Vargas Butter Cake

If you have never tasted the Vargas Butter Cake, where have varg1you been for the last 20 years!?! Seriously, this is my favorite butter cake of all time. A Makati icon, it deserves to be in the Hall of Fame of home-cooked specialties. It is light, airy, consistent, flavorful, moist but not wet and sweet but not cloying. I have tried to make butter cake many times using many different recipes, many grades of butter, different pans, cooking temperatures, etc. but none has come close to this. The Vargas Butter Cake has been melting in people’s mouths for the past two decades, I think. The recipe is a closely guarded secret but I suspect one of the key components is canned rather than fresh butter. Somehow the intensity of flavor must come from a canned butter rather than the pathetic watery locally available butters. The lightness may turn off Western afficionados of butter cake that like it dense but this is a uniquely Filipino twist to butter cake… almost like the attraction some find for really pouffy mamon. Maybe if I hung around outside their house and rooted through their garbage I could figure out what makes this cake tick.

The Vargas Butter Cake is great on its own. varg2It is also a terrific foil to fresh berries and cream. It goes well in a rich trifle. I can eat huge amounts of it together with a pot of good tea. We order it at least 6-10 times a year. And now I notice it is available at both the Saturday Salcedo Market and the Sunday Legazpi Market… If you have never tried this cake before or if you haven’t had some recently, give them a call. Vargas Kitchen at 49 Pili Avenue, Forbes Park, Makati. Telephone 810-7529 and 817-8483. They have lots of other home cooked specialties on offer but I have rarely gone beyond the butter cake. Order a day in advance. If you just want a taste, check them out at the Salcedo or Legazpi markets. At PHP 600 for a large cake measuring 10 x 14 inches, it is pricey but worth every single centavo!

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28 Responses

  1. I have always suspected that they’re using a variation of the Brunn butter cake recipe. We used to buy Brunn butter at Landmark. A bit expensive but tastes better than the other canned butters available locally.

  2. I buy the individually wrapped slices because I ate an entire small butter cake (only P150) on my own in a fit of despondency, made me feel better but boy the added inches that must have given me. Anyhoo, I love their butter cake and it’s one of my treats after a quick shopping trip at Salcedo Market.
    The image of you rooting through their garbage bins to find out what butter they use is keeping me in giggles right now. Thanks!

  3. Where is Salcedo market? I live melbourne, oz and i’ll be coming to manila for holidays in three weeks time. I’m also crazy about butter cakes and i want to try this one! Marketman, can u recommend some eating places for me to try? i’ll be staying in makati at dusit hotel to be exact. I can’t wait to gorge to tell u the truth! hahahaha

  4. I absolute adore this cake! I would run 5-6x around Ayala Triangle on Saturday mornings and afterwards I’d hit nearby Coffee Bean for my tall Tropical Passion Tea Latte before I scurry to Salcedo Market so I could have this and the budbud kabog. The heck with carbophobia! I earned my butter cake slice!

  5. Ellen, the Salcedo market is in the parking lot at the “center” of Salcedo Village in Makati. Get there by about 730 am on Saturdays. The Legazpi Market is in the parking lot at the “center” of Legazpi village in Makati. I don’t eat out too much so my restaurant recommendations would be lacking…but at any rate, within two kilometers of the Dusit could be El Cirkulo (Spanish), Tsukiji (Japanese) and Milky Way Cafe (Filipino)all in the same building on Pasay Road… In the Greenbelt area there is Pepato (Italian). Via Mare is always a staple for Filipino food like pancit luglug. But don’t miss the Salcedo market for bibingka, yema, pastillas, etc. Have a good visit!

  6. Ilove butter cake and will definitely try this one. if you haven’t tried mrs baby yulo’s strawberry shortcake and estrel’s caramel cake, you should!! its super sarap

  7. Oh, I love the Yulo strawberry cake! Call me blessed but someone gave me a whole cake out of the blue last week! Without shame, lemme just say I gorged on the cake without remorse. The strawberries though deflated after a day. It really is the kinda cake you have to finish off right away.

    I love the Estrel’s cake as well. Very light like it’s been baked by angels! While fancy cakes are great and divine, I think there is also a clamor for the simple, kiddie birthday-style cakes. In my case, I just love the comfort of the familiar and the taste of something that reminds me of simpler and pure times.

    I also highly recommend the white birthday cake of COSTA BRAVA (#8961267, Polaris St. Bel-Air) — comes in cupcakes or in the regular rectangular shape. A friend of mine celebrated her birthday with a multi-tiered white birthday cake and I kid you not, we feasted on mounds of that stuff — chiffon cake piped in with butter icing and capped off with a rosette of white frosting. It’s nice sometimes to just eat like a child and just have wanton disregard for caloric intake.

  8. Strange…my mother’s mother is a Vargas and I’ve never heard of this cake. I guess we were never really butter cake people. But I’ll have to check it out. Glad to know it’s at the Salcedo Market.

  9. are they the ones who make brazo de mercedes also? i remember the box… the ones who gave us the brazos wont divulge where they got it… secret daw! now, i know! bwahahaha. thanks marketman. btw, can you tell me where to get the best chocolate cake, caramel cake and butter-icing cake etc? my family loves cakes and i would like to serve them the best of each kind.

