Cupcakes by Sonja


You have to be somewhat curious about a small jewel of a bakeshop called Cupcakes by Sonja which has garnered so much press coverage in recent weeks… With several cup2articles in the broadsheets and magazines as well as the food blogging sphere, just before and after its September 21 soft-opening at Serendra in The Fort, the eponymous bakeshop of Sonja Ocampo was certainly launched with press horns blaring. Ms. Ocampo reportedly worked for the Magnolia Bakery in New York, credited with the recent resurgence of interest in cupcakes, but more importantly, the bakery famous for appearing in episodes of the TV show, Sex and the City. I didn’t read any of the pre- and post-opening reviews of Cupcakes by Sonja, and just waited until I could try the cupcakes for myself, in the same context as other consumers would, at the shop itself. I finally tried the cupcakes Monday night, though I have to admit I had very high expectations…

Roughly a month after it officially opened, I visited the shop at 11 in the morning only to find out it wasn’t open until 3pm and would remain open until 10pm. They had signs in the window that announced they were still on limited hours as they were in a soft-opening phase. cup3There weren’t many cupcakes in the display cases, which I took to be a good sign that they baked them fresh every morning, or as the day progressed. Monday night, after dinner, I got into the car with my wife, daughter and friend and returned to the shop. We arrived at about 8 pm and the display cases at the shop were nearly empty. There were about 8 types of cupcakes on offer and roughly 40-50 pieces total on display. Slim pickings, if you ask me. We bought all 8 types of cupcakes in stock and an extra vanilla as well… Our total bill for 9 cupcakes was PHP652 or PHP72 each (roughly USD1.50 each).

The shop itself is a gem. Little expense was spared on this creamy confection with paint, wallpaper, props, equipment (including a SMEG refrigerator) boxes, etc. all color coordinated and screaming cute, cute, cute!!! Glass shelves/chillers, though mostly empty, cup4bode well for hundreds of cupcakes on display hopefully when the shop is in full operation. There is a large glass window which looks into an incredibly cramped kitchen (high-rent district!) which at 8pm had as many as 6 people busily working in a space that couldn’t have been more than 10 square meters (excluding shelves and ovens). The staff looked at one point totally in control, another harried, and yet another, like stunned deer behind glass as several people poured into the shop at the same time and a line of sorts formed. With so few cupcakes on the shelves, several more cakes were quickly iced to meet the orders. A blackboard at the back of the counter listed many of the flavors on offer (there will be upwards of 25 different flavors once the shop is in full swing). We left the store with two wonderful boxes of cupcakes. It’s always nice when a shop pays attention to its packaging and the lighter than robin’s egg blue cardboard boxes were paler than Tiffany’s, and a perfect match for the shop’s brown stickers. Back home, and after a brief struggle with the scotch tape, I tasted all 8 cupcakes and here are our personal opinions, ranked from least to most liked confection:

8. Goin’ Bananas – Described by the shop as “peanut butter and banana-filled chocolate cupcake topped with caramel glaze and a caramelized banana.” My initial reaction was… “what flavor is this?” – which says it all – faint banana flavor drowned by the chocolate, muddled by the peanut butter…I thought this was my least liked of the 8 cupcakes tried. PHP68.

7. Bunny Huggers Carrot Cake – I liked the fact that the grated carrot was clearly visible in the cake though I found it a bit overspiced and over-iced. I suppose one could self-regulate how much icing to include with each bite of cake, but this definitely didn’t float my boat. PHP55.

6. Southern Pecan Cupcake Pie – Despite a sign in the store clarifying the difference between cupcakes and muffins, this particular offering clearly does not fall into the cupcake category, in my opinion. It was really more like an individual pecan pie serving. A hard crust housing a generous amount of pecan and caramel, topped with whole pecans. I like pecan pie, and especially in small doses, so this was promising, but the dough was a bit hard (old? or possibly cold?) and the filling somehow a little less flavorful than it could be. PHP98!

5. Berries N’ Cream – “Brown Butter Almond Cake with Fresh Strawberries and Whipped Cream Icing.” In theory, this sounded superb, in the flesh, it was a solid “satisfactory.” The cake itself had a hard crust, again it seemed to be cooked much earlier in the day and though a nice dense and flavorful dough, I wouldn’t have guessed much brown butter was in it and you had to “hunt” for the strawberries. The whipped cream icing was very good. The Kid liked this one, but agreed there could have been more berries, and also, these were more likely frozen berries, not FRESH. PHP75.

4. Chocolate Surprise – “Valrhona Chocolate Cupcakes topped with Creamy Chocolate Frosting and Some Sprinkles” – a nice moist, sweet little cake with good chocolate flavor. The icing, while good, was quite granular, which I find happens with local sugar that tends to be less fine than it could be. This cake my daughter would certainly buy again. PHP62.

3. Vanilla Sunshine – “A Classic and Fluffy Yellow Cake topped with Blue Buttercream icing.” This was a good basic cupcake… I suppose meant to be the standard from which the other cakes are judged… It was denser than described and not at all “fluffy.” However, this cake ranked third in our opinion; it was also the cheapest. PHP48.

2. Pumpkin Pie (didn’t catch the real name, I just describe it here) – This was like a small serving of creamy pumpkin pie sitting on a crisp/chocolately bottom crust. This was a pleasant surprise and very good. Nicely spiced, good texture, good overall balance between the filling and the crusty base. Definitely NOT a cupcake, but a great dessert. PHP100.

1. Melt-In-Your-Mouth Flourless Chocolate Cupcake – Delicious and absolutely the best of the lot. All of us agreed this was close to sublime. It was like eating a lighter, creamier, more chocolate-y, sludgy fudge in a paper cup. I wouldn’t call this a cupcake either, but never mind, it tasted very good, whatever they name it. PHP98.

As you can probably tell from my comments above, I was far from bowled over. I had hoped for more. The cupcakes, while some of them superb, were small, pricey cup6and inconsistent. One wonders if all the advance press was based on a different set of samples baked in smaller batches rather than commercial operations. I hope this is just part of the birthing pains that any new business goes through but I am not likely to return for a while… As for the size issue, the cupcakes not only struck me as being small, they were smaller than say the standard cupcake pans I use at home (5cm base). If I were to have a snack at the shop, I would need two cupcakes and some tea or a drink and that would cost me upwards of PHP200!

