Baked in the City is a happy network of homebakers like us, out to embrace more of our own. Our group is about celebrating home-baked treats and the absolute joy that goes into making them! Members look forward to sampling each other’s baked goods, learning new baking techniques together, sharing information on ingredients, trading sources or suppliers and even trying out new recipes from those who are willing to share.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

MIRIELLE'S Blueberry Cheesecake Pie

by Jen Ramirez

photo by Kit Langit

There were SEVEN pies on the table, and the first one I reached for was Mirielle’s Blueberry Cheesecake. I’m an absolute cheesecake fan and was happy to learn that because Mirielle uses eggs in her recipe and actually bakes the cheesecake, this was technically a pie!

The pie’s cheesecake filling had that perfect argument between cheesy and tangy going on. The blueberry topping provided just the right tartness to balance the creamy layer underneath.

photo by Kit Langit

Cradling Mirielle’s creation was a very thin, neutral crust. I heard the other homebakers complement Mirielle on this, because apparently such a thin and very even (profile-worthy) crust is one hallmark of a truly skilled baker.

I thought that size-wise, the pie was just the right thickness because one fork-full gave me a good proportion of everything without any one element lording it over. That’s probably why I ended up finishing the entire half-slice before going for a taste of the others.

photo by Kit Langit

Mirielle says this cheesecake isn’t on the product list of her home-baked offerings. After the rave reviews from last Saturday though, she might want to change her mind. Be it bars or pies, apparently, baker Mirielle can do no wrong!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Go ahead, make PIE day!

By Jen Ramirez

Invite to the 2nd Pastry Exchange

I had butterflies in my tummy on the way to our second Pastry Exchange. Our theme was “Scrumptious Pies & Tarts”, and I couldn’t help but think that I’d gotten in over my head this time. I barely survived 'bars and brownies' last month, to think they were actually mix-dump-bake affairs. A pie however is a more delicate creature. There’s a science to the crust, a harmony in the right filling, and a ‘daintiness’ to the over-all look of the pastry. I wasn’t sure my novice baking skills had what it took to bake pies. I’d never really tried to make one before, and here I was, bringing my first ‘experiments’ to the pastry exchange!

photo by Kit Langit

My Buttermilk Pies were definitely not what one would call dainty, but they were my ticket in to what would surely by a delicious afternoon (filled with other peoples’ pies -- haha!). Mine were securely covered by foil in their pans, and I was anxious about unveiling them for the world to see beside everyone else’s beautiful creations. I tried my best (twice in fact), but they didn’t come out as pretty as the pie pictured on the recipe. The least I was hoping for was that they’d taste like they’re supposed to, so I could at least say they were legitimately Baked In The City quality!

At exactly 2pm I entered Casa Castrillo. I saw the cake stands laid out on the table and three really pretty pies already on display. I learned from Yumi that three more were on the way. We had great variety that afternoon. There was sweet, cheesy, chocolatey, fruity, nutty, rich and creamy. Yum! We hadn’t even started yet and my senses were already in the sampling stage.

Ros putting on the last touches on her Sweet Potato Pie, photo by Kit Langit

It was great to see the old friendly faces from last months’ pastry exchange. I was also happy to meet Ros and Addie who were joining us for the first time. Ros went straight from the front door into the kitchen, to whip up some creme chantilly as the crowning glory of her sweet-potato pie. We all fell easily into the happy banter that comes with proudly talking about our ‘babies’ (which for that day, meant our pies).

photo by Kit Langit

Tasting time was heavenly. Since everyone was seated comfortably around the table, with the pies just laid out there before us, no one was in a hurry to get up. Our sampling size was quite big too, half a slice of pie per variety. With seven half-slices to taste (not counting seconds!) per baker, we easily ate about half a pie each!

photo by Yumi Castrillo

Now, packing our loot boxes was a belated challenge we may not have anticipated. It was hard to get neat slices of pie from the pan to the box, then to have each slice behave well with the other slices in there. One pie needed a serving spoon and take-out ramekins for the job, just to emphasize even more how gooey-delicious it was. You’ll have to wait for the individual features to find out which pie I'm talking about.

photo by Yumi Castrillo

Well, challenging or not, you can bet all of us were diligently filling the boxes with our share of the loot. Those pies were just too good to pass up for a second round at home. Somehow a pastry exchange isn’t really complete until you get back home, to the delight of eager loved ones waiting for you. In fact one of the best parts of every exchange is opening that lootbox on your dinner table, this time with family and friends to share in the bliss.

