Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Cloning Mernel's chocolate cake

Recently, my online friend Mimi (whom I had a chance to finally meet in Singapore last January!) told me about a certain popular chocolate cake in the Philippines.  The cake is from a family-owned bakeshop located in a small town about two hours drive from Manila.  The shop seems to be so well-known nowadays that not only locals buy from them but even people from the metro.

The shop's name is Mer-nel's Cake House and their signature heart-shaped chocolate cake looks like this...

Image credit: Mernel's place FB page

Very simple and traditional, isn't it? Some people might not even be enticed just by looking at it.  From what I gather, the cake is chiffon, the icing is the soft and creamy type, the borders are made of boiled icing and the flowers from royal icing. That is basically all I know. I am not even sure if the cake indeed is chiffon.  Mimi doesn't know any better as she herself has not tasted the cake (although her family back home has).

The past couple of weeks have been spent experimenting on the chocolate icing as it appears to be the heart and soul of this cake. Every blog post, review or feature I found on the net is raving about it!  Mimi and I have been exchanging text messages, pictures of what we've made, our guesses, and observations.  Since Mernel's cakes are very cheaply priced, two of our assumptions were: 1) the ingredients used are not expensive; and 2) the process that goes into making this cake isn't complicated.  We musn't overthink it! Very little information can actually be found on the net about the icing as though it's really a guarded secret.  I did, however, find an article mentioning a specific condensed milk brand the cakeshop has been using and that was quite revealing (IF they're telling the truth).

This is like the caramel cake experience all over again.  I am again trying to recreate something I have not even tasted! It can be a frustrating exercise at times but persistence is the key, don't you think?

Anyway, about 3 tries and 3 recipes later, I am happy to share a cake that appears to have the look of Mernel's and possibly, the taste too...

I wanted to be true to the original so I made it heart-shaped as well.
See, the icing is combed at the top too!
The chocolate icing is really dark and shiny as it should be...
And the chiffon cake is a deep chocolate colour as well!
For now, this is as close as I can get.  Some of you might be asking, "Where's the recipe then?"  Well, hold on,  I am not sharing that just yet.  Here's the deal: I need people who have actually tasted this cake to tell me what the real thing is like. I need you to help me out here!  If you have something to share, please, please, leave a comment here.  Be as descriptive as you can. Any useful information will be appreciated.  Afterall, you my cake-loving readers, will benefit from this!  It will be another Filipino favourite we can conquer (after the ube, mocha, caramel cakes, among others).

I shall be waiting!  Till then, no more chocolate cakes for me please.

22 comments:

  1. I have not tasted nor heard of the cake Corrine so i am not gonna be of great help to you but your cake looks amazing as usual, is the recipe not thesame as the old fashioned chocolate icing that you have previously posted?I have that much faith in you and what you can do so i know you will be able to get into the bottom of this cake! Goodluck and like what im good at doing i will wait for your posts. ^_^

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    1. No, the chocolate icing is not the same as this one uses sweetened condensed milk rather than evaporated milk.

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  2. try this one corrine: melt 1/4 c butter, add 1/3 c cocoa powder and make a paste,add 1 can condensed milk, stir til thick, if u want to pipe, substitute 1/2 of the condensed milk w/ fresh cream, add 1 tsp vanilla essence...let me know if u liked it. cheers!

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    1. Thanks Joan! I have actually tried this icing but I think I overcooked it so it turned quite fudgy! Maybe I will try again.

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  3. i have been waiting for your macaron recipes...when are you going to post them? cheers and more power!

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  4. hi, ms. corrine.. mernel's is very famous here in laguna, it originate in los baños.
    yung looks po nung cake pareho nung ginawa nyo.
    i've always been fascinated by the darkness of their chocolate icing but i find toooooooo sweet though i like the taste of condensed milk in it. parang iyon(condensed milk) po yung nagpaiba ng lasa sa kanilang cake compare sa mga chocolate cakes ng goldilocks and red ribbon kaya nakilala dito yung mernel's.
    im looking forward to your version of mernel's.. :)

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  5. hello ms. corinne why dont you try this...>>


    1. The Fudge Icing

    Ingredients
    1 can condensed mik
    1/2 cup cocoa
    1/4 cup butter
    1. Mix milk and cocoa with wire whisk or wooden spoon until smooth. Strain through a wire strainer.
    2. Cook mixture in double boiler. Stir occasionally- when thick, remove from fire and add butter thoroughly.
    3. Add desired flavor.
    4. Use this icing right away. Keep bowl in double boiler to maintain warmth.