In a broader sense, I do wonder about the quality of ingredients available to high-quality bakers these days… on the one hand much better chocolates, dried fruits, etc. are on the market, but I still lament the fact that the locally sourced butter generally sucks, the flour is sometimes problematic, eggs unusually high in watery whites, and the sugar grainier than I would have liked. Also, the humidity seems to affect a lot of baked confections here. I wonder how shops adjust for these ingredient/weather issues. Finally, I should mention that I found Sonja’s cupcakes incredibly expensive (a partially eaten cake in a measuring cup in the photo here). cup5 I understand the shop is in a very high rent district, that there are huge overheads and that packaging and quality will cost a lot more, but I didn’t feel the value trade-off was there. But that could be just me. I am curious what Marketmanila’s readers, who have tried these cupcakes, think. Have I been unusually harsh? Did I just get a bad cupcake day? Was I expecting too much? Am I simply NOT the shop’s intended target market? Are there just legions of folks out there that will flock to this shop for the ambiance, the cute little cakes, the experience, being seen where one should be seen (while wearing one’s Blahniks or Choos), with less of a focus on the cupcakes themselves or the prices charged? Is this destined to be the cupcake equivalent of Starbucks? What am I missing?


133 Responses

  1. The Vanilla Sunshine reminds me of Magnolia Bakery Cookbook’s Traditional Vanilla Birthday cake recipe which I make into cupcakes (dozens!) for when we have kids around. Nice packaging. Sounds pricey though. Have to try them sometime.

  2. though im too a sea away to test these cupcakes, i couldn’t agree with you more MM. In times like these, that’s too much money to shell out for a cupcake. I’ll just be content with my homebaked raisin banana mini-cakes.

  3. I think the hype was more due to the fact that Sonja’s had first-mover advantage (the first cupcake store in Manila!) than the cupcakes themselves. With expectations set so high, the shop is practically doomed not to meet them. And at those prices, I wonder about the long-term prospects for the store.

    I haven’t tried her cupcakes yet by the way. To give the shop a fair assessment I’d have to buy a dozen different cupcakes, and try them all. But people at home aren’t fond of cupcakes, and I’m not ready to down a dozen of these high-calorie treats by myself.

    Now if Sonja started selling the same Banana Pudding I absolutely love from Magnolia Bakery / Buttercup Bake Shop I could probably go through a 16-ounce serving in one go.

  4. I think the “first real cupcake store” in Manila was a tiny shop called Crazy Over Cupcakes in the mid to late 90s. It is now known as Mrs. Howards’, located across St. Mary’s College on Mother Ignacia Ave.

  5. I agree. I think it’s over-hyped.
    Tried the Berries in Cream, Vanilla Sunshine, Carrot cupcake and the Chocolate Surprise and was not bowled over by any of them. They weren’t bad but they I didn’t think they were worth the price, either. My husband who does not mind paying top price for good eats (and throws tantrums when he thinks he’s been ripped off) swears never to go back.
    Have you tried the Roshan’s (or Rojan’s) chocolate cupcakes? Now those are really, really worth each delectable and sinful bite. Mmmmmmm….

  6. I have to say that Sonja’s cupcakes didn’t amazed me as well.My expectations weren’t met, it seems that there is something missing. Indeed those goodies are expensive. The cupcakes aren’t bad, but not that really, really great. But I find it cute and presentable aesthetically; and tasty. Like wysgal, I do think about its long-term market in regards to its chosen place to put up a shop and pricey tags.

  7. Someone gave us a box and that’s probably the only way I’ll eat them again. Overpriced and undersized – not a good combination.

    Continuing with cupcakes, at a recent bazaar, Sunshine Puey (the caterer) had a booth with a similar line of “specialty” cupcakes. Slightly cheaper and larger but still not worth it.

    Then again, I also brought home cupcakes from Toast in Singapore – the limonata flavor was yummy but the nutella was just too weird. And the cupcakes were way too dense!

    I think I’m done with cupcakes for the meantime

  8. i got to go to Sonja’s when it had just opened. The cupcakes were just wonderful. I think she made them herself and at the time they were not so busy. I hope this is just some birthing pains that they need to recover from. When her cupcakes are at their best, they are really good.

    I also agree Annette with her recommendation of ROSHAN’s. Roshan’s cupcakes, cookies and pretty much anything she makes are very, very good. I think she bakes from home so you have to order in advance.

  9. Mrs. Ocampo must be a savvy investor – pumped out money to come up with a state of the art store equipped with modern day equipments – refrigerated shelves with Cinderella frills and touch. She has good baking credentials. She has gone to her drawing board backwards and forwards to come up with a profitable business plan. Sometimes pitfall happens and the cash register not making any noise. Is it too early to tell or the writing is on the wall? It is pathetic after forking out all the money to her bakery! At any rate, she stirs up a legendary kingdom in the baking world of cupcakes!

  10. I went to the opening of Sonja’s cupcakes, at Market Market! and they were divine, although you would really appreciate it if you had a real sweet tooth! She’s also part of my foodie group “PINOYFRUGALCHOWHOUNDS” on yahoo groups.

  11. I know what you mean, these are overpriced confections. There’s a branch of Magnolia here in Beverly Hills, $3.50 per cupcake (not actually so sure of the price)but my boss’ daughter worked there and she wanted us to taste the cakes. She can only afford to give us 1/2 of a cake each! It was yummy but not enough to write home about. Let’s stick to suman and mangang hinog. Healthier and less fattening!

  12. My favorite pinoy cup cakes were the Cookie Monster cupcakes of my childhood. They were only chocolate cupcakes pero I remember them to be super soft and moist, with chololate icing (frosting) that was thick and sweet. I know they used to have a bake shop close to Buendia Ave. in Makati.
    On the low end side, I remember Marby cupcakes (in cheese and chocolate marble flavors) for baon to school. Mmm, brings back nice memories.

  13. her packaging caught my eye as her sticker label is a copycat of the L.A. Sprinkles Cupcakes sticker logo. can’t say anything about her cupcakes as I haven’t tried them.

    rampau, where is the Magnolia in Beverly Hills? I only know of Sprinkles and they are $3.50 per cupcake and $36 a dozen.

  14. Well that’s what happens when there is a new concept in town. Its called “herd mentality”. Everyone just wants to try it. The hype caused by so much press release in the media gives the readers a difficult time discerning whether the food being reviewed is really good or arethey just reading a Paid Advertisment. Its pricing scheme would work in the states though.

