Once upon a time – for that is how all stories should begin – desserts can be easily classified into one of these categories: cakes, cookies, biscuits, gelatins, pastries, ice creams, pies, puddings, and candies.
Then Dominique Ansel’s Cronut™ happened.
This hybrid dessert-- a flaky cross between croissant and donut-- took Manhattan (and eventually, Manila) by storm and jumpstarted the quest for the next big mash-up. Nowadays, recipes for never-before-made food portmanteaus, such as docaron (donuts + macarons), coocake (cookie + cake), doffin (donut + muffin), are guaranteed the hot topic slots in the food boards of Pinterest and Buzzfeed. It seems like the sweet-toothed population has gotten over their obsession with plain cupcakes and cheesecakes. Clearly, there’s clamor for something crazier and better.
To keep up with the demand for creative dessert mash-ups, The Cravings Group (TCG)—a 25 year-old restaurant group known for traditional recipes-- opened up Wicked by Cravings, a playful dessert cafe at the 5th level, East Wing of Shangri-la Plaza.
“We want our desserts to be unique, mischievous, playful, and naughty. This is where you get your sugar trance. This is where we make your dessert fantasies come true,” says Chef Christine Paredes, a consultant for TCG and a former instructor in CCA.
Wicked: A Dessert Playground
In contrast with homey Cravings that features mostly classic, time-tested desserts; Wicked is young, exciting, and fun. Most of the energy is derived from the young team running the restaurant. “Desserts here are very current, very hip—all conceptualized by me and my babies (young CCA graduate chefs, who were her former students),“ Chef Christine, the “mother” of the spunky group, proudly remarked.
The mother and her "babies": Chef Christine and the young chefs of Wicked
Wicked’s menu is divided into three major categories: Wickedly Sinful, Wickedly Sexy, and Wickedly Intoxicating, plus a couple of classic items here and there.
The hybrids fall under Wickedly Sinful. Among the items listed here, Chef Ton Albasin’s Brookie (P165) is getting the most attention.
As its name suggests, Brookies are cookies, sandwiched in between fudgy brownies. Wicked’s version has it covered in dark chocolate and walnuts, then served with a shot of milk on the side. Thick, fudgy, and, okay, indeed wickedly sinful, the Brookie is a lot more complicated that what you have in mind. “I think the Brookie is the most challenging dessert here because the brownie and the cookie require different temperature and have different textures. But I try to bake it as one, at the same time. It was really hard to perfect,” Chef Ton shared.
There’s also the Wicked Stepmother Apple Pie (P145), which is basically apple pie in muffin form. Like its traditional counterpart, the Wicked Stepmother Apple Pie has discernible chunks of apples and is topped with streusel for texture. Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, the apple pie muffin features great contrast in texture and temperature. “The Wicked Stepmother’s Apple Pie is so good it will make Snow White love her stepmother. Ton also did this,” Chef Christine described.
Wicked Stepmother Apple Pie
Chef Christine advises that if you want to watch your portions, you can get the Spiced Pumpkin Lollipies (P125), which has the spiced pumpkin, encased in puff pastry, then served on stick. The problem is that these are so good; you’ll probably get more than a stick.
With Wickedly Intoxicating, you’ll get desserts that are infused with alcohol. The White Russian Fondue (P145), a deconstruction of the White Russian cocktail, has cake pops rolled in roasted almonds, then served with Russian chocolate fondue. These are moist and dense brownie pops dipped in white chocolate fondue flavored with Kahlua and Bailey’s. Other items in this category are Kahlua Jelly Shots (P95) and Lemon Square with Tequila Shot (P120).
White Russian Fondue
For the Wickedly Sexy category, you’ll get desserts with ingredients which actually increase the body temperature, and theoretically, make you romantic. A mix of alcohol, chocolate, and spices like chili are key ingredients in Chili Almond Avocado Brownies (P150), Strawberry Puffs (P40), Candied Ginger Truffle (P40), and Dark Chocolate Pepper Truffle (P50).
But amidst the eclectic selection, Wicked reserved some space for timeless classics.
Cupcakes, although not the rage they once were, are still craved for every now and then. For this, Wicked offers a selection of variegated hard-not-to-like flavors: Vanilla Cupcake (P95), Chocolate Cupcake (P120), Reese Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes (P100), Campfire Marshmallow Cupcakes (P110), Red Velvet Cupcake (P95), and Yema Cupcake (P100).
Wicked’s Salted Caramel Pecan Tart (P235) is another classic, done right. Whole pecans, honey, and butter filling fill up this tart, which can be regarded as one of the bests in the metro.
Salted Caramel Pecan Tart
But perhaps, most beloved in the classic section are the Sticky Buns (P145). Buttery and soft, with gooey caramel pecan topping, the Sticky Buns are baked in house every day and are uniformly excellent.
They have Macarons, too!
All the sweets here are complemented nicely by a selection of coffee (P75 to P135) and tea (P100 to P135). For the coffee beans, Wicked is using a single origin kind that comes from Sumatra. It’s a very dark, chocolate finish with some sort of peanuts at the end.
The Coffee Master
Since, basically, most coffees always go well with chocolate and desserts, it is the tea-pairing that is more of the challenge. As a general recommendation, the African Masala (Chai Latte) will go well with peanut-based desserts, the sticky buns, and the butterscotch.
Chef Christine advises that “eventually, we’ll be bringing in wines, so it will be desserts and wines. We’re going to have a Wicked hour from 5 pm to 6 pm when we’ll showcase our new products. We’ll be bringin in dessert wines, imported beers, and liquers which we’ll pair with our desserts.”
A small, warmly-lit room of orange, green, and magenta, Wicked by Cravings is immediately likeable. The menu is a refreshing departure from the norm, at least from what we’re used to in Cravings. Creativity, the most bangin’ virtue here, is much appreciated. You can see that there’s effort in coming up with flavor combinations that are not really found everywhere.
Wicked’s Brookies, though remarkably good, still has a long shot at becoming The Next Big Mash-up. Nevertheless, Wicked has succeeded this early, for granting many dessertarians their happily ever after.