How Baker on East’s uniquely flavored donuts won the internet over

How Baker on East’s uniquely flavored donuts won the internet over

And now they’re taking over IRL.

Photo by Gian Nicdao

 

It feels like forever ago when people waited in line for their turn to try the latest innovation in baked goods. It was inevitable that these physical lines would eventually turn digital: a new generation of independent bakers have begun dealing their sugary goods, not from behind a counter but through DMs on Instagram and Twitter. Rather than brick and mortar stores, bakers make use of social media and pop-up collaborations with other bakeries and coffee shops. One such pair is that of Blocleaf Cafe and Chino Cruz of Baker on East.

Last week, we caught up with Chino, ahead of his pop-up opening at Blocleaf Cafe in Malate. When asked about his start in baking, he explains that he’s always been obsessed with food. “It’s sort of this running joke in my family that I grew up mimicking people like Sandy Daza on TV as opposed to something like a ninja turtle.” A quick look through his Instagram reveals mouth-watering photographs of his creations from banoffee shortbread to salt and chocolate cookies. But the star of his upcoming pop-up? Donuts. We talked about his brother’s love for donuts and his interesting choice of donut fillings.

 

YOUNG STAR: Is there any particular reason you chose donuts as opposed to cupcakes, for example, for this collection? 

CHINO CRUZ: My brother (who works with me part-time at Baker on East) loves donuts and I wanted to make something as a sign of my appreciation. I only realized that donuts were a thing when I started sharing them with people. I tend to send out my excess test batches to online friends, but it was with the donuts that random strangers started tweeting me to send them to their houses. I’d been working on running a bakery for ages and all it took to get people frothing at the mouth was donuts, apparently.

“My brother loves donuts and I wanted to make something as a sign of my appreciation. I only realized that donuts were a thing when I started sharing them with people.”

Where do you get inspiration for your donut fillings? 

Some flavors like Earl Grey & Chocolate and Raspberry & Rose are kind of classic but aren’t really explored by local bakers. The others are a mish-mash of the ideas that I’ve stolen from all sorts of places like food magazines and IG posts by my favorite bakers and all the weirdly specific cookbooks that I’ve collected over the years. People always like to tell me that I’m some sort of genius at pairing things like pineapple and lime leaf together, but I can immediately point you to at least five other bakers who’ve done it beforehand. It’s a lot more about knowing exactly which flavor profiles to poach. I guess that’s where my innate preferences come into play. I’m not actually a sweet tooth — surprise! — and that really influences the flavors I develop. The fillings and glazes for my products really need to be very flavor-forward and not rely on sugar to deliver impact.

When asked which flavor he identifies with most, Chino chose Gala Apple & Miso Caramel, which he says is most aligned with his taste. | Photos courtesy of Baker on East

You came up with a cast of characters for your new box of eight flavors. How did you come up with the concepts? 

Our illustrator is Tim Lopez. We initially commissioned him to work on a couple of illustrations of anthropomorphized donuts having a bit of fun, but he found some of my old art featuring a bunch of animals and thought it was a fun idea to really lean into that idea. I actually sent him some really specific character profiles for each of the flavors which included stuff like “Pandan listens to pop music, but like the really good stuff like Carly Rae Jepsen and Janelle Monae.” So it was this really fun and interesting process trying to bring these really odd ideas to life as characters. Since I’m a huge fan of Lisa Hanawalt’s work on Tuca & Bertie, I gave him the go signal and that’s how we got the box of eight!

 

Which flavor do you identify with the most? 

It’s gotta be the Gala Apple & Miso Caramel. It’s a funny story because the day that Tim sent us the design for him, I was just saying that the apple and caramel was the flavor most aligned with my taste and then Tim sends in this bear in a T-shirt and oversized pants and a cap, which is pretty much me on a regular basis. It’s funny how things pan out, I think.

 

Catch the Baker on East at Blocleaf Cafe at 1850 M.H. Del Pilar st., Malate, Manila until Oct. 29. P.S.: We heard they sell out before noon! For more information, follow Chino on @chnocruz on Twitter and @bakeroneast on Instagram.

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