In time for Christmas, we were inspired to round-up a shortlist of the best ensaymadas in town. This sweet treat has come a long way from the humble sugar-sprinkled merienda dish our lolas served to guests. What we have here are the more special ones that are excellent for gift giving (and making an impression), and for sharing with your favorite pastry snobs. Here’s my 15 best in no particular order.
Ensaymada ni Cristina
Cristina Rojas heeded her husband’s challenge to create her own version of an ensaymada they really loved, after they discovered their sentimental favorite has gone way downhill. The result: a made-to-order gourmet ensaymada line called @ensaymadanicristina which launched on Instagram last April. Rojas’ offerings are definitely a notch more premium than the ones from her peers. Must-tries include a real deal old-fashioned “Ensaimada Majorca” made with pork lard, real queso de bola or Dutch Edam cheese, and Victoria’s sugar. There’s also a more modern version combining premium quality Jamon Iberico (Jabugo) with Gran Riserva Manchego cheese. My personal favorite is her special fig newton-inspired “Tartufo & Figs” ensaymada made with Cointreau-infused homemade fig jam, truffled Parmesan and queso de bola.
Text 0917-537.3737 or message IG @ensaymadanicristina or Cristina’s Cakes on Facebook to order
50 Shades of Dough
This Bay Area transport has been attracting a cult following since its Manila lockdown debut August 2020. Dubbed by its loyal patrons as the 50 Shades #crackmada, Trish Lacson’s moist yet fluffy take on her grandmother’s ensaymada is crowned with a delectably rich and buttery, sweetened just right, cream butter topping that doesn’t scrimp on the queso de bola. She also sells a super IG-genic ube flavored ensaymada I’m excited to try.
Follow @50shadesofdough on IG or call 09178640111 to order.
June’s Freshly Baked Goodies
June Taruc’s friends serendipitously jumpstarted her home business last April 2020 when they posted screenshots of the baked goodies ‘ayuda’ or surprise gifts they received from her. This led to a deluge of orders. Current bestselling item is her extra kid-friendly, mild-flavored, cheesy ensaymadas handmade with quality ingredients and lots of love.
Text 0917-817.6137 or message IG @junesfreshlybakedgoodies to order.
Baked by V
Vingle Carlos’ take on the Pinoy ensaymada that she calls “minimadas” are slightly smaller fluffy balls of deliciousness that’s practically drowning in grated queso de bola. They come in three flavors: classic (no filling), salted egg, and bacon or “baconadas.” All three are very good but if you can only have one, go for the bacon-flavored. Her newer ube cheese ensaymada though is the must-try. Think of your favorite ube cheese pandesal in the form of a more substantial ensaymada.
Text 09151197944 or DM @bakedby_v on instagram to order
Solita’s Bakehouse was just about to open its first physical store when the pandemic struck, which led the owners to switch focus to online delivery. Their bestsellers are its ensaymadas. The signature classic variety is not overly sweet nor cake-like despite its generous use of real butter and cheese. There’s also a Dark Chocolate ensaymada very popular with kids—it’s made with Belgian chocolate and high quality cacao. Its newest flavor—topped with a mix of three kinds of mild and sharp cheeses before it is lightly torched— is also gaining a loyal following.
Pasteleria Mallorca’s ensaymada is made from an heirloom recipe from the 1850s. The formula was passed on to the Pilar Quiason Reyes-Gonzalez by her mother-in-law, Rosario Arnedo Gonzalez from Sulipan, Pampanga — a town known for its good cooks and bakers — when Pilar married Augusto Beda Gonzalez. Now that both matriarchs are gone, the kids run the show in Quezon City, offering the same traditional Capampangan ensaymada without any revisions nor adjustments to the heritage recipe—the better to help keep old traditions and techniques alive. Thus, this is an ‘ensaimada’ still made the old-fashioned way complete with pork lard and Victoria’s sugar. Tip: Call by 8AM to reserve a freshly baked large, medium or small ensaimada that’s usually not available for pick-up before 3pm as it takes a long time to make.
Contact 83732789, 83732790, Globe/Viber 09155677455 or Smart 09297714669 to order
Baby Pat Breads and Pastries
Pearl de Guzman’s family has been in the baking business since the 70’s with her mom “Mama Pat” owning Pat’s Bakeshop in Cavite City. In 2010, Pearl continued her mom’s legacy after the latter passed away by opening her own home-based bakery called Baby Pat, introducing a bevy of unique ensaymada flavors she initially developed as “merienda” fare for her kids. Pearl’s business is still going strong, and her ensaymada flavors has ballooned to 17. The best way to explore Baby Pat’s is to try its more popular variants: the classic that goes well with Cavite’s quesillo or carabao’s milk kesong puti, the Ube ensaymada made with Pearl’s homemade Ube halaya, or the perennial bestselling Nutella, my personal favorite.
Text 09177901127 or message IG @mybabypat to order
This ensaymada is a favorite of many. Cunanan’s is a brand that most ensaymada connoisseurs will be able to identify just by looking at its unmarked white box lined with wax paper. The box is filled with an army of uniform-size delectably baked ensaymadas generously topped with finely grated cheese. This famous Valle Verde 2 ensaymada is often used as the baseline for good quality ensaymada.
Contact 0917-674.2780 or 0917-528.2786 to order
Betina Legarda of Betina’s Kitchen discovered her love for baking in the 70s when her husband got assigned to work in Cebu. There, ensaymadas became one of her most requested specialties when hosting gatherings at home. Soon after, many of her guests were asking if they can order, and that’s how her little hobby turned into the almost 40-year-old food business she has today.
