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Strawberry treats for Valentine’s Day

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PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF BRITANNICA.COM

Strawberries! They are a fruit closely associated with love and Valentine’s Day. After all, strawberries are beautifully red, sweet, juicy, fragrant and heart-shaped; and they are bountiful during the love month of February. These delicious little morsels have, through the years, proven to be very versatile since they go very well with a host of ingredients and therefore make very good cakes, pies, pastries, breads, ice cream, sherbets, candies and other desserts. They go best with chocolate, nuts, milk and vanilla cream — and they look good with almost anything.

No wonder a lot of pastry chefs love to work with strawberries, especially when it comes to sweet treats they are whipping up for Valentine’s Day. The color, the shape, the sweetness… Perfect for the occasion.

Here are three exquisite strawberry treats that you can surprise your loved ones with on Valentine’s Day. They are guaranteed to please even the most discriminating palate. Not just eye candy, they are really good.

Café Ysabel’s strawberry shortcake
The dessert that Café Ysabel has been famous for in the past 25 years, the restaurant’s signature cake continues to regale and command a strong following among dessert lovers. It is for a long time a classic strawberry shortcake, but 10 years ago, it underwent a major “costume change.”

“I decided to get out of the box, veer away from the traditional strawberry shortcake, and come up with more explosive flavors using natural strawberries as glaze,” explains chef Gene Gonzalez, founder of Café Ysabel and its sister company, the Center for Asian Culinary Studies (CACS).

When the strawberry shortcake was first offered, local strawberries were being used. But the quality of the strawberries turned out to be so inconsistent that Chef Gene had no choice but use the bigger and more consistent imported strawberries. But now, with improved agricultural techniques and the call to “buy Filipino,” Café Ysabel is back to buying local strawberries from a grower who has an excellent Japanese breed to make the restaurant’s best-selling signature cake, and people are loving it.

During the lockdown in 2020, the kitchen team had to reformulate the cake to make it adapt to the times and came out with a frozen version in a tin can. So, now, three variations of the famous cake are available for Valentine’s Day — the chilled signature strawberry shortcake (P1,750), a chilled mini version that serves two to three persons (P350), and a frozen version in tin can (P980). Orders may be placed by calling 0995-5905515 or via Café Ysabel’s Facebook page.

CAFÉ Ysabel’s strawberry shortcake.

Bellefleur’s Strawberry Pistachio Cake
Strawberry pistachio cake. What is not to love? The combination of strawberries and pistachio nuts is explosive. Pure genius. Naturally, you do not find it in commercial bakeshops because the cost of the featured ingredients is explosive, as well. But count on Bellefleur by Beatrix to come up with such a delicious premium cake, albeit on a limited time only.

Bellefleur’s strawberry pistachio cake is nine alternating layers of pistachio cake (a nut meringue base, similar to dacquoise), fresh strawberries, and vanilla buttercream. It is a limited edition cake that the bakeshop offers on and off, depending on the availability of pistachio nuts and strawberries from their supplier.

The cake has made a comeback and will be available for the entire month of February. It may be bought off the display cabinet from the Bellefleur by Beatrix store outside Unimart Greenhills (along Club Filipino Avenue), open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. They deliver. To order for delivery, call 0945-1234577 or 0961-5278117. Or order in advance and have a rider pick up the cake.

The eight-inch strawberry pistachio cake is priced at P1,800.

Bellefleur by Beatrix’s strawberry pistachio cake.
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF CAFÉ YSABEL, BELLEFLEUR AND FLOUR POT

Flour pot’s strawberry brioche doughnut
There’s a special gourmet doughnut in town, and it is taking Metro Manila by storm. It is called strawberry brioche boughnut and is finely crafted and freshly baked by chef Rhea Castro SyCip under Flour Pot Rum Cakes Manila. Flour Pot just recently opened an al fresco café at The Cliffhouse, Tagaytay City, but the commissary delivers all over Metro Manila on a daily basis.

What makes the doughnut special? Well, it is not only “injected” with strawberry filling but is loaded with fresh strawberries. These yeast-raised doughnuts are made with free-range eggs and organic milk, filled with inipit custard and GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) strawberries from Benguet, tossed in homemade vanilla bourbon jam, then coated with vanilla sugar glaze.

The doughnut is inspired by The Donut Man in the United States. Chef Rhea relates: “I was craving and scrolling on social media when I came across a video feature on those giant donuts. We know that we have good berries available locally, and so we decided to make a local version of it to introduce to the local market.”

Easily one of Flour Pot Rum Cakes Manila’s best-selling items, the strawberry brioche doughnut makes use of only the finest local premium ingredients. Nothing beats freshly gathered free-range eggs from happy chickens running around the farm, butter that was churned the previous night, and freshly picked strawberries sent to the bakery on the same day.

“It all boils down to the premium local ingredients that we use, combined with the skillful hands of our young bakers,” says Chef Rhea.

Strawberry brioche doughnuts are sold in boxes of six at P1,080 per box for delivery, while Flour Pot Al Fresco Café in Tagaytay sells them by the piece at P180 per piece. For Valentine’s this year, there will be limited edition heart-shaped strawberry-filled doughnuts available in boxes of three at P600 per box. To order, call 0916-4937488.

FLOUR Pot Rum Cakes Manila’s strawberry brioche doughnut.

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