LOOTBOX! photo by Yumi Castrillo

Monday, October 1, 2007

Marga's Smores Bars

by Yumi Castrillo

photo by Michelle yulo

I am big on comfort food. Steaming arroz caldo on a rainy day, large, thin slices of cheese pizza while watching Sex and the City, extra buttered popcorn at the movies, and a sweet thick brownie with my café latte. Marga Marquez’ smores bars hit the spot on my coffee break.

The bars leave the taste of caramel and toffee rolling in your tongue. Its not quite chocolate, but I can taste the dark brown sugar, like it was cooked perfectly, just before burn-point. I can just see it, dark and amber colored. It’s very soft and moist, with large chunks of graham scattered on top. Reminiscent camping days and childhood; backyard picnics and slumber parties. Oh, the memories it brings!

photo by Kit Langit

What I love about it: It’s a homey dessert, with uncomplicated flavors that is downright good. Its not pretentious, doesn’t boast of imported or special ingredients –which I personally tend to be with in MY own creations (!). But Marga’s bars are simple and perfect at every level.

And it is precisely Marga’s quest for perfection that brought her to create this delightful concoction. After trying dozens of recipes, she finally found the best brownie. It was then that she decided to jazz it up a bit and began playing around and creating variations. A true artist indeed! Aside from her brownie variations, she also makes all kinds of Cheesecakes (Oreo, New York, etc), Triple Chocolate Mousse, Velvet Chocolate Cake, Mocha Magic, Mango Shortbread Tart, Strawberry Tart, French Apple Pie, Chocolate Pie, and beautiful colorful party cupcakes.

Email Marga and get the low-down on her goods!

photo by Camille Bautista

Monday, September 24, 2007

MICHELLE’S Peanut Butter & Chocolate Layer Bars

by Michelle Yulo

Photo by Kit Langit

This is only the second time I baked this goodie and I’m willing to bet it will be an instant hit to peanut butter fanatics.

To tell you the truth, I am not much of a peanut butter fan. I thought of baking this for the pastry exchange since at that time, the list did not include a peanut butter bar. I tried out two recipes from the food tv network, the first is the Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Brownie and the other one is Peanut Butter Hazelnut Brownie. A survey from my officemates and friends resulted to Peanut Butter Layer Brownie winning by a slim margin.

The Peanut Butter and Chocolate Layer Bars as its name suggests is made up of a chocolate layer and a peanut butter layer. What I love about this bar is that the chocolate layer has melted chocolate and chocolate chips! This creates a chewy and moist chocolate layer with a touch of melted chocolate with each bite. The saltiness in the peanut butter layer is a perfect foil for the sweetness in the chocolate layer.

I have made a few adjustments in the recipe. I discovered that he batter was not too much and it would be better to make two recipes which should result to generous servings as well.

photo by Michelle Yulo


Chocolate Peanut-Butter Layer Brownies
(recipe courtesy of Gourmet Magazine)

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped – 4 ounces
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
7 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla – 2 tsp
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour –
1 teaspoon baking powder – 1 tsp
1 teaspoon salt – 1 tsp
1 cup chunky peanut butter
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter and flour a 9-inch square baking pan, knocking out excess flour. In a double boiler or metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water melt chocolate, stirring, until smooth and remove top of double boiler or bowl from heat. Cool chocolate to room temperature.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy and beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, and vanilla. Into a small bowl sift together flour, baking powder, and salt and beat into butter mixture just until blended well. Divide batter between 2 bowls. Whisk peanut butter into batter in 1 bowl. Whisk melted chocolate into batter in other bowl and stir in chopped chocolate or chocolate chips.

photo by Kit Langit

Spread peanut-butter batter evenly in pan. Drop chocolate batter by large spoonfuls onto peanut-butter batter and spread carefully to form an even layer. Bake brownies in middle of oven 35 to 40 minutes, or until a tester comes out with crumbs adhering to it. Cool brownies completely in pan on a rack before cutting into 16 squares. Brownies keep, layered between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container at cool room temperature, 5 days.


Friday, September 21, 2007

RIA's Revel Bars

By Michelle Yulo

photo by Camille Bautista

Heaven - is the first word that came to mind as soon as I had a bite of Ria Salabits’s revel bars. Now, before you accuse me of being partial, allow me to defend myself.

