Filipinos around the world: Do you remember those parties back in the 80s/early 90s where the designated dessert was either Crema De Fruta and/or Brazo De Mercedes? Non Filipinos with Filipino friends: Have you or your loved one suffered thru a Filipino party wherein you were guilt-tripped into eating either presentably challenged desserts?
For my international readers out there, Crema De Fruta is a layered dessert of (in this order) sponge cake, bavarian creme, fruit cocktail, and gelatin. It is chilled and when sliced onto a plate, turns into an absolute mess. Think of a terrine, then think of the messiest way to make it. It might have been the lack of choices back then for good dessert options, but I remember absolutely gagging when I had to eat it. I usually pick on the gelatin because I love gelatin. I love Jello, I love Jelly Ace, I love Conjac Jelly, I love… ok you get the point.
Brazo De Mercedes is another one of those dessert disasters. Basically a dessert version of an egg. Literally. Now, I love eggs and there is no denying that, but someone has to draw the line especially when you try to replicate the eggs’ perfection into a sugary overload of a dessert. The yolk becomes a sweet cream encapsulated by a runny egg white meringue and rolled up in the shape of a log. The only other ingredient aside from an egg is probably an extra egg and a vat full of sugar to go along with it. Think pavlova minus the Russian name.
Clearly, I was not a fan of either dessert. Growing up, if I had my say, I would go get dirty ice cream (peddled ice cream)
or taho (soft tofu with tapioca balls and sweet syrup) from manong magtataho
and palitaw (rice flour balls with dessicated coconut, sesame seeds and sugar) from those ladies who are “naglalako” (selling in the streets) outside your house.
But times are achanging and so are our options. Now we have bakeries devoted only to cupcakes, or chocolate shoppes, and even yogurteries. Gone are the days of moldy cakes with more food coloring than there is flavor, now we even have sugar free and carb conscious treats. Heck, even my pooch Jimmy Choo eats organic cookies now. I’m still at a loss as to why I let my dog eat better than I do.In this day and age of options and alternatives, there are some who decide to take an old thing, and make it brand spanking new. So new, in fact, that it has made me a convert from a Brazo De Mercedes-phobic to full on Brazo addict.

Case in point: Frozen Brazo De Mercedes
Someone decided to gift us a nice cake box with frozen brazo inside. I didn’t eat it, even though everyone was raving about it. It took about 5 parties and about 5 frozen brazo refusals before I took my spoon and dug in. The one thing i hated the most about Brazo was the overwhelming amount of meringue . Think of the meringue as the donut, and the sweet cream as the munchkin (ala Dunkin Donuts). It made me think of those multi-colored meringue candy treats which just tasted like sweet chalk.

When I had the frozen version, I had a moment. A very long moment. How could this be? This is not Brazo de Mercedes, and yet it is! They made the yuckiest dessert (imho) and turned it into a frozen delight!Lets start from top to bottom. Yes, the inexcludable meringue still appears, but it is now just one layer in the four layers that comprize this freezer dessert. Nice and brown in the top, the consistency is still fluffy but now with a chewier texture. I can live with that.

Layer 2 is the sweet cream made from the yolk. But instead of the overly sticky creme found in conventional Brazos, this cream layer is more on the consistency of yema (sweet yolk creme) and with more caramelly taste. I’m beginning to like this.

The third layer, the new addition, is the deviously rich mantequilla ice cream. Mantiquilla is old filipino for butter, better yet, buttery vanilla ice creme. It’s creaminess and frozen state add a richness that goes well with most ice cream flavors. Now I really like this layer

And finally, my ultimate favorite, a nice chunky layer of graham cracker crust to seal the deal. It is even better when the ice cream layer has softened, because the crust becomes chewier and less crumbly. I love a good graham cracker crust and this one takes the cake, pun intended.

Think refrigerator cake, or an ice cream cake, but trying a nice slice of frozen Brazo lets me forget my pained childhood of having to eat the original Brazo De Mercedes. My friend Peachy also makes a green tea version, but I end up eating only the ice cream, so I suggest you stick with the original.