    Other notes
    1. You can decrease the cocoa down to 1/3 cup.
    2. Icing starts getting thick when you see thick icing clinging to the sides of the bowl. Continually scrape sides of bowl until icing becomes very thick.
    3. Do not over cook or else you will have a fudge candy

    i hope it will help you ^_^
    tnx for sharing amazing recipes and im looking forward to your mernels chocolate cake ^_^

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  6. hi corinne - i agree with malihanconnie. i find mernels icing VERY sweet. the cake itself is ok (it is chocolate chiffon bordering on dark choco chiffon, moist and yummy). the icing kills it for me as it is very sweet( isaid that havent i? lolz). like the ones used sa mga binyag ng mga baby nung 80s (super sweet royal icing). im interested to get the recipe for your choco icing - my cakes usually has ganache/whipped ganache. i havent tried this type of recipe (the one with condensed milk). excited to hear from you soon.

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    1. hi corrine!..im one of those sweet tooth lover of mernels!..im also from laguna but its almost an hour ride from los baños.im also into knowing the sectret recipe of it..by the taste of it i think it a,so have a peanutty taste that blends with the chocolate icing..for several times ive tasted it thats one thing i concluded..

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  7. hi..can i ask?what is the type of condensed milk that you used in this fudge icing..it is a fullcream,filled milk..or sweetened condensed creamer..?thanks

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    Replies
    1. I used sweetened condensed full cream milk. I read somewhere that Mernel's uses the brand Alaska which is a filled milk.

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    2. thank you so much it really helps..because when i am using a condensed creamer on my recipes like dulce deleche..it was not able to rich the consistency that i want..i will used the full cream milk..

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    3. thanks a lot it really helps..i lobe tho texture of you're cake it looks so fluffy..i have my recipe of fudge frosting on my cook book that i bought from the books store.but it is so hard to rich the right consistency of the frosting..there are time that it turns very runny..and some times it comes too thick..so i really looking for another recipe..

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  8. Hi Ms. Corinne. Can't wait to have your recipe for this and give it a try. I'm actually from where this cake originated. The icing for me is too sweet and I cld taste the flavor of the cocoa powder and condensed milk in it. The icing is pasty and thick in consistency. The chiffon cake is fluffy but not as dark as your version (based on your pic).

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  9. Hi Ms. Corinne. I've been a fan of Mer-Nel's since college. Incidentally, the owners and our family are somehow related (that is, according to my mom). No special treatments though since the relation is quite far apart and we've never really brushed shoulders with them except when we buy their delicious cake.

    One thing my taste buds tell me is that, aside from the condensed milk, there seems to be a hint of coconut in there. It's what actually sets the flavor apart from the the other chocolate cakes out there. It shouldn't be a mystery since Los Banos is buko pie country and what more to make your cake stand out than to put something the town is known for.

    If you are residing in SG, I used to send a few to my wife and her friends every now and then. My wife's back in the P.I. now but our friends sometimes still ask us to buy it for them before they leave the P.I. for SG. Maybe we can arrange something for you so the mystery can end. You can email me at rashomon1972@gmail.com if you are interested in acquiring one for tasting one of these days.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for the offer. I don't live in Singapore though. I am in Melbourne, Australia. My friend (who I mentioned in this blog post) is the one living in SG.

      Maybe the icing is a combination of condensed milk and coconut milk? I'll try experimenting sometime. Thanks for the tip.

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  10. Didn't notice you're from Melbourne. Too bad my aunt and cousins aren't due for a visit again to the Philippines. They're from Sydney. My mom and brothers used to live in Queensland but they've since gone back to the country. Would've been nice if I could send you one to sample with.

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    1. Thanks again, it would have been nice to taste it! I am quite happy with my version of the cake, so for now, I'll be content with that. Maybe next time I visit the Philippines, I can travel to Los Banos. By the way, I spent one year in UPLB too but transferred to Diliman as I am from QC.

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  11. Hello po, I'm April from Iloilo city, how can i avail po yung recipe from ebook? i've tried yung mga recipe mu po..really good:)

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    1. Click on the photo of the book cover on the side bar (at the top). It will take you to the page where you can purchase the eBook.

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