I had my first taste of the revel bar (although at that time I did not know what it was called) when I was in college. It was a small piece in a box of assorted bars and brownies purchased from the mall. Right there and then, I fell in love with that distinct texture and taste I mistakenly thought of as coconut. Imagine my thrill when tried it again at the Pastry Exchange. It was like unearthing a favorite toy from your childhood.

Ria’s Revel Bars, just like its name, is a pleasure. I love that it is not intensely sweet considering that it is packed with condensed milk and chocolate. Its distinct texture and chewy-ness comes from the oats which I mistakenly thought of as coconut in the past. I can’t seem to explain it, but it is almost like a crunch but not quite. Never fails to elicit that “ooh-la-la” feeling, if you know what I mean. Most of all, the chocolate layer is the perfect compliment, not too sweet and not too gooey either.

photo by Michelle Yulo


The Revel Bar recipe came from Better Homes and Gardens All Time Favorite Cake and Cookies recipe book (1982) owned by Ria’s mom. Recipe follows:

Chocolate Revel Bars

1 cup butter or margarine
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
3 cups quick cooking rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon fine salt
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups semi sweet chocolate peices
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 teaspoons vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the flour, baking soda and oats. Meanwhile, beat the butter and the sugar until fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time. Mix in the vanilla. Gradually beat in the flour mixture until incorporated. Press 2/3 of the mixture evenly on an 11 x 15 pan and reserve the 1/3.

Place the condensed milk and the chocolate in a saucepan and stir over low heat until smooth and the chocolate has melted. Turn off the stove and add 2 tablespoons butter, the vanilla, ¼ teaspoon salt and walnuts. Mix until smooth. Pour evenly onto the flour mixture. Dot the remaining 1/3 flour mixture on top of the chocolate mixture. Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned at the edges and is set.

photo by Kit Langit

Ria has made modifications over the years. She substitutes quick cooking oats and omits the walnuts. Sugar is decreased by ¼ cup since she too finds the recipe already sweet. That’s why the bars were not overpoweringly sweet. Her most helpful tip is lining the pan with parchment paper and leaving a ½ inch border since the chocolate will spread some more during baking. Another reason why the chocolate layer does not come out gooey.

Although Ria has been baking since high school, she still experiments and is not ashamed to admit having botch-ups. Her all time specialty is chocolate chip cookie that uses youghurt instead of eggs. Food blogs, new techniques and products inspire Ria to bake. Of course it helps to have a husband and a little girl who never fail to rave about her cooking – now that is inspiration on a daily basis.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

JEN’S Marble Fudge Brownies

by Jen Ramirez

photo by Kit Langit

When I found out that the theme for the first pastry exchange was heavenly bars and brownies, my priority was to find the easiest recipe I could. Then, seeing the other participants’ yummy sounding, multi-syllabic variants, I began to think a ‘basic-fudge-brownie’ might be anticlimactic (and cowardly). So, what’s the next easiest recipe to that? Marble-ize it!

As a fan of cheesecake myself, I was happy to learn that what gave a brownie its marble was a simple cream cheese mixture on top. The online recipe seemed easy enough, so I gave it a try. What came out looked surprisingly nice, and upon tasting, my family declared it as, “…YOU made this!?” - - which translates as “very good”!

photo by Michelle Yulo

Personally, I found the brownies quite sweet and too rich for my taste. For the kids though, this kind of almost-solid-fudge bar was a delicious treat! Thank goodness for the cream-cheese on top. It mingled (or should I say marbled) well and gave a mildly salty contrast to the brownie, preventing death by chocolate overload.

At the pastry exchange, I needed help to get my brownies out of the pan and to cut them neatly into bars. I guess that’s equivalent to having a big “Newbie!” sign stuck to my forehead. Yumi, Michelle and Emily were eager to help. Despite the shortening I used for greasing, my bars were just too moist to survive being inverted onto a chopping board (at home we sort of ate them from the pan…). Yumi was able to save them though, and she also taught me to use non-stick baking paper next time, as a liner for easy transfer.

