Part-cake, part-dinner roll, part-Body Shop mud scrub, these roll cakes have become a cultural landmark for local gatherings—because how else can you gloat about feeding twenty people chocolate cake for less than five hundred pesos? They’re nothing fancy, but they get the work done.
After our tight ensaymada round pitting Goldilocks against Red Ribbon, we go deeper and darker. Going head to head today: the chocolate roll.
Both brands offer chocolate in no less than three forms: in the sponge sheet, the filling, and the frosting. They’re roughly of the same height, length, and format, though with a curious five-peso price difference.
The criteria: presentation, chocolate flavor, and harmony between parts. Looks-wise, it should have some semblance of finesse (before your party guests rip it apart, anyway). The ideal slice would be indulgent enough to qualify as dessert, but not too rich that you wouldn’t go back for another helping. It should be just sweet enough to please, but you wouldn’t want your guests to die from a sugar coma.
At this price point, it’s unfair to expect the nuance or depth of topnotch cocoa or chocolate, so just the prerequisite whisper of bitterness will suffice, at least to assert its chocolaty identity. But the frosting should at least agree with the cake and vice versa—balance doesn’t cost a single cent. We’re not trying to find the gold standard here, just the reliable comfort and utility of a party pleaser.
Goldilocks’ Chocolate Overload Roll
From the bright yellow box to the buttercream, Goldilocks’ roll looks like it invented the birthday party. But the cake turns out to be more sophisticated than it looks.
The frosting, for starters, is surprisingly not too sweet. It reminds me of old-fashioned condensed milk “fudge” frostings, but lightened up. The consistency is much silkier, with a goopiness reminiscent of instant pudding. While the chocolate doesn’t scream, there’s a decent amount of darkness and a malty, milky finish. It’s no full-blown fudge or ganache, but the lightness makes it a joy to eat by the spoonful.
The sponge has a relatively dense, tight crumb, which gives it enough structure to be rolled and sliced neatly. But it has the moistnessness and bounce of a chiffon. Though salty at times it also has acidity, and the flavor of cocoa boosted by what tastes like coffee. Their cake of choice is brilliant: light enough to accommodate any frosting, but with ample heft that it that it can stand on its own.
Filling up the space within is a chocolate buttercream—a polarizing addition that could drive some over the edge. But for what it is, it’s pretty darn smooth. With a whipped consistency and undertones of cocoa, it cuts through the sponge and the frosting quite nicely.
Taken altogether, the individual components manage to balance each other out, creating the impression of a decent fudge cake.
Red Ribbon Triple Chocolate Roll
As the more expensive roll, Red Ribbon’s version commands a marginally higher five peso expectation. Looks-wise at least, it does not disappoint. The red box and dark-on-dark color scheme exude a sense of refinement.
The frosting (which doubles as the filling) is similar to Goldilocks’ in consistency, just a tad stickier. But the flavor deceives: it’s less dark, less robust. (And it bears an eerie similarity to that of Chubby brand chocolate chews.) Though not necessarily too sweet, it almost feels that way as there’s less of a bitter flavor to balance it out. Towards the end you get a milky, tropical funk I associate with palm oil or margarine. Though it does not offend, it comes across as artificial.
Their sponge matches the frosting in one-dimensional sweetness. Leaner and fluffier than Goldilocks’, it borders on dry in some areas. But you get a good contrast in texture once you take it with the frosting which clings onto its every open crumb and crevice. The crumbs, in turn, absorb the frosting’s moist squidge.
Overall, Red Ribbon’s cake loses out compared to Goldilocks’. But while the individual parts fail to impress, the way it comes together ain’t too shabby. It’s just less of a chocolate cake.
Our Pick: Goldilocks
Goldilocks once again wins this round with a chocolate cake that better fits its label. It delivers, from the solo parts to the cake in its totality. If you don’t mind lugging around the tacky yellow box, you get more cake for your cash and more people to please. Isn’t that what celebrations are all about?
This article was originally published in 2016.