Betina likes to keep her ensaymadas as traditional as possible, sticking to the no-shortcut way of doing things—which makes a lot of difference quality wise. She also thinks their popularity may also have something to do with the unapologetic amount of real butter and cheese she uses to make her fluffy babies. My personal favorite is her mini ensaymadas but her regular-sized special classic, ube and queso de bola ensaymadas are also very good and sometimes readily available at her daughter Tina’s restaurant (Bamba Bistro) where there is now a Betina’s Kitchen corner.
Call 85197097 (Bamba Bistro) or 0917-529.4209 to order.
Segovia’s Cakes & Recipes
The Segovia brand is closely associated to their pillow-soft classic mamon, which is considered by many as the best mamon in Manila. Those in the know, however, are aware that there are a lot of other heavenly baked treasures available at Segovia’s bake shop and that includes its ensaymada. Carmen Segovia described her ensaymada as old-fashioned style with a dough that has a distinct taste—from one small bite, you’ll know readily it’s from Segovia’s. It’s the perfect treat for those who love their mamon but is looking for something with more bite. Their cheese ensaymada is a well-balanced brioche with just the right amount of sugar, butter and cheese, making it a not-cloyingly-sweet treat that’s perfect with coffee or tea.
Contact 87252849 or 87274616 or IG @segovias_cakesandrecipes to order
Antonio’s Group of Restaurants
“Ensaymada is a Filipino staple for breakfast that perfectly pairs well with our hot chocolate,” says Patricia Benedicto of Antonio’s Group of Restaurants. “So it was a natural decision for us to offer it on our menu when we opened Breakfast at Antonio’s and the deli store.” Antonio’s offers a traditional-style classic and queso de bola ensaymada—the kind that entails rolling or swirling a brioche dough to form into the mold. Antonio’s prefers an ensaymada that has more heft versus the more cakey, super soft, “mamon” style. A must-try is the Antonio’s queso de bola ensaymada that comes elegantly packed in the brand’s signature white box when you order a minimum of 6 pcs.
To order, contact Breakfast at Antonio’s at 0995-242.6732, IG @breakfastatantonios; or Balay Dako at 0923-726.6290, IG @balaydako
Felicia’s Pastry Shop of Bacolod
This ensaymada from Bacolod is now available in Manila via The Commissariat Manila. This Negros favorite is the creation of the late Sony Lacson Cometa who developed and perfected the recipe in the 70’s and eventually opened Felicia’s Pastry shop with her sisters Fely Lacson Montelibano and Margie Lacson Macasa in the 80’s to feature Sony’s delicacies. These include her ensaymadas made with butter brioche style dough. The technique and style of the mixing is a well-guarded trade secret known only to Marisan Cometa Aguilar, daughter of the late Sony Lacson Cometa. This particular ensaymada has an extra moist, dense and buttery interior that is nothing like the fluffy, cakey kind more common today.
To order, pls visit www.thecommissariatmanila.com and contact 0917-529.4466 for any other concerns connected to your online order.
Wildflour Café + Bakery
Inspired by fond memories of the delicious freshly-baked ensaymadas her grandmother used to serve when entertaining at home, pastry chef Ana Lorenzana-de Ocampo introduced a version of this well-loved Pinoy treat in 2015 at her Wildflour. This ensaymada goes big on the use of a not-so-secret ingredient—French Butter, lots of it!—resulting in a brioche-style ensaymada that really puffs up big. Wildflour makes it even more special by crowning it with a super generous sprinkling of sugar, cheddar and parmesan.
Order by visiting www.wildflourtogo.com, or messaging IG @wildflourtogo or by directly contacting any of the Wildflour branches.
Mary Grace Café & Bakery
This homegrown Filipino company known for its well-loved ensaymadas and cheese rolls has its roots in Christmas bazaars way back in the 90’s. Mary Grace Dimacali started by selling her fruitcakes and eventually her cheese rolls and ensaymadas. She got her biggest break when she was offered to open her first kiosk space in Glorietta 4 and her first café in 2006 at Serendra. Fast forward to 2021 and Mary Grace continues its expansion with the opening of more delivery-friendly kiosks. These kiosk has not only provided a place for people to purchase Mary Grace ensaymadas but also provided the business an opportunity to hire back most of their employees that furloughed earlier due to Covid restrictions.
To celebrate small victories amidst adversity and to also bring much needed Christmas cheer to another holiday season in a pandemic, Mary Grace will be offering a two limited edition ensaymadas: their signature variety gets a cheese upgrade with grated manchego—but one will have Jamon Serrano, and the other Chorizo Iberico Bellota. You can only order these online at www.marygracecafe.com until December 15, 2021 but you can schedule delivery up to December 30. I’ve already tried both special flavors and really enjoyed the one with chorizo — perfect balance of sweet with savory.
Fog City Creamery
It has been eight years since Eddy Gamboa–Liu of Fog City Creamery collaborated with Chona Ayson of Homemade Treasures (one of the best bakers of old-style ensaymadas) to create an “Ensaymada ice cream,” still one of my favorite Fog City flavors. Think brown butter ice cream studded with lots of grated queso de bola and ensaymada bits floating all over. A rich and indulgent treat that captures the perfect balance of sweet and salty. It’s a divine creation that presents the best attributes of an ensaymada in ice cream form. Only PHP 395 per pint.
Contact 0917-883.3344 , or message @fogcitycreamery on IG to order