Another thing I learned (this time from Michelle) was that the amount of eggs in a recipe affects how fudgy-moist vs. ‘cakey’ it will be. American recipes that call for two large eggs may require three of our local-sized eggs to generate the same consistency.

photo by Camille Bautista

As an epilogue of sorts, I want to share that I tried making the marble-fudge brownies with the adjustments I learned from the exchange. Actually, some friends invited us over for lunch and when I asked what we could bring, they requested for the brownies they'd read about on this blog. Haha, pressure! Fortunately, I'd learned a few things by then. I lined my pan with non-stick baking paper, but greased it first to prevent the liner from slipping. I also added one more egg to the recipe, to diffuse the fudge level slightly and give it more rise. Lastly, after it cooled down, I chilled the entire pan in the refrigerator overnight before cutting into neater bars the next morning. I found that with the liner and the firm chilled brownies, I had a much easier time. The kids still loved it, our friends took seconds and I thought they were really yummy too. It was a proud moment!

In case you’d like a copy of this recipe, please email:

Monday, September 17, 2007

Mango Cashew Nut Bars

by Michelle Yulo

photo by Michelle Yulo

At the first taste of Mayla’s Mango Cashew Nut, one would be reminded of the Christmas fruitcake. This is exactly what Mayla’s creation hoped to achieve.

Mayla’s Mango Cashew Nut Bar is the product of her love for liquor-flavored cake and her dislike of glazed fruits and walnuts. To create the perfect cake, she gathered her choice of dried fruit (mango), nut (cashew) and liquor (cherry brandy, mind you) and came out with the Mango Cashew Nut bar. Surprisingly, many fellow foodies and bakers at the pastry exchange share the same sentiments over the fruitcake. In fact, we initially thought of naming Mayla’s creation as the “No-Fruit Fruitcake Bar” or the “All-Cake Fruitcake Bar.”

photo by Kit Langit

Many of you might think that baking the mango cashew nut bar or fruitcake may be too the elaborate or challenging especially for first time homemakers. Mayla couldn’t disagree more. She started experimenting with baking only sometime in October of last year. Having a mother who was an excellent cook inspired Mayla to her craft. In the past year, Mayla has baked chocolate cake, butterscotch, brownies, apple pie, sansrival, and chocolate chip cookies, plus of course, the Mango Cashew Nut bar, to the delight of her family and officemates.

Photo by Camille Bautista

I must say that, that Mayla’s Mango Cashew Nut is unbelievably moist, almost like the consistency of fudgy bars. Mayla shares her secret - she uses molasses as an alternative to sugar. This keeps her bars delectably chewy, moist and fudgy.

The cherry brandy was a perfect addition to the mango bits and cashew nuts. It adds just the right touch of sweetness and aroma without being overpowering. Most of all, not only is brandy a preservative, it also enhances the marriage of flavors in the bars. Mayla claims that her bars taste even better after a couple of days and I agree.

So, for those who are fond of the all-cake fruitcake or are simply foodies always on the lookout for sampling new delights, Mayla’s Mango Cashew Nut bar might just be a hit for you. For inquiries, text Mayla at 0922-8763634

Friday, September 14, 2007

Emily's Chewy Nutty Blondie

By Yumi Castrillo

photo taken by Kit Langit

Emily Manuel arrived at my doorstep the day of the exchange and greeted me with a “it’s terrible, please don’t serve this anymore” disclaimer, as she thrust a large round Tupperware filled with blondies at me. She explained that she wasn't happy with the recipe she used. In fact, this was her second try because she declared the first run a disaster. I quickly assured her it was fine, and began to set up her treat. As I opened the container, I was blown away by the fresh peanut butter smell! One glance at the blondies and you could tell they were moist and chewy. This was far from being terrible!

A bite quickly confirms it: Em's blondie had a very chewy consistency, much like a cookie. In fact, I could easily imagine this blondie as a round clump, perfect with a tall glass of milk. Yum! The nuts scattered on top provided a slightly salty flavor, giving the bar a more complex aspect to it. This kind of sweet and salty combination has always been my favorite! I love the complexity it renders which keeps my taste buds wanting more!

But for some reason, the blondie did not pass for this meticulous baker who cherishes the exactness required in baking. I must say, I can’t blame Emily for her sentiments regarding her treat. I did “force” her ONE day before the exchange to join and bring something. And when I ambushed her, she had actually been on a hiatus from baking for several years; having moved to her own place without an oven. It also didn’t help I guess, that I limited her baked goodie choice to a blondie since at that time, it was the only classic bar that hadn’t been reserved by the other bakers yet. For Em, inspiration to bake comes from a craving for a particular food. She must have been craving for something other than a nutty blondie just then. This just goes to show, with or without her heart set in it, Em can still turn out wonderful treats in a snap. Well, lucky for us because her blondies were terrific!.