  15. these cupcakes certainly made a splash, pretty much like go-nuts donuts did a while back.

    and then, as in with go-nuts, when the long lines have ceased, one realized that a donut is a donut is a donut, which is really
    fried carbs with too much sugar. so much for the hype.

  16. Though I might not have the opportunity to taste it, for me there is no other cupcake than a chocolate one.I do love the color of their boxes… a Tiffany blue almost.

  17. Yeah, too difficult to bake. I wonder why the egg whites have become watery. I’ve been separating eggs since I was 9 yrs old and I know the quality of eggs have changed..aside from the size and price.

  18. thanks for the review MM. I would try the flourless chocolate cupcake if I ever happen to be in the area (after the EB?). Sublime for 98 pesos sounds like a good deal.

    I don’t think you were too harsh.

  19. The best chocolate cupcakes in Manila are Baba Ibazeta/Classic Confections’ [746.2773]. I mean the ones you have to order; they’re different from the ones with the chocolate buttercream frosting. They’re best kept at room temperature… moist cake and luscious chocolatey frosting. Chocolatey, not sweet.

  20. Taking off from Rico’s point on “herd mentality”, ano naman kaya ang kahihinatnan ng Gonuts Donuts when Krispy Kreme hits RP shores — parehong nasa Fort ang flagship store. And knowing Pinoys, pila kung pila ng usapan basta makatikim kaagad! Remember when Starbucks opened in 6750? Grabeng pilahan ang usapan!

    Away na ‘to…. In the meantime, here we are foodies — at least me who’s seriously contemplating on donning garterized maternity jeans at the rate I’m going with my eating. It doesn’t help that Yuletide is right around the corner….

  21. I should probably mention that I wasn’t bowled over by Magnolia bakery’s cupcakes, I preferred another NYC bakery’s cupcakes. As for Sonja’s the time I tried her berries and cream cupcake, they tasted moist (no crust that you found on yours) and there were enough berries to satisfy my palate. However, it was too small, and value for money isn’t there. I think I prefer making my own cupcakes, it’s more fun.

  22. Tried those cute little cupcakes last week and i was generally dissappointed. I paid 942 pesos for 14 pieces only to realize that i was only given a dozen when i got home. So i called up the store, explained what happened, and the girl on the phone gladly said that i could get the missing cupcakes when i go back (today). Plus points for that! Back to the cupcakes, the lemon drop and chocolate surprise were satisfactory albeit the granular texture of the icing. The valhrona flourless “cupcake” was good although a tad too sweet for my taste. I would not recommend the red velvet vixen. It got me by name, but didn’t taste like anything at all. If you’re like me who demands her cupcakes to be light, fluffy and almost melt-in-your-mouth, Sonja’s wouldn’t be right for you. I’d be better off making them myself. :)

  23. i’m pretty wary of all-hype cuisine. most of the time those huge “advertorials”/pr articles work as a double edged sword. not being able to back up hype with a great product (or at least one that satisfies) is a sure way of accelerating “quiet cash register” syndrome(as Maria Clara puts it). people’s tastes vary, though. some will think thery’re great, some just so so. i will probably try them cupcakes soon and decide for myself

  24. hmmm…

    i wish her good luck, but if i were the owners i’d look for product line expansion soon.

  25. I don’t think you were being to harsh. I too had great expectations and after buying two boxes on its second day of operations, was not that impressed. When people ask my opinion I practically mimic yours, great little shop, packaging very nice, but overall, somehow fails to deliver. I must agree with other readers that Roshan’s surprise cupcakes and Baba Izaeta’s vanilla cupcakes are much better.
    Regarding donuts, I have heard an awful lot about Cello’s Donuts and Dips and found they have just opened a store in Greenhills. I bought two boxes, and again was not blown over. Is it just me? Am wondering how much Krispy Kreme will charge per donut? I think Go Nuts does a good job at its price point. The cupcake and donut wars invade Manila!… should be interesting and can only be good news for consumers, as they all try to wow us!

  26. I was kind of disappointed with Sonja’s Cupcakes’ packaging (based from the pictures), the sticker part. Did they kind of “copied” from Sprinkles Cupcakes in Beverly Hills?

  27. You’re not harsh, I’m even glad that you made a review about this. Sonja’s cupcakes are way too pricey. I think they cater to the A crowd. How about an ice cream review? :) Btw, nice pictures!

  28. You were not harsh MM, you only told the truth. I also tried Sonja’s cupcakes two weekends ago and echo your findings. The cupcakes are expensive but I guess that’s because there’s a high overhead cost for the business because of certain factors(high rent district, packaging). We tried the berries and cream (which I liked the best but they were stingy on the berries), chocolate (which was just ok), red velvet with cream cheese icing (the icing was just too sweet and the cake reminded me too much of puto made from flour), vanilla surprise (which was ok but nothing great), lemon drop (whose icing was too tart for my taste, i was expecting that the cupcake would be lemon-flavored but was not(if it was-i couldn’t tell) and the peanut butter surprise (which was topped with some grape jelly and more grape jelly in the middle for the ‘surprise’ -it was ok but i prefer to have PB and J with bread). Anyway, I hope it’s just birthing pains. I’ll try the cupcakes again in a month or two, hopefully things will improve.

  29. HAving lived abroad. I have to say Sonja’s cupcakes really hit home for me. To get really good ingredients, one has to relaly be creative in sourcing a steady supply and have the flexibility to adjust when a batch or more are not at par. Quality of ingredients and sourcing are some of the major problems in the Philippines.

    Having said that. I can tell what the store is trying to do and offer to their customers. The whipped cream on the berries n cream are divine. It’s the real thing, baby.

    Because of all the press and blogs writing about Sonja, I’m guessing there has been a lot of interest in trying these out. This and she is just on her dry run!

    I would wait another few weeks, give her time to work out more kinks and address how to work the unprecedented line ups that form during peak hours.

    Her kitchen is small. The batches they bring out are small. I kind of like that. Makes me think everything is made fresh. Small batches like the way you would would make it at home.

    I salute this young entrepreneur for breaking outof the comfort zone and taking a risk.

    You can tell this lady loves to bake.

