One morning in May, my friend Joel and I wandered around SoHo in search of breakfast. “I’d be totally okay with Dunkin Donuts,” I said, thinking about those maple sausage pancake bites.
But we had no idea where the nearest Dunkin Donuts was, so we kept walking. We ended up several blocks from my hotel, in front of a small bakery on Spring Street, its yellow awning and display of pastries inviting us in. We shrugged and stepped inside.
We each ordered a Perfect Little Egg Sandwich (creamy steamed scrambled eggs, herbs and gruyere cheese on a mini brioche bun) and a glass of orange juice, thankful to have found a quiet breakfast nook in bustling Manhattan.
Exactly one week later, Dominique Ansel launched what has become the legendary cronut, turning our serene morning spot into a place of dessert madness.
You know what it is by now—the sinful love child of the mighty donut and the delicate croissant that has driven the world nuts.
Ansel claims that cronuts aren’t just fried croissant dough, and that it took two months and 10 recipes to perfect his creation.
Lines are always long and the cronuts disappear within minutes, even though the bakery has set a two-cronut-per-person limit. The demand for cronuts is so strong that people have actually started scalping them.
I was still in New York when the cronut craze exploded, but I had moved on to Brooklyn. And even though I was miles away from the only bakery that sold it, I still couldn’t escape it.
Cronuts were everywhere—on Facebook and Instagram, on TV, in the pages of every newspaper and magazine I picked up. Messages from friends in Manila kept coming, each begging me to try the pastry hybrid.
But people were lining up as early as six in the morning for those flaky treats. I love food, but the idea of getting up at 5 a.m. to trek to SoHo was unappetizing. I wasn’t willing to pay a scalper $40 to deliver a $5 cronut to Brooklyn, either.
I returned to Manila weeks later and discovered that cronutmania had followed me home. Ansel’s attempts at battling against knockoffs were futile; not even applying for an international trademark could stop copycats.
All over the world, there are cronut clones in all forms and spellings, and Manila is home to a lot of them.
Urged by my editor, I decided to stop resisting. It was time to take the cronut plunge. I may have missed out on the original, but I was determined to find the best that Manila could offer.
Armed with cronut knowledge from countless articles I’ve read and minutes spent studying the cross-section of the killer pastry, I set out in search of the most hype-worthy cronut available locally.
I recruited my grandma to be my partner in this quest. When I told her about my plan, she said, “Ayoko niyan, hindi ’yan masarap.”
I figured that would make her an even better judge; the cronut that will change her mind will win our taste test.
There are three important components to a cronut—the flaky layers, the cream filling and the glaze.
We judged these cronut copycats on those categories and factored in the flavors, ease of purchase, price, total experience and ultimately asked ourselves: “Would we be willing to line up for it?”
I spent Friday afternoon calling different stores to reserve a cronut in each place. That’s the first rule of cronuts. Because these pastries sell out really fast, you cannot just waltz into the store; you must call first to avoid disappointment.
Le Coeur de France
Saturday was cronut day and our first stop was Le Coeur de France at Shangri-La Plaza Mall. The guy who answered the phone said it was safest to come as soon as the mall opens because he wasn’t sure how fast their Croughnuts would run out.
Le Coeur’s Croughnuts go for P89 each and come in three flavors—Double Belgian Chocolate, Mixed Berries and Parmesan Cheese.
I bit into a Double Belgian Chocolate and the first thing we noticed was the texture. It wasn’t flaky, it was chewy—way too chewy. Unlike Ansel’s creation and all the cronuts I have tried, Le Coeur’s Croughnuts are baked, not fried. They’re healthier, yes, but the texture suffered a lot. The best part was the rich chocolate topping.
Stop number two was Dolcelatte Café on Quezon Avenue. I had called the previous day to reserve a Chocolate Caramel Croughnut, but when I arrived, they had packed a Chocolate Macaroon for me. Luckily, one last Chocolate Caramel was available and a quick switch was made.