Photo taken by Kit Langit


Emily’s Chewy Nutty Blondies


2 eggs
1 C caster sugar
1/2 C soft brown sugar (can reduce to ¼ C)
30 g. softened butter
¼ C chunky peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/3 C all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 C chopped dry roasted salted peanuts (no garlic please!)


Preheat oven to 180˚C/350˚F. Brush sides and base of 9 inch square cake tin with oil and line base with baking paper extending over 2 sides.

Place eggs in bowl and beat with electric beaters. Add sugars, butter, peanut butter and vanilla. Beat 2-3 minutes medium speed.

Sift together flour and baking powder. Add all at once to mixture and stir to combine. Don't overbeat.

Transfer mixture to tin and spread evenly. After smoothing the surface, sprinkle evenly with nuts, pressing lightly into mixture.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Yumi’s Dark Chocolate Brownie with Grand Marnier

By Yumi Castrillo

photo by Camille Bautista

The first time I attempted to bake I was ten years old. I was alone in the kitchen and I had all the ingredients set out before me. I looked at the recipe, it was a chocolate cake recipe at the back of the flour box, and began measuring the ingredients: 1 cup butter, 2 cups all purpose flour, ½ cup cocoa, 3 eggs….. and so on. As I measured each ingredient, I immediately dumped it into the bowl. It was only after I went through all the ingredients, that I noticed the instructions portion of the recipe: cream the butter and sugar together… then I glance down at my mixing bowl, all ingredients were already in!


It was no surprise that my first cake came out a disaster. It was gummy, pasty and clumpy. The batter didn’t rise at all. It had the consistency of a squished pancake. It was enough to put me off baking for another three years. From then on, I would only bake straight from a cake mix box. I found such refuge from turning out perfect cakes and brownies with the ready-made mixes that I wasn’t ashamed to tell friends it came from a box. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I started following the variations I could do with the cake mix, like churning out lemon cheesecake bars from a yellow cake mix. It was then that I learned how the ingredients work together, how to balance the dry ingredients from the wet ones, and most importantly, how to alter the flavor and texture. Before I knew it, I was making my own variations with the mix and almost always, I’d get the outcome that I wanted.

photos by Kit Langit

Altering recipes has then become second nature. With new-found confidence, I strayed away from the cake mix and began altering the best basic recipes I could find. The key is to always begin with a very very good basic recipe. Fortunately, I found a brownie recipe that boasts to be “the ultimate.” True to my nature, I altered it, lessening the sugar, changing the procedure and adding some ingredients that I felt would heighten the pleasure of the taste buds. Please note, it is essential to use high-quality dark chocolate. You need not purchase the Valrhona brand, although that’s the chocolate I used here. The Meiji dark chocolate with at least 56% cocoa content would work as well. The grand marnier may be omitted, but the orange zest and orange essence are important, since those will give the bars that citrus oomph.

This brownie gives off the same texture and taste as a chocolate flourless cake, very fudgy, soft and moist with slight crunch at the top. The recipe may seem to have a lot of sugar, but it balances perfectly with the unsweetened dark chocolate. If you like your brownie rich but not too sweet, and with the subtle hint of oranges, this is for you!

Photo by Kit Langit


Yumi’s Dark Chocolate Brownie with Grand Marnier


8 oz good-quality dark chocolate, unsweetened, chopped to small pieces
1 cup butter
5 eggs
500 grams granulated sugar
1 tablespoon orange essence
180 grams All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
the zest of one orange
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 9 x 13 pan with greaseless paper.

Melt the chopped chocolate and butter over low heat; set aside.

In a mixer, beat eggs, sugar, orange essence, and grand marnier until smooth.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Add in the zest.

Blend in the chocolate mixture, then the flour mixture, until just mixed. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for 35-40 minutes.

