Quick recap on the last two rounds: Cheese-topped butter bombs, check. Chocolate on chocolate on chocolate, check. It’s been an agonizing two weeks of excess after excess. But the final round goes the opposite direction—in appreciation of the simpler things.
On the spotlight today: Mamon.
These buttery sponge cakes better speak snacks more than dessert due to their straightforward nature. By default, they come plain and unadorned with no frosting or filling to hide behind. But don’t you dismiss them as “boring.” Oh no. Good mamon shines with a few ingredients and maximum results, with more depth than its bare-bones description would suggest.
It takes a special kind of cake to be a mamon. It’s one of those rare breeds that hits the sweet spot between stomach-filler and treat. Mamon doesn’t scream indulgence (or fuss) as much as a frosted cupcake. But it carries a sense of being special more than, say, potato chips or puto. And it caters to all ages and genders—everyone from hungry kids, office workers, and your denture-sporting grandma.
The criteria? Flavor, softness, and moisture. We’re looking for the eggy taste of a sponge cake and the richness of butter. But it can’t be too sweet or rich that it ruins your appetite for dinner. It must be fluffy in texture, but have a distinguishable bite; you want to feel it bounce back in response as you chew. And it’s gotta have enough moisture–a dry cake is a sad cake–without being greasy. Which bakeshop pulls it off better?
Goldilocks’ Fluffy Mamon
Goldilocks boasts of a whimsical one, with a puffy top that springs back when prodded with a finger. Though light, it carries enough structure that a single serving can fill you up.
With a poofy, pillowy center, the height makes it satisfying to sink your teeth into. This might be from whipped egg whites, but this comes at the expense of moisture; what you get is a leaner cake. It ain’t all bad though. This reinforces the texture—think of how cotton balls feel when they’re dry than when they’re dampened—and makes it easy to take bigger bites at a time without feeling overwhelming.
Flavor-wise, this is the more neutral of the two, save for a milky taste that resembles commercial Lemon Square cupcakes (the cheese or buttermilk variety, to be specific) and some added toastiness from the browned top. It’s not unpleasant, just one-dimensional.
Thankfully you’ll find butter and/or margarine cloaking its outer edges. This contributes some flavor and helps restore moisture to the areas they touch. The result doesn’t scream butter as much as its competition’s, but it tastes balanced nevertheless.
Overall this is a cake that takes after the quintessential mamon texture, with a relatively neutral flavor. This wall-sitting makes this mamon a great snack you can munch on with endurance.
Red Ribbon’s Butter Mamon
Red Ribbon presents a flat pastry with a concave center. Frankly, it looks sad and deflated against Goldilocks’ perky dome. But the looks deceive. There’s a great cake waiting to be unearthed from its paper wrapper.
This mamon is far softer in the sense that it’s more delicate; you’d want to cradle it in your arms and woo it like a baby. Wispier than Goldilocks’, it may as well fly away if it weren’t for the paper cup. It’s also more tender than bouncy, melting in the mouth with little need to chew.
In spite of the lightness and smaller size you are greeted with more moistness, especially at the top. This acts like a natural glaze, which eliminates the need for frosting.
Better yet, this mamon takes you by surprise with its intense flavor. Rich with butter and yolks–and look ma, no margarine!–it proclaims itself and lingers as it dissolves on the tongue. This thing tastes more like real food than pre-packaged snack cake. You’d think it was baked at home.
All in all, past the presentation, you get a relatively sophisticated cake of contrasts: a rich, buttery flavor contained within a fragile body. Strip away the plastic, pretend to pair it with a pricey cup of tea (pinkies up of course), and get away with it.
Our Pick: Goldilocks
Even with the same pastry, the two brands interpret mamon each with a different approach. Red Ribbon goes for flavor, Goldilocks goes for texture. How do you compare?
They key is defining what a mamon is and should be. And what defines a mamon is that it’s three things in one little package: a cupcake stand-in that you can eat on a plate or with your hands, a starchy, sugary solution for when you want to go light on your wallet, and a donut-like companion for a cup of hot, black coffee. It’s neither a compulsive munchie like potato chips, a refreshing picker-upper like shaved ice, nor an indulgent dessert like ice cream.
Between the two, Red Ribbon’s cake-like mamon feels less like one—it’s just a bit too rich and you don’t get the fluffy body and height that you want to bite when you have one.
We find that Goldilocks’ fluffier, just-indulgent-enough version better fits the bill. It’s not perfect, but it better represents what mamon is all about.
This article was originally published in 2016.