  30. By the way, I actually don’t think it’s the packaging that’s contributing to the high cost. I think it’s basically the rent as well as the imported ingredients. Those cupcakes are choc-ful of good stuff.

    I’ve been to coffee shops where the cake slices cost more than P100 and you can tell the ingredients used are artificial….

  31. Funny how the ones that tasted the best weren’t “full-fledged cupcakes!” I’ve been hearing a lot about this shop but have had no real interest to check it out. While the association with Magnolia Bakery helps give them plus points, it’s still not enough for me to go out of my way and taste their cupcakes. Naah.

    Have you tried Becky’s bakery in Malate? Now THAT bakery I’d make time for even if it’s far from where I live. Their brownies and lemon squares are divine. Reasonably priced too!

  32. Hi MM, I don’t think your comments were harsh. I, however, had a good experience when I bought cupcakes at her store. My expectations were not so high, given the sign that they were still on dry run.

    I tried their chocolate, vanilla, berry, lemon, red vixen, flourless chocolate and PBJ. Among the six, I was not too satisfied with the PBJ. But I liked everything else. I agree – the flourless was GOOD.

    Also, since we did not get to finish all the cupcakes that we bought, I was able to eat the last cupcake two days after I bought them. They are much better off eaten immediately or just a day in the refrigerator. (There are cakes that taste better when its longer in the ref and they did not seem to be that way).

    I love the store design and packaging and she may have high overhead costs that may affect the price (and size) of her cupcakes. I would buy again but I guess, not on a regular basis – it will hurt my pockets! :)

  33. Wow! That’s a lot of reaction to the cupcake post! And I am glad the comments mirror the post…not a home run and not a major flop, just an expensive in-between. I’m glad there are fans as well as those that weren’t impressed. It seems Sonja HAS been selling to order for nearly a year now so I would have hoped the recipes were down pat by now… I wonder though if her butter, eggs, and flour are imported (perhaps only the latter)… Maybe I have to bake a few cupcakes to see what they really cost…oops, might get myself into another KABOG situation…

  34. i love the packaging and how the shop can whet one’s appetite. my friend enjoyed the flourless chocolate cupcake. i had the vanilla sunshine and admittedly experienced a sugar-rush. however, i still prefer marta matute’s cupcakes anytime.

  35. Could someone please forward the contact details of Roshan’s cupcakes and Marta matute’s as well (thanks for the number of Baba Ibazeta up in the comments) and the address of Becky’s Bakery??? Maybe I’ll try and do a taste test one of these days…

  36. I agree with MM. The flourless was delicious!

    Have you tried the chocolate cream pie too? It was rich, smooth and heavenly.

    I, on the otherhand, had a good experience with my dozen cupcakes. The Bunny Huggers with the full flavour of cream cheese icing, passionfruit, berries n cream with its cloud-like whipped creaminess, red velvet had a nice crunchy top and soft innards and the tanginess of lemon drop brought a smile to my face.

    Depends on when you bought them. I got it right when they started their soft opening. I attended an event in the piazza and the store caught my attention.

    I would go back. :-)

  37. Hi MM. Like you and most of your readers here, Sonja’s didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Been there a couple of times and the only flavors I really enjoyed were the Southern Pecan (I agree it’s more like a regular pecan pie which fortunately I love) and another pistacchio flavored one. I wonder how Sonja’s would fare over time given it’s initial price-to-value shortcomings and it’s upscale rent challenge.

    BTW, I got a preview of how well your diet seems to be working. My family and I spied you and Mrs MM from afar as we were dining at Mezzaluna next door that Monday evening you went in Sonja’s : )

    Try 842-3836 to sample Martha Matute’s offerings but you’ll have to go all the way down to Alabang for that. See you at the eyeball. Cheers!

  38. HI MM. Is it just me or the packaging is basically a monocolor box with a sticker? Isn’t that the most simple thing you can do for a box?

  39. Jun, SHHHH… I have just learned that if you wear certain clothing YOU LOOK THINNER :) Glad to know someone actually saw us at Sonja’s…confirmation that what I do, I write about… I still have 6.5 pounds more to go in 10 days if I want to reach my goal of 15 pounds off! Thanks kathygirl, Jun et al for the contact numbers!!!

  40. thelma, yes and no. The monocolor box is custom made, with color on the outside and nice white inside rather than darker rougher cardboard. The inside has cupcake holders made from cutout cardboard that steadies the cakes, a nice touch. Yes, the sticker is basic but so many shops here don’t even bother with that. And I suspect the look is finished with a ribbon, if shops in the U.S. are any guide… but they didn’t use ribbon the evening we were there.

  41. MM, thanks for writing such an impartial & honest review… i guess the price per value wasn’t really worth it. same goes for the gelato in Pazzo! so perhaps this could be a challenge for you (or for your daughter) to whip up some homemade delicious cupcakes your us readers!

  42. It’s Becky’s Kitchen. their manila branch is at 1061 P. Ocampo cor. Bautista St. Singalong Tel. 525-1648, 523-4245
    BUT they do have a relatively new branch at the Valle Verde I community center. Tel. 671-7606. i tell you, no BOX of brownies priced at P170 (thereabouts) ever tasted so good (vanilla ice cream on the side a must). now THAT’S real value for money

  43. The place looks really nice! Will look forward to trying some cupcakes out this weekend…What other shops are open at Serendra?

  44. hi mm, i agree with you. i tried sonjas cupcakes more than thrice and i still am not impressed. ive tried sprinkles in la (which i believe is the inspiration of her logo!) & magnolia and hers doesnt come close. to be honest, cupcakes from costco tastes way better than hers.
    i hate newspapers & magazine when they glorify something thats not even worth glorifying

  45. i had waited for the red velvet cake for quite some time, and i tried it last night. nothing special! i couldn’t tell it to her face how disappointed i was with my first dozen during their first day. oh well, the only consolation is that at least there’s a cupcake place now.

  46. Ooops the place in Beverly Hills is indeed Sprinkles and not Magnolia. Whatever! LOL! There’s a bit of a controversy about Magnolia and other cup cake places that opened up recently in New York since those that opened recently were from ex Magnolia employees. Just like Sonia! YIkes.

  47. MM, if you go to the Legaspi Market on Sunday mornings, a friend of the owners of Becky’s kitchen has a stall set up selling the Becky’s brownies and lemon squares. More or less the same price (P170 to P200 depending on the size of the box).