I find that my nose can be the best timer for baked goods. When the room starts to smell chocolatey, I bring out the toothpick and begin testing after every 5 minutes. I make sure that I bake the brownie just until small clumps still cling to the toothpick. The heat emanating from the brownie will continue to cook itself inside, and by the time it’s cooled down, the brownies will be perfect.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Lilet's Cappuccino Bars

By Jen Ramirez

photo by Camille Bautista

I have to say, I’m longing for one of Lilet’s Cappuccino Bars right now. I can just imagine biting into one of those thick chocolate-cake bars that turn into chewy goo in the mouth, broken only by the snapping of slivered almonds (one of the few nuts that I like).

Looking back to the Pastry Exchange two weeks ago, Lilet’s Cappuccino Bar was one of the treats that I finished an entire serving piece of, despite the sugar overload of indulging in multiple sample-sized pastries all at once. In spite of its imposing appearance -- dark chunky slices with walnut pieces peeking through from the base and generously topped with slivers of almond -- it had a mild cocoa flavor with a hint of coffee in it. The glaze topping gave sheen to the base of the almonds and provided just the right kick of sweetness to each bite.

I enjoyed the bars as they were. They had the consistency of a heavy but not overly moist cake; which I consider to be the perfect accompaniment to coffee or tea. Once chilled however (as I found out the next day from my loot-box), the Cappuccino Bars take on an entirely different character. Refrigerated overnight, the coffee flavor seemed to have condensed in the bars, making itself even more palpable than it was before. As with most brownies, chilling also brought about an increased ‘fudgy-ness’ to the pastry -- turning it into more of a decadent dessert, than a beverage partner.

photo by Kit Langit

This recipe (which Lilet found in a Mrs. Field’s Cookbook under the name ‘Brownies Espresso’) is a delightful discovery because apparently you can enjoy it two ways. Store it dry in an air-tight container and you’ll have a delectable complement to your coffee or tea. Chill it in the refrigerator and you’ll have a luscious coffee-flavored dessert bar (or anytime-of-the-day treat). The almonds accentuate the texture perfectly and I still wish I had a bar right now. Luckily, Lilet is sharing the recipe with us here:

photo by Camille Bautista


Lilet’s Cappuccino Bars


2 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ tsp. baking soda
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
½ cup white sugar
1 cup salted butter, softened
2 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate
1 Tbsp. instant espresso or instant coffee granules
1 Tbsp. boiling water
2 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. pure almond extract
1 cup (6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips

3 oz. semisweet chocolate
1/3 cup salted butter, softened
½ cup sliced almonds


Preheat oven to 325° F. Grease an 8x8 inch baking pan

In a medium bowl, combine flour and soda. Mix well with a wire whisk and set aside.

In a large bowl blend sugars with an electric mixer at medium speed. Add butter and mix to form a grainy paste.

Melt baking chocolate in a double boiler. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, dissolve espresso or coffee granules in boiling water.

Add chocolate and coffee to sugar and butter; beat at medium speed until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla and extracts; beat until smooth.

Scrape down sides of bowl. Add the flour mixture and chocolate chips, and blend at low speed just until combined. Do not overmix. (From Jen: I think this is where Lilet also added some chopped walnuts to the batter; optional)

Pour batter into greased baking pan. Bake 35-40 minutes or until toothpick placed in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Invert on rack.

To make glaze: Melt together the chocolate and butter in a double boiler, stirring until smooth.

Spread glaze over brownies and sprinkle with almonds. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Yield: 12-16 servings

photo by Camille Bautista

By the way, while the brownies are a new try for Lilet, she is well-known for her Apple Pies! Lilet tried baking as a hobby just a few years ago, to relax in between managing her tutorial center and working on academic consultancy matters. Besides discovering how much fun baking was, she also found out she was pretty good at it. Friends and relatives order her apple pies and cookies to proudly give away as gifts. Lilet’s treats are super yummy and I suspect that more often than not, clients order her treats as ‘gifts’ to themselves too!

If you’d like to contact Lilet for these bars, her scrumptious Apple Pies or yummy cookies (Choco Chip, Marshmallow Cloud, Snickedoodles), you can reach her at She also accepts orders for Carrot Cake, Banana Bread and Cocoroons.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Mirielle's Carrot Walnut Bars

By Jen Ramirez

photo by Michelle Yulo

I looove carrot cake and it’s hard to believe that I never went near the stuff till college. I just had to get over the strange idea of gulay (vegetable) as dessert. That I got over it, is an understatement! No surprise then, when I volunteered to do a feature on Mirielle Gaza’s Carrot Walnut Bars at the Pastry Exchange.