Dolcelatte offers the widest range of flavors—Valhrona Crunch, Custard Cream Cheese, Peanut Butter Crisp, Apple Cinnamon, Blueberry Cream Cheese, Almond Caramel, Raspberry Cream Cheese, Nutty Nutella and Lemon Meringue. Its Croughnuts are more expensive at P110 each, but they’re also bigger.
The Chocolate Caramel croughnut had been topped with hard chocolate coating and chunks of Snickers candy bar, and had a delicious nutty caramel filling. The Croughnut was tasty and very crunchy, but I found myself wishing it was a little more chewy.
Lola Charit declared this her favorite though, saying she liked the crisp layers. Although she said she wished the chocolate topping wasn’t so crumbly, she liked Dolcelatte’s Croughnut so much that she kept sneaking bites of it throughout the day even after having tasted other cronuts.
Yamato Bakery Café
We picked up our Strawberry Japanese Croissant Donut from Yamato Bakery Café on Jupiter Street, Makati City. Other flavors are Vanilla, Chocolate and Matcha (green tea). At P120 each, this was even more expensive than Dolcelatte’s but it was also big.
This cronut had been rolled in sugar, filled with strawberry cream and topped with a strawberry glaze—a treat for a strawberry lover like me. It was soft, chewy and a little oily.
It reminded me of the sugar-covered bicho-bicho my mother liked bringing home from Ongpin when I was a kid. Lola Charit must have been reading my mind because she pointed to my notebook and said, “Write ‘glorified bicho-bicho.’”
At Mandarin Oriental’s Mandarin Deli, there were no more MO Crodos in sight, but the one I reserved had been lovingly wrapped and tucked away in white paper bag. The vanilla Crodos were unavailable; only the chocolate variant was made that day.
It did not disappoint. The chocolate Crodo had been rolled in sugar, topped with rich chocolate and tiny, crunchy chocolate balls, and dusted with cocoa powder. The texture was lovely, both crisp and chewy, and the abundance of chocolate pastry cream was a delight.
It was the first of the cronuts I tried that day that I felt willing to eat in its entirety. Lola Charit really liked this, too. The best part? The crodos are only P85 each (P96 after taxes).
Café Jeepney at InterContinental Hotel serves Cro-Nuts in five flavors—Red Velvet, Sugar Cinnamon, White Chocolate, Cheesecake and Dark Chocolate with Vanilla Cream. I had reserved a Red Velvet, but when I walked in, the other flavors were also available.
The Cro-Nut had a sugar glaze, was drizzled with red frosting and rolled in red velvet cake crumbs, and inside was a cream-cheese filling. I really liked the texture of this cronut; it had crisp, flaky layers but it was also chewy like a fresh donut. If Krispy Kreme’s Original Glazed and your favorite croissant had a baby, this would be it.
The Red Velvet flavor became more pronounced as I took more bites. While Lola Charit kept snacking on the Dolcelatte Chocolate Caramel between bites of other cronuts, this was the one I kept going back to.
I also give Café Jeepney bonus points for having really warm and pleasant staff both on the phone and in the store. Its customer service was just as sweet as its cronut. This was the most expensive cronut, though, at P130 each.
L’entrecote in Bonifacio Global City makes cronuts only upon a minimum order of four. You must call and give the resto at least 45 minutes to whip them up. We ordered one of each flavor—Chocolate, Lemon Vanilla, Oreo and Raspberry—but included only Lemon Vanilla in our test. We ended up paying P360 (P396 after taxes) for four cronuts, or P99 each.
The Lemon Vanilla Cronut was rolled in sugar, filled with tart lemon cream and topped with yellow sprinkles. We liked the cream’s lemony taste but we weren’t fans of the sprinkles. They made this cronut too sweet.
Although L’entrecote’s Lemon Vanilla was the freshest we’ve eaten, it was also the oiliest we’ve tried, leaving us feeling a little nauseous.
Wildflour Café + Bakery
This was the first to recreate the cronut in Manila. We had called the day before to reserve, and we were glad we did.