  48. Thanks Mila, will check it out sometime soon…I am curious because I make a pretty decent brownie if I toot my own horn… Rampau, if Sonja and other employees can do it to Magnolia…their employees can do it as well…I suspect there isn’t much to making these cupcakes, it was more the novelty of the shop in New York… Imagine, sonja’s spawning Jhun’s at Malabon, or Girlies of Timog, etc. etc. LOL :)

  49. I’m going to wait until the dry run is over and try it out. I also read about her cupcakes from Anton’s Blog and Gypsy. Judging from the comments on their blogs the reviews have generally been good, too. I would give this young baker and chance and hope she succeeds in her endeavour. Maybe by Christmas time would be good to try it.

    Flourless you say? That sounds terrific.

  50. I’ve heard enough lackluster reviews about Sonja’s to wait before trying. But I echo everything said about Becky’s Kitchen. They’re practically a household name (among foodies) when it comes to their brownies…and so affordable! most people like the plain, but I love the walnut. My dad loves their prune cake! Haven’t tried Roshan’s cupcakes, but Lori wrote about them in DCF. And anyone who was at the DCF Tea Party will tell you her Lemon Walnut Torte and Choc. Chip Cookies are far from run-of-the-mill. Marta Matute is a very old friend. Go to her if you want unique, breathtakingly beautiful cakes. She recently showed us some of her most recent designs and I was floored by what she can do with frosting! My favorite was the leopard skin cake — it actually looked furry!

  51. Roshan’s is good. Her cookies are the best. They do run around P600 for a dozen, i think? Her cupcakes are very good. It is more of a sponge cake based cupcake.

  52. Yummy cupcakes…hey MM, why not experiment with cupcakes and feature them in your blog? Maybe you can find a recipe for a not-to-sweet fluffy and billowy frosting “na hindi nakakaumay”.

  53. i got a taste of the cupcake when it was given away as favors in a birthday party i attended. i had the chocolate surprise–was not impressed, it was dry, not chocolatey, and the icing was too sweet. but they look very cute indeed. i like baba ibazeta’s cupcakes better.

  54. hi i tried the cupcakes and i agree with the general impression that’s its “undersized and overpriced” my wife and i expected better too but we still liked our wedding cupcakes. they were done by tita juda liu of bel-air (of costa brava fame) her royal butter icing rocks! it made our reception so much sweeter!

  55. MM!

    Maybe my experience at Sonja’s was different. I am so in love with the flourless. I agree with you that it is sublime. The choco cupcake with sprinkles were also a fun treat. It’s just such a fun store with a homey atmosphere. I love that the products are not frozen or have been sitting there for days.


  56. Has anyone head of the bakeshop “miss desserts” ? just tried some of their stuff the other day and were pretty darn good, now am looking for their no.– if anyone can post it i would most appreciate. thanks

  57. Another NEVER AGAIN shop for me. Spent more than P600 for vanilla, chocolate and berry cupcakes which were terribly disappointing. After the first bite of the vanilla, I thought it tasted like Sarah Lee frozen pound cake. Next thought: I missed Roshan’s choc cupcakes. I ordered 2 boxes the next day.

  58. What are cupcakes ba? Aren’t they just cup shaped cakes?
    I think these were filled with rich and creamy hype. :P

  59. Going to Becky’s Kitchen is worth the trip! Her rum cake is guaranteed to give you a pleasantly tipsy day! Prune walnut cake pretty good, too.

  60. I guess it depends on people’s perception on what’s good and what’s not good and who rides the band wagon. Personally I enjoyed the cupcakes very much. I’d rather have Sonja’s flourless anyday for P98 than buy a thawed out cake done in mass quantities at a cafe for P185.

    There is real talent in Sonja. You taste where she is trying to go. I also think it’s unfair to blame her for the blog entries and media hype.

    I also don’t think it’s fair to knock down a place (though I do think your entry was fair MM) through the comments on this board. The signs specifically says the store is on its dry run stage.

    I do see some people posting and recommending other bakeries and saying they are friends of this baker and that and that we should try it. This is not the forum to jump on the bandwagon just so one can leave a comment and blogvertize their friend.

  61. Sonja is my photography classmate a year ago and during that time, she invited me at their restaurant, Good Earth located at Greenbelt and Metrowalk (new opened). I think i have to pay her a visit and check on her new products…

  62. I’m planning to bring my cupcakes on the EB but I changed my mind! Takot mapintasan haha!! =)

  63. MrsA, Miss Desserts can be found at Serendra – right beside Sonja’s. Store opening is scheduled sometime before the end of November. I don’t have the number though.

  64. May I digress?

    Has anyone tried Brown Sugar Muffins? I’m from the South and rarely go to Market! Market! and given Marketman’s review, will definitely not part with my hard-earned pesos for pricey, fancy cupcakes that do not deliver. :)

    With cupcakes I am happy with the regular, un-fancy kind, the kind I tear in two and bite in before I sip from my coffee cup, and so Brown Sugar muffins are good enough for me. A dozen costs 195-210 pesos (depending on whether you buy more or less of the “flavored” kind–yup, that’s what they call their “special” category). I like their Strawberry and their Rocky Road, while my husband likes Cashew Banana.

  65. Wow, this is one shop that has realy polarized people in the short time that it’s been around. When I check out Anton Diaz’s blog, the overall appraisal of Sonja’s is more positive than negative. This blog, however, seems to have attracted more of the naysayers. The price of the cupcakes are going to be a given at this shop. I will buy from Sonja’s if I need a picker-upper after work, but certainly not everyday. When I need a nice treat, I find that her flourless choco, PB&J & Red Velvet Vixen are bound to give me a lift. There’s really no accounting for taste. Some people think the Red Velvet tastes like cardboard or puto, but to me, it’s quite wonderful. Some people find the flourless too sweet, but for me, with my preference for dark smooth chocolate, it tastes just right. My friend loves the vanilla cupcake a lot, but I find it ordinary. I initially complained on another blog about the price increase on the flourless from P65 in its opening week to the current P98 price tag. Another blogger told me that he wouldn’t mind paying that price, as it’s in fact cheaper than other flourless treats. He then cited another Bizu item he liked – Jolie which, last time I looked, easily cost P150. So yeah, taste is relative and hooray for freedom of self-expression on the web. =)