  10. Suzette, I get my chocolate cakes from the Yulo household in Forbes, will put a post in the future. Also, I hear the chocolate cakes at a gas station on the south superhighway before the ramp to the skyway is really good but I haven’t had it yet… Oh and yes, the Vargas household does brazo de mercedes as well…

  11. Marketman — the name of the famed Shell Magallanes cake is POLLY’S! Suzette – Just make sure it’s a fresh order so you get a devilishly moist and chocolatey cake with gooey, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth frosting. There’s also the reliable HUNGRYPAC available in Glorietta Food Choices and ST. GABBIE’S in Market, Market — the latter is an unbelievably low-priced but delightful chocolate cake that sits on a puddle of chocolate frosting mala decadent cake (minus the caramel syrup). The ST. GABBIE’S stall is in between Tokyo Tokyo and Pancake House. A small round cake (sized like a fastfood burger) is just about P35 would you believe? You know, Figaro has great chocolate cake too. Just ask them to nuke it on high (microwave) for about 45 seconds or so. It’s wicked.

    For a more fancy cake, I know someone who supplies French Chocolate Lava cupcakes. Had this for Christmas and it was just a hit! I served it warm with Haagen-Dazs macadamia nut brittle. Your tongue will quiver and your eyes will roll — dark chocolate heaven punctuated by cream and crunch.

    They also have wonderful not-cloyingly sweet brazo de mercedes. You can really taste some tinge of citrus in the custard core. For Caramel cake, you can try Estrel’s (in QC) or Costa Brava (in Bel-Air).

  12. thanks heaps mm and gigi! i ordered the vargas cake yeterday… i asked a family friend who also lives in the area and is going to laguna today,to buy it for me. can’t wait :)

  13. got to try the much=talked about and celebrated (kuno)vargas butter cake and frankly, it was a huge letdown..mas masarap pa their bibingkang galapong at p30, even for that amount, i would gladly repurchase that miniscule bibingka…budbud was pasable. i wish costa brava would sell slices of their white birtyday cake at legaspi or salcedo mkt so the majority can partake of slices…may pag-asa kaya? thanks.

  14. crisel, sorry you were disappointed with the Vargas cake…what about it was a let down? I have tried twice to bake something like it, last night the most recent attempt and I can’t come close. For me it is still very very good. If you come across a better butter cake or have a recipe, let me know. The bibingka at Salcedo is good. And I find the budbud superb. I have never heard of or tried the costa brava white birthday cake…

  15. Marketman — you should try the Costa Brava white birthday cake. (Call # 8961267. Crisel’s got a good idea. Maybe Costa Brava can do what Magnolia Bakery in NY has done with cupcakes and sell the stuff ready-made (instead of just made to order). I also remember the popular Queen’s supermarket of 80s that sold cakes by the slice that they put it paper plates and wrapped with wax paper and stabbed with toothpicks in strategic spots to protect the frosting. Nostalgic and delish!

    Personally, the Vargas butter cake is still the best compared to butter cakes I’ve tasted — my waistline and protesting weighing scale are testament to that. I bought a couple of slices last Saturday and accidentally left it in the car. I came back a couple of hours later and it was soft and the wax paper stained with melted butter. It tasted much better! (Kids, do not try this trick in the parking lot. Thank God it didn’t spoil!)

    The budbud, I daresay, is more than passable. I have to hand it to Carl and wife for painstakingly driving from Alabang all the way to Makati on an early Saturday morning just to share this native kakanin gem. For one, I wouldn’t bother making it even if I get the well-guarded secret recipe. I bet it makes a good bicep work-out to stir the malagkit but I’ve got better things to do. Second, it is unlike all other sumans as the Salcedo budbud has better grain cohesion — unlike the Antipolo’s signature suman sa Ibos, for example, which just disintegrates after a bite), an unbelievable smooth mouthfeel, right-to-the bite texture and just the perfect amount of sweetness — one that allows the coconut milk to shine thru as well as the base flavor — it comes in chocolate, langka, plain, cassava. Those properties make the budbud truly a delight to eat. It’s such a “confident” suman that no sauce or dip is necessary. On occasion, I do purchase a couple of sweet mangoes beside the budbud stall and get myself those tetra-pak coconut milk and make an eyerollingly good Thai sticky rice with mango. FAN-TAS-TIC.

  16. Can everyone who has suggested all these cakes (e.g. caramel cake, white cake, butter cake, strawberry shortcake, chocolate cake etc.) please post in the names of the stores, their address and contact numbers, please? my sis just sent me this site and i enjoyed reading each and everyone of your comments and made my mouth water! i am intrigued with the butter cake and i look forward to my next baking therapy session and attempt to mae a butter cake…please share your contacts ; )

  17. where can buy a brunn butter/powder in new york area? can you please give me the name of the store in nyc, or website where can i buy through online? i will buy 2 big cans or 5 small cans (if available in the market).

    thank you.

  18. Long time lurker here, and I finally went to Legazpi Market last sunday (which I found out about thanks to this post)… Funny how even if it’s just a walk away, I had to get a tip from here hehe…

    Tried the famous Vargas butter cake and you’re right, it is yummy! It also reminded me of the butter cakes my mom made when I was younger. When I go home this christmas, am going to dig up that recipe!

  19. The butter cake, is it like a pound cake? 1 pound each of butter, sugar and flour? Thus the name. I dont know if I can go crazy over this cake. Gotta try it I guess but seriously, how can it be unique? I bet you, they use some cheap butter you wont even believe! Ha ha ha

  20. rampau, the butter cake is lighter than a pound cake. They use the old-fashioned canned butter that has a more intense buttery taste. I have tried to replicate it but have been unsuccessfull to date…

  21. dear mm,
    i would like to try the yulo chocolate cake. may i know the contact number? i’ ve tried the vargas butter cake and polly’s chocalate and it is soooooo good! thank you.

  22. hi Gigi, where do i get the French Chocolate Lava Cupcakes, i’m very keen on having a taste =)

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