Taste Test: the Pepper.ph Crepe Cake CombatNovember 7, 2016
Translated, in literal terms, as “a thousand sheets” (though more realistically, around 20), Mille crêpes—Crepe Cakes—never fail to impress. While they’ve been around for quite some time, they recently appear to be making quite a comeback. And for good reason, mind you. The appeal is twofold—one of timeless elegance (as might be the case with most things French); but also of visual enticement, its cross section striped with layer upon layer of contrasting hues. Though essentially just stacks of crepe and cream—either the pure whipped stuff or some form of pastry cream—it’s the bare-bones simplicity that demands attention to detail. With little to hide behind, good ingredients matter here—but do it right and you get a dessert that brings the best of both worlds: decadence in a feather-light, sophisticated package.
As crepe-crazed chaps ourselves, we take on the arduous (yet honorable) task of comparing some of the more popular crepe cakes in the metro, pitting against each other their most basic offerings. Deconstructing each cake by its crepe, its filling, and how it fares altogether, we consider taste, texture, and crepe-to-cream synchronization—in hopes of finding the twenty-layered slice of perfect harmony.
Paper Moon – Mille Crepe
One of the newer, most hyped kids on the block—with cakes by the Emy Wada of New York’s highly acclaimed Lady M Cake Boutique—and the most expensive of the lot, we had pretty high expectations from Paper Moon. We will say this: it’s no wallflower. Coming in at the more indulgent end of the spectrum, it successfully distinguishes itself while staying within the realm of understated flavors. The crepes, though thicker than expected, comes soft and puffy, with a hint of what seems to be the flavor of egg yolks. The cream, too, is a silent ode to luxury: pure, unadulterated dairy goodness that’s barely sweet, with little to no other flavors to distract, it comes generous – very generous – and ends on a decidedly fatty note. While the supposedly ‘bruleed’ top was disappointingly pale, it does lend a subtle caramelized depth that rounds out the other flavors without taking center stage. Everything comes together like a multi-layered mousse; there’s a good amount of push-and-pull balance going on in here.
Still, we have mixed feelings on the cake as a whole—not because it’s bad by any means, but because it’s not the most neutral-tasting one of the bunch and, well, we prefer our crepe cakes lighter and a bit less assertive.
Dessert du Jour – Vanilla Gateau de Crepe
A favorite among the metro’s well-heeled, this immediately strikes us as the most elegant-looking of the bunch. Their take has some of the finest crepes around—wispy, melt-in-the-mouth feathers with a soft pliability, consistent in texture across its diameter. Its filling, too, is notably light, seemingly whipped to an airiness that mirrors the crepes’ fluff.
Flavor-wise, the crepes have a prominent egginess to them, which just about borders on omelette-like; while the cream carries a subdued buttery note that’s pleasant, alright, but a bit nondescript. Still, they integrate quite smoothly, and the combination evokes memories of the buttercream-frosted cakes of our youth. It’s worth mentioning the ingenious addition of salt to even out the sweet, making it all that much harder to resist a second helping.
Price: 650 PHP/5” round; 1000 PHP/9”round; 1300 PHP/12” round
Address: Ecology Village, Makati
Contact: 405 2580 / 0917 811 6272 / 0917 803 6272
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Crepe Amelie – Madagascar Vanilla Crepe Cake
We were pleasantly surprised by this highly underrated gem. True to its name, it captivates with a strong note of creamy, dreamy vanilla, and a filling replete with speckles of vanilla bean seeds – it’s just like eating ice cream! This, of course, is more of a personal bias on our part—we all love vanilla to begin with—but kudos to them for letting the typically under-appreciated flavor shine in its own right.
Granted, the texture wasn’t the best—with relatively thicker, denser crepes that feel more elastic than delicate, and cream that finishes with an vague, waxy feeling in the mouth. But we’re probably nitpicking—it’s not all that noticeable unless you’re tasting different crepe cakes side-by-side, which still makes this cake a strong contender for us.
Price: 170 PHP per slice
Address: A. Venue Mall, Poblacion, Makati /Le Grand Condominium, 130 Valero, Makati
Contact: 750 9946 / 750 9948 (A.Venue Branch) / 751 4038 (Salcedo Branch)
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Apartment 1B – Low Sugar Gateau de Crepe
Apartment 1B’s was surprising, to say the least: a complete and utter travesty, with a flavor that’s just way off. Not only was it ironically the sweetest of our contenders (despite its ‘low-sugar’ label)—it tasted as if it had spent a week in the freezer, absorbing all the other flavors in the process. The texture adds insult to injury—stiff, gummy sheets of crepe, practically glued together to form a dense, solid clump. So imagine our surprise learning that this sad contraption, in all its plain awfulness, is in fact also sourced from Dessert du Jour—the low-sugar variant of their product line, anyway. Nevertheless, we’re pretty sure we were served an old slice.
A return trip one week later yielded a slice that wasn’t nearly as stiff, but was still dried-out and simply felt stale. We’ll chalk it up to bad storage and being kept past their prime, but still. It’s not exactly cheap. It’s only fair to expect good quality eats—especially from a dining place that has banked on consistency for close to a decade now. Crepe cakes, unlike wine (and arguably, unlike people), definitely don’t get better with age.
La Creperie – French Vanilla Mille Crepes Cake
Available only at the Salcedo branch, La Creperie’s Mille Crepes Cake was close—so close. But let’s start from the beginning—or from the bottom, going up, because its inner layers are just immaculate: light, billowy pastry cream that practically melds and becomes one with into the ultra-delicate crepes. The texture, too, is outstanding, similar to Paper Moon’s but a touch less cloying. Each forkful melts just flawlessly in the mouth, enrobing the tongue in silky, seductive, surprisingly potent vanilla.
The deal breaker for us though, is the bruleed top. It sounds delicious in theory, seemingly inspired by Lady M’s—but, as executed by the homegrown creperie, is just way too bitter and way too burnt, that it far overpowers the delicate layers underneath. There’s a way to pull off a bruleed layer without it completely stealing the spotlight—e.g., see Paper Moon’s. Of course, we’re judging this by virtue of its being a ‘french vanilla’ crepe cake (as it does in fact claim to be); we’d be far more accepting if they instead pegged this as a burnt-sugar cake – or something along those lines—because for what it is, it is quite good.
Price: 150 PHP per slice
Address: V Corporate Center, 125 L. P. Leviste Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City
Contact: 0942 582 4946 / 556 8894
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As we’ve seen, there are a multitude of ways to interpret the basics. ‘Plain’ shouldn’t entail that they all be the same, and it’s certainly no excuse to be boring or mediocre. It’s in these bare basics, as a matter of fact, that we get to see their true expertise – their ability to impress, sans unnecessary bells and whistles.
It was arguably too ambitious of us to expect absolute perfection from just one contender, but there are clear champions for each category. Crepe Amelie won us over flavor-wise for their definitive note of vanilla; La Creperie aces our ideal, soft-and-supple texture; and both Desserts du Jour and Paper Moon nail harmony between crepe and filling, though on opposite ends of the light-to-rich spectrum. (Apartment 1B’s, on the other hand, is a different matter altogether. But we digress.) Ultimately, each and every crepe cake here shines in its own right, proving simplicity can really go a long way.