For the uninitiated, ube sounds more like a car-sharing app than the sweet, violet yam that it is. Yet, it’s the exact ingredient that helped amass a cult following for Hood Famous Bakeshop, a small, subterranean bakery off Shilshole Avenue in Ballard. Owner Chera Amlag fell into baking as a kid with a Betty Crocker cookbook, in a childhood home mostly devoid of sweets. In 2013, she and her husband, Geo Quibuyen, one half of local hip-hop duo Blue Scholars, launched the temporarily retired Food and Sh*t popup, in which the duo doled out many a Filipino dish full of flavors they both grew up eating. For these meals, Amlag baked cheesecake, but tempered its classic Americana with a Filipino touch. She made it with ube, which lends its jewel-toned hue and subtle, earthy sweetness to baked goods. The result, a perfect specimen of Instagram bait that’s topped with ripples of ube jam and sits on a coconut-butter biscuit crust.
Of the many cuisines that take hold when immigrants land in the Pacific Northwest, Filipino food hasn’t quite been one of them. Sure, there’s a handful of mom-and-pop places that serve crispy lumpia or batches of quintessential pork adobo. But in 2016—in the very same week—both Inay’s and Isla Manila Bar and Grill shuttered and left our sparse Filipino cuisine landscape even more barren. Now, a new wave of Filipino Americans uplift the traditional flavors of home through a sweeter endeavor: dessert.
In the realm of all that is luscious, creamy, and quite often ultra purple, Seattle is experiencing a mini growth spurt of Filipino dessert shops. Two newcomers, Hood Famous Bakeshop and Central District Ice Cream Company, serve uniquely Filipino-inspired treats. There’s also Kalsada Coffee, a locally grown business that’s reviving Seattle’s century-old connection to Philippine coffee farmers. Hood Famous brews one of its new single-origin styles. Collaboration is common amongst these three Filipina-run ventures—for example, Central District Ice Cream Company’s scoopable, frozen version of that popular ube cheesecake.