  66. Hi Guys, I would like to mention that I love the give and take, the plus and minuses, the positives and negatives, but I will not allow my site to be used to push one item or the other based on comments left here… THEREFOR, STATISTICALLY, I WOULD LIKE TO POINT OUT THAT THERE ARE A SUSPICIOUSLY HIGH NUMBER OF “POSITIVE” AND “YES” VOTES ON THIS SONJA’S POST FROM FIRST TIME COMMENTERS ON THIS SITE. In fact at noontime Saturday, 7-8 “padded votes” came in rapid succession. Almost all at the same time and almost all from the exact same IP address. That is too much coincidence in a relatively predictable comment section. In my nearly 800 posts in the past two years, I have never seen this kind of sudden surge in votes for one side or the other, several days after the main post was put up; and particularly not one endorsing a specific commercial product. As such, I frankly have to suspect people’s motives. At this point, I am editing out all first time posters and will leave readers to make up their own minds if they decide to go and try the cupcakes for themselves… If it was a concerted effort to swing opinion, I can tell you it will probably backfire. Longtime readers (6-8,000+ folks) of this blog know who have commented before, and they won’t take kindly to using the comments section as a commercial page, so quit trying to swing the vote. GET A GRIP GUYS, THEY ARE JUST CUPCAKES, if they are really good, they will do very well. If they fall short of expectations, people will seek their calories elsewhere… All I know is, the safe conclusion for Marketman right now is that THESE CUPCAKES ARE NOT A HOME RUN AND NOT A FLOP, JUST AN EXPENSIVE IN-BETWEEN… My apologies if I have deleted a legitimate comment as part of the half-dozen or more I have just taken out but I do try to keep the site honest…

  67. Hmmm.. this sounds interesting! I would like to try her cupcakes when I come home. I am a cupcake lover.
    I have been to Becky’s ages ago, it is a great shop.
    MM, I love that you are not impartial when you make your reviews. I appreciate that.
    It’s like Mr. Mulach’s enseymada, nung di pa masyadong sikat it was really good, but when they branched out or prolly because of changes with suppliers, the product didn’t taste the same. Sayang.
    MM, I might be coming home soon, if you can e-mail me places where I can find good eats, that would be GREAT!

  68. Haven’t tried Sonja’s cupcakes but I would have to agree about Marta Matute and Becky’s Kitchen. Marta’s cupcakes are gorgeous and tastes just as good. Becky’s Kitchen’s (chocolate) cupcakes are pleasantly simple and absolutely delicious.

  69. i have yet to try sonja’s cupcakes.. a friend promised me a box (still waiting for it though).. but i’ve tried becky’s kitchen and its really, really yummy! specially her chocolate mousse!

  70. wow marketman, people are taking sides, and cheating too!! all this for just posting a comment on a cupcake! THE HORROR!! happy halloween!

  71. The shop is gorgeous but the cupcakes are small and pricey. Good to try it but it wont be a habit. ;-)

  72. For Mrs. A: Miss Desserts is so happy you liked her goodies and is busily preparing to open at Serendra at end November. She begs us to wait till then!

  73. uhm excuse me but i have had the berries and cream every week since they opened and i’m sure that the berries are FRESH! But just to make sure I hung out at the big window that looks into her kitchen and yup they are FRESH and NOT frozen

    i love her cupcakes

  74. After reading about these cupcakes last night, I went to Serendra to get a box of 6…. Was expecting below par or satisfactory cupcakes but they were all surpisingly good! My favorite was the Bunny Huggers – – lots of yummy carrot and creamy icing on top. Not too sweet nor cloying. Maybe there were improvements after all the constructive feedback on the blogs :)

  75. I wonder if the folks who were shelling out big bucks for Sonja’s will now be a few steps down the Serendra lane lined up over at Krispy Kreme, where the donuts are nearly as much as the cheapest Sonja cupcake…

  76. I tried out the much talked about cupcakes and I have to say I was quite impressed. Quite being the operative word since I had the chance to taste the famous Magnolia Bakery cupcakes on the SATC tour that I went to and I could say that the ones in NYC were waaay better because:

    1. They weren’t undersized.
    2. The frosting was thicker and sweeter.
    3. The cake was very flavorful and moist.

    Sonja Ocampo has a great concept and a very charming dessert place but I strongly suggest that she lower the prices and increase the sizes because once the cupcake hype quiets down, we might just see a lot of her treats on display. :)

  77. A few weeks later and this town is no longer talking about her tiny cakes.
    That’s Manila for you.

  78. yup. i tried sonja’s cup cakes and they are not worth the amount of pesos one has to shell out. it really is dangerous to over-promise and under-deliver. roshan’s lets the products speak for themselves, and boy, they have very, very fluent goodies in the language of universal deliciousness. you say yum. yum. yum. after every bite.

  79. Tried the cupcakes, but was not too imressed witht the prices, so on my latest trip to Serendra, I tried the store beside it, Miss Desserts and absolutely fell in love with her white macadamia cheesecake (which is much more fulfilling than a dry and overpriced cupcake)!

    Gave them as gifts to my officemates and they all agree that this “Miss” definitely knows her cheesecakes.

  80. Hi Marketman! I’ve been a long-time lurker but this is my first post on this blog. My sister and I tried Sonja’s cupcakes a week or so ago, and I must say that we were both very disappointed with their product. I don’t know, maybe we were expecting too much because of all the hype, but really, those cupcakes failed to bowl us over or even to elict a “mmm… sarap!” comment from either of us, and for the price tag on those babies — almost P700, if I remember correctly — it really was a crying shame. Neither of us have any plans of going back to this place any time soon.

    Sayang talaga.

  81. Oh, and I just want to add that a huge part of the “hinayang” factor was the fact that the cupcakes just looked so damned good in the display case that we were praying they would taste at least half as good as they looked. Oh, well. :(

  82. hmmmnnn…mtagal ko ng nririnig at napapanood ang tungkol dito sa cupcakes by sonja…sa twing nkikita q ung mga cookies ntatakam ako…tingin pa lng mukhang msarap na eh…hahaha!!!!

  83. I’m a sucker for sweet treats and i love Sonja’s chocolate surprise and strawberries and cream. Though the cake itself is kinda dry, its the frosting that keeps me coming back for more.

  84. Please e-mail to me where I can buy & contact no. this yummy cupcakes, I’m located at Cubao, Quezon City.

    Many Thanks.