When we got there, the Podium branch was incredibly busy and the cronuts were gone—except for the Chocolate Croissant Donut that had our name on it.
It was hefty, had been rolled in sugar, piped with chocolate frosting and filled with cream. It was crisp, airy, chewy, with flaky layers that were not as delicate-looking as those in Ansel’s cronuts.
This was one of the few cronuts I enjoyed; the flavors were clean and I found myself wanting to take another bite. Lola Charit still held on to her own favorites, but relented, “Masarap ito.”
Wildflour’s other flavors are Vanilla, Strawberry and Dulce De Leche. At P120 each, this is one of the more expensive cronut-inspired treats.
Dunkin’ Donuts has its version, but only its bigger stores carry it. Its Croissant Donuts are available in Apple Cinnamon, Choco Almond, Choco Bavarian, and Strawberries and Cranberries. We went for the Strawberries and Cranberries variant.
It had a lot going on—glazed, drizzled with frosting, had strawberry jam, and was topped with walnut bits and cranberries. As a result, this pastry was much too sweet. It was also very dense and chewy, making it more like a donut than a croissant.
It’s great value for money though, since this was one of the bigger cronuts and cost only P75 each. But we’ll still take a box of our favorite Munchkins over this, any day.
It took us two attempts to get our hands on Chatime’s Kronuts, available only in its branch in Pioneer Center. The place had run out in the early afternoon, but replenished its stocks in the evening so we managed to snag a Kronut.
We had originally wanted the Irish Cream-flavored one, but had to settle for the Coco Cream. When asked to tell us what it was exactly, we were told, “Para siyang buko pandan, ma’am.”
That explained the slime-green glaze and the desiccated coconut. We will give props to Chatime for offering the most Pinoy cronut flavor and for being the most affordable (just P55 each). But its texture really was more donut than croissant, very soft and not flaky.
Country Style Donuts
Country Style Donuts is one of the newest players in the Manila scene. It started to offer its goods only last week. Its cronut is among the cheaper ones, too—only P60 each and available in four flavors, Caramel, Boston Delight, Peanut Butter and Cream Cheese.
The Cream Cheese variant, which was rolled in sugar and topped and filled with cream cheese frosting, was also more donut than croissant, leaving us still dreaming of those beautiful flakes we saw in Ansel’s original.
Anybody Coffee at Trinoma has Cronutz in five flavors—Dark Chocolate, White Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, Strawberry and Pistachio. We went for Dark Chocolate, which had been topped with dark chocolate ganache and rolled in cinnamon sugar. The cinnamon sugar was a nice touch; it reminded me of my beloved churros.
But while I liked its churros taste, this cronut was way too heavy, dense and doughy, and not flaky at all. One Cronutz costs P95 and we had to pay an additional P10 for a takeout box.
We had the most difficulty in trying to get Brasserie Girolle’s version. We called on Friday, were told the store had sold out its cronut stocks for Saturday, and that the next available ones would be on Monday at 4 p.m.
On Monday 4 p.m., we discovered that our Banana Nutella Cronut wasn’t ready and that we had to wait another hour for it. I would have gotten annoyed, except that Brasserie Girolle’s version was actually pretty good.
It gave the cronut its own twist by turning it into a sandwich—banana slices and a generous serving of Nutella between two crisp cronut halves, drizzled with caramel sauce and sprinkled with ground nuts—and selling it for P120.
It was delicious, but it didn’t really look, taste or feel like a cronut. It reminded me more of those Beaver Tails I used to eat at Glorietta 4. Now I know where to go if I start missing them again.
At the end of our sugar-filled mission, Lola Charit and I chose our top three.
Her picks? Dolcelatte, Mandarin Deli and Café Jeepney.
Mine were Wildflour, Café Jeepney and Mandarin Deli. Brasserie Girolle gets a special mention for its unique and tasty take on the cronut.
Will I line up for any of these? No. But I may be the wrong person to ask. After eating 12 cronuts in two days, I will be happy not to see another cronut again.