Before the evening ended, I realized I made a new favorite that would be worth coming back for.

Granted that we feasted on a meal that balanced the sweet and sour with the salty and spicy, you would expect us not to crave for any desserts.  But Cupcakes by Sonja being a few doors down the Piazza, it was inevitable to have desserts.  And this time, on me.

The Flash, Mike, Thea, and Iron Man at Cupcakes by Sonja

 

eNTeNG with the gang!

 

 

Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Peanut Butter Nutella. Eat Pay Love.

16 01 2011

CUPCAKES BY Sonja keeps giving back.  And I keep coming back!  It’s like having your very own Eat Pay Love moment.  Have your cupcake and eat it too.  Pay for it.  And, send ripples of your love to as far as they could go.  I’m sure that’s what happens when part of the proceeds go to a good cause.

Peanut Butter Nutella cupcake by Cupcakes by Sonja

 

A box of four. Actually, one of boxes of four.

That exactly is the case with every purchase of the Peanut Butter Nutella cupcake by Cupcakes by Sonja.  Reminiscent of her “Red Velvet Vixen for Red Cross” campaign in 2009, this new socially responsible drive benefits the Virlanie Foundation – “Giving back the smile to street children”.

And sinking your teeth into one of these peanut butter-nutella confections likewise couldn’t help but put a smile on your face!  I love peanut butter, reason enough for me to explore turning it into a sauce for egg noodles long before I got formally exposed to the wonders of Indonesian satay.  But over the years, I’ve come across peanut butter cookies and cakes that had proven to be wanting.  Even Otis Spunkmeyer’s version of the classic peanut butter chocolate chip cookie wasn’t able to impress me.

I just love the height and the look of that Nutella buttercream frosting.

Cupcakes by Sonja’s Peanut Butter Nutella cupcake puts an end to the dry spell that’s my search for a really satiating peanut butter confection.  It has got to be one of the most visually compelling in Sonja’s wide array of offerings – an imposing tower of swirls of nutella-spiked buttercream frosting sits prettily on top of the peanut butter cake, in which is ensconced a dollop of Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread.  It’s an “architecturally sound” work of edible art as handling and traveling didn’t compromise the integrity of the frosting’s design and structure.

I freed one from the hold of the box-of-four liner and soon the feast for the eyes became a feast for the palate.  The cake is crumbly and moist, my Oneida Silversmiths dessert fork being chased by just enough eager and yummy crumbs as it pierced its way through to the bottom.  The flavor is undeniably peanut buttery – unapologetic in its goodness but at the same time, not cloyingly sweet.  And when savored in the mouth, it is amazing how a small piece of cake – kissed by Nutella, and slathered with buttercream – becomes something big.

And when you get reminded where part of what you paid for for the cupcake goes, you do realize just how big.  Now, doesn’t that bring enjoying dessert to a totally new level of guilt-free?

A pile of treats from Cupcakes by Sonja! My all-time favorite is somewhere in there.

 

Four red velvet vixens in a box!

 

Once bitten...

 

I just had to get these too – Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies!

 

The very scrumptious Peanut Butter Whoopie Pie in a solo box. The "doily" that lined the pie against the box was a nice, elegant touch.

 

Sharing the love – a Peanut Butter Nutella and a Red Velvet Vixen shared with our company's very efficient and outstanding Executive Admin Assistant, Ms. Deng.

 

Cupcakes by Sonja menu

 

My excitement over the Peanut Butter Nutella cupcake makes it to a card.

 

Every purchase of the Peanut Butter Nutella cupcakes benefits a good cause.

 

Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.