MANILA -- From umami-packed sushi bakes to the irresistibly creamy Basque burnt cheesecakes, food came in many twists and flavors last year. The new coronavirus spurred a rise in home kitchens, as amateur chefs and bakers attempted to cope with the onslaught of the global pandemic.
“After losing both our jobs due to COVID-19, both of us were scared of the thought of never earning again,” admitted Julianna Gatchalian and her beau Hans Ramos, founders of online mochi donuts shop Poof! Pastries.
“We came up with ideas to make the money we already earned grow, but we wanted to come back to our roots which was baking,” they added, recalling their first business stint together.
Back in 2017, during their undergraduate years, the pair launched an online cookie business.
“We wanted to earn a little while we were studying… It took off after a few months but we had to put it on hold to focus on our studies,” Gatchalian said.
“A lot of our friends and family really enjoyed them which made us realize how good we were at baking,” Ramos chimed in.
But with the new generation of online sellers unleashing their own gastronomic baked creations left and right, the couple sought to find a sweet spot away from the crowded market.
“Everywhere we looked everyone has been selling the same product: cookies, brownies, cupcakes and cakes. Julianna and I wanted to sell pastries which were very unique to the Filipino eye and weren’t easily accessible here in the Philippines — which is why we chose mochi donuts,” Ramos explained.
He continued: “From watching videos online Julianna always had the idea to bring mochi donuts from Japan over to the Philippines. Only a few top companies sold it before closing down, so it was an easy market because we had no competition. After months of searching we have only found one other business selling them.”
Bright and colorful, Poof! Pastries’ assorted mochi donuts look like they came straight out of a foodie’s Instagram feed. But what makes the treat a standout is not its eye-catching glaze but its distinct “mochimochi” or chewy consistency and contrasting texture.
The mochi donut, which is best eaten one bite at a time, starts off with a slight crisp. As you dig in, however, a soft and bouncy mochi- like dough welcomes you.
“It has a crunchy exterior because of its frying process and an interior that is like a mochi’s texture. After the first bite you can already tell the difference. Most people notice right away and love it about our donuts,” Gatchalian said.
The duo said the secret to their dessert’s signature tang is a combination of both “creativity and precision.”
“After figuring out what to sell we tested different recipes online… We soon selected a recipe and perfected that recipe through numerous trials,” they shared.
“The ingredients are measured precisely to give each donut the same texture, then the donuts are mixed thoroughly to incorporate every ingredient together, then weighed and molded by hand,” they added.
While a single piece is enough to leave you satisfied, the enjoyable spring every bite offers will leave you hooked and craving for more.
“We weigh each donut, you can already get full by just eating one. Another common feedback would be how easy it fills their stomach or in Tagalog, nakakabusog,” Ramos mentioned.
The dough itself is barely sweet but the piquant flavors and sugary glaze melds perfectly with the base giving it a kick enough to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth.
Poof! Pastries come in six flavors: original glaze, cookies n cream, chocolate, strawberry, ube and matcha.
On top of the staples, the online shop said customers should watch out for exciting flavors they will release seasonally.
“For the month of December, we launched two exclusive flavors each week. S’mores and Peanut butter for the first week and Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Fruity Pebble for the second week,” Gatchalian said.
A box of six retails for P200 to P270, depending on the variety.
“The prices are budget-friendly compared to other donut shops,” the entrepreneurs emphasized. “Our mission is to provide unique baked goods at reasonable prices, with the highest quality ingredients.”
Although the partners were forced to go risk their savings and dive into entrepreneurship and during a challenging time, they explained Poof! Pastries has surpassed its initial goals and has continued to grow steadily since.
“Each and every day we get orders from both new customers and old customers. Each and every day we generate new ideas on how to improve externally and internally within the business,” the duo enthused.
They went on: “What helped us get here is the support we have from our families, friends and more importantly one another. Another aspect is because we did not give up no matter how hard the situations get, we always make sure to find ways to solve every problem we encounter no matter how big or small.”
Gatchalian and Ramos also admitted that despite their differences, their long-standing relationship helped them build the business. While the couple only began dating during college, they had known each other since their elementary days.
“Like any relationship, personal or business differences are inevitable… but we are lucky we’ve known each other for a very long time, so we know each other's strengths and weaknesses which help us understand each other through our highs and lows,” they said.
“The understanding we have not only as a couple but as business partners helped make Poof! Pastries to what it is today.”
From being the only means to make ends meet, their top motivation now is “the fun and joy” working together brings.
“We love what we do,” they said. “Being able to hear from customers everyday and seeing them order again and again. You really realize that all the hard work you put into this is worth it. No matter how small the compliment or gesture it really inspires us to always wake up and make more mochi donuts for our friends, family and community.”
As the pair pursues to navigate through the pandemic one donut at the time, moving forward, the foodpreneurs plan to create other hard-to-find sweet delicacies in the future.
“Our goal is to be able to bring as much unique baked goods as we can and elevate common baked goods through taste and presentation,” they said.
“We hope to impact communities with our baked goods and become an incomparable bakery in the Philippines. We want to earn not to get rich but to be able to give back to the community in any way we can each and every day.”