Incredibly, Mirielle started baking this carrot-walnut treat when she was just 13! It’s a cake recipe of her Mom’s but she adapted it so well that an Aunt began asking her to bake and sell the treats every Christmas.

Confession time. I’m not a fan of walnuts, and didn’t know the bars had walnuts in them when I volunteered. However, since I was wrong about carrots-in-cake in the first place, I thought I’d give the combination a chance.

Mirielle’s carrot bars were refreshingly lighter than the other heavy and compact carrot desserts I’d encountered before. The bar was on the ‘cakey’ yet moist side -- and surprise -- the walnuts fit right in! The cake alone (no mention of frosting yet) was delicious! I think the reason I didn’t mind the walnuts this time was that they were chopped just the right size. I hate getting a mouthful of nuts and very little cake. The walnuts gave a wonderful crunch that meddled (in a good way) with the smoothness of the cake. Another thing I watch out for in carrot cake -- I couldn’t actually taste any carrot on its own, which suited me just fine!

photo by Camille Bautista

Now, Mirielle’s frosting deserves a paragraph of its own. I adored the tangy cream cheese icing that topped her bars. It provided the perfect lift to the chunkiness of the carrot-walnut base. A meticulously formed little carrot adorned the center of each bar. I found out these were made of royal icing and were delightfully sweeter than the rest of the frosting. My husband (thanks to the loot-box) appreciated how the frosting was piped into swiveling stripes. The swiveled frosting afforded those strange-folk (like my hubby) who didn’t like too much icing some plain cake space here and there. My daughters thought the frosting design was ‘pretty’, so points for aesthetic appeal as well!

photo by Kit Langit

Mirielle’s love affair with baking actually started simply enough, at the age of nine, with just helping her mom around in the kitchen. Like an apprentice, she’d turn the mixer on and off for her mom, help with measuring ingredients and with mixing the batter. Eventually, she tried to make banana bread on her own. From them on, she was hooked!

Hobby baker or not, Mirielle’s Carrot Walnut Bars are seriously good stuff. Besides the box of 8 bars, she makes them as round cakes too (with OR without walnuts!). She makes Chocolate Decadent and Blueberry Cheesecake as well, upon order. If you want a taste of her baked goodies, email Mirielle at

Friday, August 31, 2007

Pastry Perfect!

by Yumi Castrillo

photo by Camille Bautista

With much anticipation (and relief) the day finally arrived, the first pastry exchange actually happened!

I must admit, I was prepared for failure.

I had bouts of paranoia running through my head, from fear of no-shows from the bakers to what if my brownie would be the most awful tasting baked good offered on the table! Oh it was a difficult night-before. Thankfully, there were too many things to do for such thoughts to fester.

The exchange was set on a humid Saturday afternoon, perhaps not the best setting for desserts with steaming hot coffee and tea. But as I bring out my brownie from the oven, the air is completely filled with a wonderful aroma of gooey fudge and fresh-from-the-oven sweetness. I am immediately comforted. The excitement in the air begins to build up as bakers started trickling in through the front door with their goodies in tow. It was a good start for an exciting afternoon with lots of ooohs and ahhhs thrown around the room as each baker sets up their treat on the table.

Smores Bars, photo by Camille Bautista

The much tested theory of throwing strangers together with a common interest worked. The bakers comfortably introduced themselves to each other and started chattering away as if friends for life. “Ooh that looks good!”, “For how long do you bake it?” and other baker musings. It was fantastic!

Once all goodies were laid out, we began the short program. Each baker talked about her kitchen background, and shared the story behind her baked creation for the afternoon. To some, the bar or brownie they brought was an old favorite or a family recipe. For others, the delicacy was a newly concocted discovery. My own Dark Chocolate Brownie with Grand Marnier was an internet find and the recipe just tweaked to add orange essence. It was fascinating to hear the oh-so-familiar story of looking for the best recipe, adjusting it to perfection and finally hitting eureka! All the talk made us all the more excited to sample the goods.

We piled around the table and started taking small portions of the bars. We felt like kids let loose inside a candy store! It was so much fun tasting everyone’s heavenly bar or brownie and we enjoyed the variety that the pastry exchange yielded. The bakers flitted in and out of small groups sharing techniques, asking for tips, exchanging contact info and generally basking in the company of fellow food enthusiasts.