  85. There are only 3 of us remaining in the family, thanks to diabetes, cancer and old age. But when a heralded dessert lurks around, temptation gets its way.

    We wondered what the fuss was all about these cupcakes. So we made the long trip to Serendra and decided to grab some of Sonja’s cupcakes. We tried Berries N’ Cream, Chocolate Suprise and another chocolate variety (the name of which I can’t recall), Carrot, Lemon, Vanilla, Goin’ Bananas, Peanut Butter, Red Velvet, and tiny Pecan tartlet.

    The Berries N’ Cream was passable, but I could barely taste the berries through the uneven consistency of the cake. The cake itself was dense in some parts, crumby on another third, and had lumps of flour on the remaining third. Otherwise, puede na pagtiyagaan .

    The two chocolate cupcakes did NOT taste chocolatey enough. There seemed to be a tinge of good quality chocolate in both types, but got drowned in whatever else. The grainy icing of the one type seemed to have ground pebbles in it (the grains odd). The gooier chocolate variety (flourless cake I think), was somewhat better. The cloying sweetness drowned whhatever remaining chocolate taste though.

    The carrot cupcake was decent, although one of the carrot cupcakes we got had lumps of baking soda/powder. The one with lumps was of course bitter. The other carrot cupcakes had inconsistent textures, but were good enough anyway.

    The Lemon and Vanilla are so-so. Again, some cupcakes had inconsistent textures.

    The banana and peanut butter varieties are a bit funny. THe banana did NOT taste like bananas, though it had an imitation banana extract aroma. Another was peanut butter with grape jelly I think. I don’t wish to be mean, but it really reminded me PBJ sandwiches that I’d conveniently forget to eat at school and would get squished beyond recognition. That’s one weird cupcake :-)

    The pecan tartlet had a few whole pecans which was good; but the crust was so thick that you could barely taste the filling. If only for the pecans, this would be passable.

    The Red Velvet is the strangest of the lot. I could not understand what sort of taste or flavour it had, and not in the pleasurably mysterious sense. It tasted like raw flour glued together by a glob of red, stainy icing. This is one scary cupcake.

    Our family’s verdict: Sonja’s cupcakes look far better than they taste. Their cupcakes have inconsistent textures, and the flavours are very much wanting. They aren’t downright no-no’s, but they are neither the sort of cupcakes that we will go out of our way for nor recommend. For those prices (about P70-120 each), better quality can be had in other bakeshops.

  86. Rai, thanks for that extensive review. As you can tell from my post above, I like you and your family, was not impressed. I continue to be awed by the attention to these confections so I recently made a special trip to Magnolia cupcakes in New York’s Greenich Village to see how these compare, I will be posting my visit to that vendor in the weeks ahead… Again, thanks for writing in…

  87. I hated the fact that I gained weight last holiday season (about 7 lbs) for visiting Sonja’s weekly or as soon as I finish a dozen, whichever came first. Many are surprised by how much I love super sweet desserts. Most of my friends thought they were too sweet but I didn’t mind. I loved the ones with the grainy frosting better than the rest. It makes the cupcakes stand out from the ones you buy at the local bakeshop or grocery. My verdict? I love 5 particular flavors (Vanilla, Chocolate, Mocha, Berries and Cream and Flourless) but I find all the cupcakes unique, nice to look at and tasty. The other desserts, such as the cheesecake and choco cream pie, etc, I can get at any other dessert place. I ordered the mini versions for my b-day last May and gave them to my guests. I try to limit my consumption to about 6 per month, since I’ve lost the weight, thanks to South beach diet! I guess if you are not fond of sweet endings, don’t try them as you might feel that they are too pricey.

  88. Hey guys. I’m new to this website, but I’m very glad I stumbled upon it. I also, would like to try these cupcakes when I go to the Philippines in 2 weeks. However, since I am not familiar with the region can anyone who has visited the place already tell me more specifics on its locations other than it is “at Serendra in The Fort?” Maybe like a Quezon City or an address? Thanks guys! (:

  89. Hayden, Serendra Mall, Serendra Apartments, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig, near the Market!Market! Mall. This is relatively close to Makati City.

  90. i dont know how many times ive had sonja’s cupcakes. Its very convenient for me since i live close by. But every single time, i get really impatient. Theyr service is just terrible. It takes forever to get a cupcake!!!! geez, i had to wait a looong time. But i thought, maybe i just got caught in a bad day… but every single time, its the same thing. Ive actually already given up on them. They taste really good, but that absolutely amazing enough for me to wait long. Because of my waiting around for my turn of a cupcake, i wandered of next door to Miss Desserts and discovered the best cheesecake i have ever tasted! Sonja just lost a costumer and im sure that wasnt the first time. I hope they solve this problem. Also, those cupcakes dont really taste as bug a deal as people and the press think. Whats amazing is the icing on it. But once thats gone, the cupcakes in your local bakeshop taste better! seriously.

  91. MM, when are you doing your post on Magnolia Bakery? I thought you would perhaps be interested to note that they were closed by the Department of Health yesterday, July 11th for having “one sink too few”. Apparently there was a recent change in ownership as well. Here is the link to this news: .

  92. Before i left for the states, i tried sonja’s cupcakes and thought they were delicious. However, i tried the ones in Magnolia and Buttercup (west side version), roughly the same price as here and they definitely had more flavor and were twice the size. When i returned from the states i was also disappointed to find that sonja’s quality had deteoriated she was using cheaper ingredients than she used to. Yesterday however i tried her cupcakes and found them to be satisfactory again. They were no longer dry and the frosting now completely covered the cupcake. I do know a couple of other cupcake suppliers who make better cupcakes at less than half the price if anyone’s interested. i have 3 other numbers :)

  93. MM, pure hype! i wouldn’t pay THAT for a cupcake! sa iba na lang na nagpapa-sosyal at akala nila “in” sila pag nakita silang nakapila sa sonja’s…

  94. I haven’t tried Sonja’s Cupcakes. I’ve never even been to Serendra. But I’ve heard a lot of buzz about this place.
    I do agree that cupcakes priced at P 55 and above are too expensive.

    I’ve tried the muffins at Mrs. Fields and they were great!
    They’re quite big. I got full from eating just one Chocolate Chip Muffin.

