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June 05, 2013

CUPCAKES BY SONJA: The Secret of Success, and the Future of Cupcakes in Manila!

June 05, 2013

CUPCAKES BY SONJA: The Secret of Success, and the Future of Cupcakes in Manila!

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CUPCAKES BY SONJA is the pioneering Gourmet Cupcakes brand by Sonja Ocampo, which started the Cupcake Craze in Manila back in 2006. Finally, they are building more concept stores around the metro to take the cupcake experience to a different level.

It was great to finally catch up with Sonja to talk about the success of her cupcake brand and the future of cupcakes in Manila.

I would like to share the highlights of our conversation, and our favorites in Cupcakes by Sonja:

The Best Restos of New Glorietta in Makati:

Read first my post about the Cupcakes by Sonja discovery, leading to the Cupcake Craze in 2006:

Cupcakes by Sonja! Soon to open in Serendra...

Sonja's Cupcakes---Creating the Cupcake Craze in the Philippines?

"What happens when a passionate baker, who had a stint in New York's Magnolia Bakery (famous for its cupcakes which have a cultish following, where Carrie and Miranda of Sex and the City devoured cupcakes), opens up a bakery store dedicated to selling cupcakes in Serendra by July 2006, and bakes the most mouth-watering cupcakes I have ever seen in the Philippines? Just maybe, we are looking at the next dessert cupcake craze in the Philippines! As Lori pointed out in her article, "Cupcakes for a birthday girl and an anxious mom", the cupcake craze has not yet taken off in Manila but it is one of those desserts that are absolutely loved by kids."

Read More: Sonja's Cupcakes---Creating the Cupcake Craze in the Philippines?

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OAP and Cupcakes by Sonja (CBS, for short) started around the same time. It was fun reminiscing the early days with Sonja, comparing notes on how the industry has grown and where it is headed.

Cupcakes by Sonja finally launched its second branch on the second floor Bridgeway of Glorietta 2.

It has a more soft industrial look, utilizing textured tin for the store counter.

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It's like an island store that uses kitchen elements as highlights (ex. lamps made from whisks).

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It overlooks the new activity area in Glorietta 2.
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The refrigerated display presents the cupcakes in a very enticing way. You can't help but stop, take a look, buy and indulge.

Cupcakes by Sonja-33.jpgThey essentially have three categories of dessert:

  • The Non-Refrigerated Cupcakes, which are best eaten fresh upon purchase and at room temperature;
  • Refrigerated Cupcakes, which are best enjoyed cold and can be stored for two days; and
  • Other Goodies: Like Chocolate Chip Cookies, Crack Pies, Whoopie Pies, and Bars.

Check out the complete Cupcakes by Sonja Menu.

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We just love the delicate combination of flavors, the fact that the cake and icing are not too sweet, and the beautiful presentation of Sonja's cupcakes.

Sonja sets the gold standard for cupcake yumminess in Manila. :)

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★ Valrhona Flourless Chocolate Cupcake (P105). Dense Valrhona flourless chocolate with rich, velvety texture dissolves in your mouth with pure sublime flavor.

Sonja's favorite (and our personal favorite too!) is a simple chocolate cupcake that has a smooth texture and not-too-sweet taste. Many chocoholics in Manila rave about it.

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Vanilla Sunshine (P65). A classic and fluffy yellow cupcake topped with either our signature vanilla buttercream or creamy chocolate frosting.

For something fun to give, choose the Vanilla Sunshine cupcake. It never fails to brighten anyone's day. :)

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★ Red Velvet Vixen (P78). Traditional Southern red velvet cupcakes made with Belgian cocoa and topped with luscious cream cheese icing.

I was first introduced to Red Velvet by Sonja, and I think her red velvet cupcake (which is nicely moist and topped with a pleasantly sweet icing) is still the best one around.

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★ Peanut Butter Nutella (P95). Peanut butter cake with creamy Nutella center and Nutella buttercream frosting on top.

This Nutella cupcake was done very well. A good combination of peanut butter and Nutella, its flavors do not overpower each other.

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Choco Cream Pie (P110). Rich, luscious Belgian chocolate cream in Oreo crust generously topped with whipped cream and Oreo bits.

This is a good chocolate cupcake alternative with a "cream pie"-type of presentation.

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It's great that Sonja is focusing on making a better cupcake experience. They are now introducing drink pairings with cupcakes.

I love their Straweberry Basil Iced Tea and their own coffee blend created by Craft.

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★ Chocolate Chip Cookie (P88).

CBS' Chocolate Chip Cookie is also a winner in my book -- not too sweet and has the right crunch. You'll love finishing every single crumb.

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Besides the topnotch goodies, another secret to Sonja's success is the iconic packaging (blue with red logo boxes), which became a favorite cupcake gift for that special someone or pasalubong when going home to the province.

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It's fun to open a Cupcakes by Sonja box because each flavor is a surprise waiting to be savored.

Cupcakes in photo from left to right, clockwise:

  • Berries n' Cream (P105). Brown butter almond cupcake with fresh strawberries and whipped cream icing.
  • Berry Delight Strawberry Cheesecake (P115). Rich, creamy cheesecake baked to perfection and with swirls of delicious, pureed strawberries, topped with slices of fresh berries and luscious strawberry sauce.
  • ★ Valrhona Flourless Chocolate Cupcake (P105). Dense Valrhona flourless chocolate with rich velvety texture dissolves in your mouth with pure sublime flavor.
  • ★ S'mores Tart (P88). Layers of rich dark chocolate ganache, marshmallow fluff and honey -- cinnamon graham in a buttery chocolate crust, topped with a caramelized marshmallow.
  • ★ Pistachio Berries n' Cream (P120). Brown butter pistachio cupcake with fresh strawberries and whipped cream icing.
  • Choco Cream Cheese Swirl (P95). Perfectly moist Valrhona chocolate cupcake with cream cheese surprise.
Make sure to add the S'mores Tart for s'mores lovers and for the kids, and the Pistachio Berries n' Cream for the pistachio addicts.

The trend in cupcakes is to go into Ethnic flavors -- I'm excited to see Ube Cupcake flavors in CBS. :)

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One of the reasons they just expanded now is that Sonja focused on building her dessert buffet, cupcake tower and customized cake business first.

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She recently provided the desert buffet (with a huge Hot Air Balloon cake) in the Make Your Own Havaianas 2013 event.

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Sonja partnered with the Havaianas owner and a few others to help her expand the Cupcakes by Sonja brand outside its pioneer store in Serendra.

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I'm excited about the flagship Cupcake Store Cafe they are opening in Shangri-La Plaza Mall. Soon, they will also open in Quezon City in Eastwood, Greenhills, and TriNoma to delight the foodies in those areas. :)

Congratulations, Sonja! Good luck with the expansion and taking the cupcake experience to a whole new level in Manila!




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Live an Awesome Life,

anton  signature 
Founder, www.OurAwesomePlanet.com
Follow @antondiaz and Like our Official Facebook Page: Our Awesome Planet :) 
If you have tips on awesome food and travel destinations, please email me at anton@diaz.ph.

Full Disclosure: Cupcakes by Sonja is an advertising partner of Our Awesome Planet. I wrote this blog post myself, and it expresses my own opinions.  

P.S. What's your favorite Cupcakes by Sonja flavor? Please share your own CBS experience in the Comments section.

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