Speaking of the original…
So was I at Damaso in Greenbelt 5 last saturday when my renewed encounter with the real deal occured. The Original Brazo De Mercedes. My sister-in-law decides to order the Brazo. I won’t deny it, I gave her the look. The look that said “nooooo… let’s get the chocolate mousse instead!!!” and when she did order the chocolate mousse cake, I threw in another look that begged her to drop the Brazo for the baked cheesecake with santol, prunes and dried figs. Nonetheless, Brazo Ni Dona Vicki was still on our order list
Let’s begin with the description of Brazo ni Doña Vicki: chewy meringue roulade with fresh butter curd. (fyi: Doña Vicki refers to Doña Victorina, the wicked matron character of the famed Jose Rizal novel Noli Me Tangere. Damaso is Padre Damaso, the bauble encrusted priest in the same novel)
When the duo of desserts arrived, my fork was lingering to the chocolate mousse cake, I was to have none of the evil childhood dessert unless it came in the form of an ice cream cake. But as soon as I thought that aloud, all other forks in the table (there were 4 more), kept ooh-ing and aah-ing in delight. Oh Jean, you just haaaave to try the Brazo.
So I did.
It looks like the usual Brazo. Smells like the usual Brazo. But my first bite, the very first bite, looked every bit the scene in Ratatouille when the discerning food critic Anton Ego takes the very first bite of the simple vegetable dish that is ratatouille prepared by Remy the rat. Anton Ego bursts into tears, following a montage of childhood memories of his mother and the moments of culinary disappointment that turned him into the soulless character he was positioned to be, but was not. The dish brought him back to the time when he truly enjoyed the simplicity of good food minus the hoopla that most haute cuisineries now sell their dishes by.
 
Ok sorry, I did not cry. The childhood montage, maybe. But the Brazo, the taste, was exactly how it should have been from the beginning. The description cannot be any more accurate and inaccurate. Accurate because, yes the meringue is chewy. Chewy! I am a sucker for chewy! I never thought meringue could be this chewy and this good! I don’t even know what roulade is exactly, but i’m sure it meant chewy goodness or something to that extent.
 
Fresh butter curd: Accurate! The center where the yolky sugarness usually starts to gag me became a thick creamy curd which is, in fact, buttery. Again, it reminds me of mantequilla! Oh the pleasures of butter and egg!Here is where the inaccuracies take place. The meringue, I believe, is toasted longer than it usually is, thereby creating the chewier than usual marshmallow texture and provides a nice caramel shell to envelope the dessert.

The green goo decorating the plate is not goo, but lime syrup. It took 5 girls a couple of tries with the tip of our forks to establish that said goo is, in fact, lime and not dayap or dalandan. In medieval times, the only syrup found in a Brazo De Mercedes would be the liquid escaping the runny meringue onto the (usual) styrofoam platter, making it soppy and just plain gross. But the lime syrup lends an acidity which cuts down on the richness of the dessert. Whoever decided to add the green goo should be merited for innovative prowess on such a traditional dessert.

I can’t believe it, I’ve been duped into trying something old, and it completely threw me off guard for the better. It must be said that upon browsing the menu of Damaso, another visit is indeed necessary to fully establish the overall rating of the restaurant. But judging from the eyecatching dishes that came out during our stay, it will definitely make my tummy happy.

Oh, and that chocolate mousse cake was amazing too… but I got caught up in the Brazo. Just take my word for it.

Now, if some smartass decides to recreate crema de fruta into a 21st century dessert genius, he better stop the delirium right this instant because there is no way in hell that dessert can be redeemable.

Damaso is located at the 2nd floor of Greenbelt 5 in Makati. If you want to try the food please let me know so I can join, as I am dying to try the tuyo pasta.

To try some very good frozen Frozen Brazo De Meredes in Ortigas/Libis area, call Peachy at : (egad! I erased her number! let me get back to you on this one.)
If you’re in the Makati area, best bet is Dimpy Camara’s : 8438086, look for Lucy.

Taho image from: www.ronniedelcarmen.com
Taho vendor image from: www.kabaka.org
dirty ice cream image from: www.erasmusa.blogspot.com
DIC vendor image from: www.senorenrique.blogspot.com