  95. Being a dessert lover, I am quite disappointed with Sonja’s cupcakes. In my opinion, the cupcakes were too small, too dry and too sweet… not to mention too expensive. What I like about Sonja’s is their packaging and their interior. My sister and her bf on the other hand totally loves Sonja’s cupcakes. To each his own, I guess.

  96. I haven’t tasted sonja’s cupcake yet but if she got the exact clone of NYC’s Magnolia…then I must say…dont bother to shell out your hard earned money…Magnolia is all hype

  97. Roshan’s desserts? Does anybody have her contact no. or address, i would like to try her products.

  98. I’ve tried sonja’s cupcakes a couple of times to see the different flavors the worst one is probably the vanilla. The cupcake is too dense! It’s almost as heavy as ‘puto’, maybe they’re mixing the flour too much. The red velvet was good but I’ve tasted better, not bad though, manila needs a place to access red velvet cupcakes it’s one of the best flavors ever. I’m sure everyone enjoys their favorites like berries and cream, chocolate, peanut butter & jelly, etc. BUT cupcakes were meant to be spongey light as air and soft! Not dense and heavy on the mouth.

  99. ive tried all their flavors and all is can say is they are not Good. the taste is so milky and creamy that it screams too much ..cant put it in english word but its so MAANGLO !!! I Love cupcakes but this one’s taste is too much..SORRy sonja but i would never go buy your very expensive and yes Overly hyped CUPCAKES…. IF SONJAS CUPCAKES TASTE THE SAME AS THE ONE IN MAGNOLIA BAKERY THEN I WONT MISS FOR ANYTHING….

  100. Hi, MM

    I recently started reading your blog;it was highly recommended by several foodie friends and I haven’t been disappointed! It’s funny, witty, informative and sincere (rare these days).

    I arrived at this cupcake page after reading your emilalva entry (contending with such is the price you have to pay for your very popular site)… I completely agree with Rai’s review…and yours was not harsh, it may even have been a little too generous! To cupcakegourmet,if you are looking for light as air cupcakes, you may want to try costa brava’s.

    MM, have you tried the lorenzo date bars (magallanes village, 8527798)? They are on the pricey side though.

    Thanks for all your hard work; it’s truly appreciated by many!

  101. Vanilla tasted like as if it was made with cake mix. Pistachio was’nt really pistachio, it tasted like as if they put pistachio pudding mix as an ingridient. Raspberries and cream are the same as the pistachios, tasted like an artificial pudding mix and raspberry jelly was in between the whipped cream and the cake.

    all i can say is that Cupcakes by Sonja is a copycat.

    Sprinkles Cupcakes like packaging…

    the cupcake names are based on heather and lori’s (mocha motion, lemon drop and much more)…

    Store theme was based on Magnolia Bakery interior…


  102. I took my wife here yesterday at her requests. I bought her a cup cake there before, so I guess she liked it. Anyway, I had a coffee and she had a cappuccino, and we had a cupcake each. Damage was about Php330 if I remember correctly. Not cheap, but in the post Starbucks days, well its pretty much par for the course for coffee and pastries for two.

    The coffee was not bad, and the cupcakes were not bad… but I felt like I paid too much. The coffee and cupcake were just nothing great. Even if the price was cut by half, I would not be going back. I guess it is not just my cup of tea (or coffee).

  103. their cupcakes are so great that we wonder how they made you guys know any short courses for cupcakes?my friend and i were so interested in it after trying sonja’s.

  104. your cupcakes look nice and delicious. We’re thinking of giving away cupcakes during our wedding. can we ask about the price? thanks!

  105. mae, please contact the store, Cupcakes by Sonja, directly for pricing. I am not connected with any retail establishments, I write about food. Jake, sorry, I am not familiar with baking courses specifically for cupcakes.

  106. The red velvet vixen is really good. It was the first cupcake that i bought from there. Truly, it is kinda expensive [for a cupcake] but it doesn’t matter. What matters most is that i’ve enjoyed and loved it.

  107. i’ve tried the cupcakes, it was a little dry and crumbly. the it was my favorite flavor so i couldn’t resist, mint. i some of you out there are looking for a moist cupcake, there’s a new cupcake store in alabang town center in front of Mark’s and spencer. worth a try :D

  108. Great site!
    I agree, the “Melt-In-Your-Mouth Flourless Chocolate Cupcake” is number one on my list so it’s still enough motivation to still keep going to Sonja’s. However, the Red Velvet Vixen seems quite dry and tasteless so maybe they should work on making a moist version.

    The homebakers at the Baker’s Fair at the Powerplant Mall have so many similar cupcakes on display so I hope this will push more cupcake bakers to refine their recipes and reinvent packaging. :-)

  109. i realize its been a while since you’ve posted this, but would like to comment anyhow. I too was disappointed after buying a box of cupcakes a couple of months back. Although the hype was already downplayed by the time I was able to try them ( I though I would let them go through the “growing pains” phase first)Everything was too sweet (like it was drowning in frosting) I would rather spend my money elsewhere. Too bad tho, I loved the interior perfect for a girls’ afternoon out… maybe I can just bring baon Betty Crocker’s ready mix cupcakes next time! LOL

  110. Hi!

    I have tried the cupcakes of sonia in serendra last year. I would say they are good. But when I tried the famous Magnolia Bakery in New York where she used to work, i would say hers are better judging from sweetness, dynamics of taste and flavours and what not. I also tried the more famous Georgetown Cupcakes in Washington DC and Baked Wired, and i would still say that the cupcakes of sonia are better.

  111. I have not yet tried those cupcakes, I think i’ll try the carrot (cupcake?) and the flourless chocolate cake when i celebrate my birthday with my friend. do you know a good place to eat in serendra aside from TGIF, GUMBO, krispy kreme and italianni’s? wow, this is a pretty pricey cupcake shop!!

  112. I’ve tried Sonja’s cupcakes and they were just a notch above ordinary. Certainly too expensive. The cake is dry; the frosting is okay, but can be overpowering at times.

    I’ve tried Ienne’s cupcakes in Alabang Town Center and Frostings cupcakes in Glorietta. They’re both better than Sonja’s. Aside from being worth their respective prices, both have unique complementing tastes from the cake and frosting.

  113. I tried a cupcake here, and it is true that it is indeed expensive. But I’m a sweet tooth, at naapreciate ko talaga yung sweetness niya. Some might say na masyadong matamis, but for me, it’s quite a blast. :)



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