Growing up around the corner of a Chinese bakery, I often took the Chinese cake for-granted. After all, one was always available at family get-togethers to mark the completion of a 7-course meal or at school, courtesy of my mother, to remind my classmates that I was finally ___ years old. Stabbing my fork into the spongier, less-cloying version of the “American” cake, I would dream of eating its brethren-of-the-West with sugary icing, Barney cake transfers, and sometimes, ice cream sandwiched mid-cake. Instead, I was eating air, or some kind of cloud frosted with buttercream.
Five years ago, I took a sabbatical from eating Chinese cake. Then, a year later, I tasted a fluffy layered taro cake for the first time and actually enjoyed every component. Another year passed and my cousin served Vietnamese cake (close relative of the Chinese version) at her wedding. Chocolate sponge cake with a light vanilla buttercream filling and fresh strawberries–a dying flame rekindled! I fell in love again–no, maybe for the first time. Since then, anything with superfluous amounts of butter, sugar, and cream just seems crude.
Let’s chat about the Filipino cakes a la Red Ribbon and Goldilocks. My intro to Filipino cakes was belated, thank God, because I would have been SO rotund had I known about them early in life. These Pacific Island treats meld the best things about the Chinese and American cakes together. Thanks to my roommate Alia, I got a chance to try the mango-flavored version from renowned Filipino bakery, Red Ribbon, which was layers of spongy cake and shredded mango-infused whipped icing. The delicate layers contrasted nicely with the sharp, tropical flavors of the fruit. Each bite tasted decadent but went down my belly like a glass of milk. Smooth- so, so, smooth.
Next on my list: Ube cake. Visually intense purple cake made from ube aka taro. Quite popular with Filipino cake veterans. Take a look at this photo I pulled from Flickr…
Best Chinese bakery in SGV:
708 E Las Tunas Dr # C, San Gabriel – (626) 451-0101
Best Filipino bakery in LA:
Red Ribbon Bake Shop
138 S. Vermont Ave, Los Angeles – (213) 380-0864