Bakers doing the exchange, photo by Louie Lim

After all the sampling, it was time to do the actual ‘exchange’. With a box in hand, we started going around the table and began stacking bars of each kind. It was a dream buffet line.

The Loot Box, photo by Kit Langit

Towards the end, most of us were pretty giddy from the sugar rush. The high however wasn’t entirely induced by sweets. We were all genuinely happy to have met each other and encountered all those pastries in one afternoon.

All gone! photo by Camille Bautista

* * * *

As we look forward to the next Pasty Exchange, we’ll be updating our blog with weekly articles on the homebakers who joined the first one.

Check-out Baked In The City’s features on the different bars and brownies that took center stage last Saturday. Kudos to the bakers who generously shared them with all of us:

MAYLA DOMINGO - Mango Cashew Nut Bars
LILET LIM - Cappuccino Bars
MIRIELLE GAZA - Carrot Walnut Bars
EMILY MANUEL - Peanut Butter Blondies
RIA SALABIT - Revel Bars
YUMI CASTRILLO - Dark Chocolate Brownies w/ Grand Marnier
MICHELLE YULO - Peanut Butter and Chocolate Bars
JEN RAMIREZ - Marble Fudge Brownies

photo by Kit Langit

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Pastry Exchange

A major activity for Baked In The City is our quarterly Pastry Exchange. At these gatherings, members each bring a specific home-baked creation in accordance with the chosen theme for that exchange (e.g. bars and brownies). We ask fellow bakers to avoid bringing duplicates of another member’s chosen treat, as a way of featuring the widest selection of recipes possible. Enough goodies are brought for everyone at the exchange, both to try during the gathering and then to take home later on. All in all, Baked in the City’s Pastry Exchange promises to be a socially fulfilling and gastronomically satisfying affair, each and every time!

The invite to the first Pastry Exchange

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Who's In The Kitchen?

by Jen Ramirez

Our blog chronicles the experiences of homebakers within and around the Metro. While it starts with the three of us for now, we look forward to hearing from other city bakers out there.


YUMI Castrillo is the ingenious creator of Piece of Cake, a home-based cupcake venture that’s taken the city by sweet surprise. Yumi is a master behind the mixing bowl. Taking what she’s learned from the experts, she stirs in her own innovations for that personalized touch. To Yumi, baking is half-science, half-art, and all fun! It was from this spirit that Baked In The City was born.For the produce of her kitchen, Yumi has found a very willing taste-tester in her husband, along with some fortunate urbanite friends (us!). As Mommy to a toddling princess, she’ll find kitchen-duty even more enjoyable when her daughter’s tiny but eager hands are ready to help-out. When she’s not wearing oven mitts, Yumi is a corporate lawyer. You can guess which one the sideline is.


MICHELLE Yulo comes from a family of food enthusiasts, hailing from the Inasal Capital of Bacolod. Her kitchen skills were honed in the family kitchen while her appreciative taste buds were trained on the dinner table. Michelle’s always in search of the best food finds here in Manila and elsewhere. Her quest for great eats takes her to both the trendiest gourmet places and those secret holes-in-the-wall that locals swear by. Naturally, Michelle’s pursuit of good food extends to her kitchen. Her culinary preference leans more towards the savory kind, and she makes a mean Osso Buco! Recently however, she’s been experimenting on baked goods too, brought about by a much awaited Kitchen Aide gift. Baked in The City’s resident banking lawyer also loves to tinker around with her other toy, a digital camera. Michelle enjoys snapping away at her favorite subject -- FOOD!


JEN Ramirez -- that would be me! I’m the neophyte referred to earlier; the tenderfoot who’d be lost without a recipe. I’m obsessed with exact measurements, don’t know how to ‘eyeball’ and own only the most basic of kitchen tools. I occasionally succumb to a box of ready-made cake mix too. =) Despite the failure to inherit my late mother’s majored-in-food-and-nutrition-and-went-to-finishing-school genes, I persist to find my way around an oven. Why? Because, I’m a work-at-home Mom with two adorable girls, and I want to share with them the pure bliss in whipping something up ourselves, then gobbling it all down after. My husband joins us in the eating part of course, plus I proudly share with the rest of the household (like with our real cook). So, who cares if I wasn’t born with a spatula in my hand! I thoroughly enjoy my novice attempts at the kitchen. It’s how I feed my family from the heart.