Not too far from the much-Instagrammed Maginhawa food strip in Diliman is an unassuming café called The Pan Bakeshoppe. One of the few surviving eating places in the area, the café has a history as comforting as its artisanal cakes and pastries.
The Pan Bakeshoppe café and its commissary in Project 8 opened and closed a number of times as a business before it found its comfy spot along Mayaman Street in Teachers Village, Diliman. Sisters Elaine and Star Pangan laugh about it now, but the ups and downs of the business have made their sisterhood stronger and their business resilient despite the pandemic.
Thinking back now, the sisters believe that their love for cakes and pastries started when they were little and still living in Angeles City, Pampanga. Every time the family would celebrate someone’s birthday, their mom would order cake baked by an American friend working in a commissary in Clark.
“Ang bango ng cake nya, as in amoy stateside,” the sisters say in unison. They were character cakes, and that was what stuck to Star’s memory growing up. Today, she would still use that childhood memory as inspiration whenever she bakes.
But the actual idea of putting up a semblance of a business came to them in December 2000 when they thought of selling baked goods for Christmas. They tried baking apple pies from scratch and sold more than 200 trays mostly to relatives and their mom’s friends. At that time, Star was fresh out of college while Elaine just resigned from her job at a bank.
Elaine invested in table top baking tools and implements, while Star did the baking from 2001 to 2005. They didn’t know that their mom previously bought industrial grade kitchen equipment ideal for a bakery, which she managed to keep secret from the sisters. When they found out about it in 2006, they decided to put it to good use. That paved the way for them to formally open The Pan Bakeshoppe as a bakery business on the ground floor of their house. They baked and sold Pinoy favorites like pan de coco, pan de siosa, putok, Spanish bread, among others.
For five years, they tried to make it work; but Star’s passion wasn’t into baking bread. She just didn’t have the technical skills of preparing and kneading dough. Elaine was forced to make the tough decision of firing her sister and stop the family business to rethink how they want to proceed.
“Sabi ng dating boss ko, hire someone you can fire. Di kumikita yung bakery namin kasi itong general manager namin, di magaling,” Elaine says laughing, pointing to a pouting Star. “Kasi di sya nag-work formally. Sabi ko, it’s time for you to try working for others first. You have to have managerial skills first before managing your own business.”
Challenged by her elder sister, Star attended short lifestyle baking classes and went to work at a popular cake shop as a production supervisor. It was there that she learned working with bakers and making schedules work. After a year, she went on to work at a Manila catering business where she learned to develop specific products for certain clients. Because of these experiences, their stars finally aligned and set them up to rebuild The Pan Bakeshoppe in 2015 as a commissary for an airline company serving Black Forest cake and macarons.
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The location in Mayaman street was a serendipitous find. They wanted to open the café along Maginhawa where all the social and traditional media hype was happening. So one day as Elaine was looking for a possible location for their café along the popular strip, she couldn’t find a parking spot. She drove around until she reached Mayaman and found this cozy little cranny for rent. Thus was born “Richie” – the playful nickname they gave The Pan Bakeshoppe because of its location. That was 2018.
“Richie”, as the siblings fondly calls The Pan Bakeshoppe at Mayaman St.
Admittedly, the sisters are conflicted about the café’s concept. Star wanted to push affordability, but she goes all out with her ingredients and each product is made by hand – something that Elaine believes gives the products their premium quality. This means each product is made fresh daily.
“Dapat makakakain kahit yung simple folks. Halimbawa, di ka na ma-i-intimidate bumili ng strawberry shortcake kasi hindi sya P1,500 or P2,000 but pag natikman mo sya, masarap. Lasang pang-mayaman, pero affordable,” Star chuckles. But Elaine made Star realize that they also have to think about their production costs. “E di sana pinamigay mo na lang,” Elaine laughs.
“Para sa akin, it’s really more of para syang extension of our home kasi we love to entertain people, friends. The taste is familiar. When you want to prepare food for your guests, you want to go all out so they will be delighted. So the concept for me is home in a café,” says Elaine.
Asked what makes The Pan Bakeshoppe different from other cake shops, Elaine says it’s their use of local ingredients. Being the cost-conscious sister, Elaine encouraged Star to try homegrown ingredients in place of expensive imported ones. Star accepted the challenge and experimented on kalabasa and sayote to make bread. Needless to say, the result was a mouthful of success. One of her most successful experiments among customers is the dayap torte, which is inspired by a native Pampanga essential ingredient.
The pandemic may have made it difficult for the sisters to sustain the business, but they held on to each other’s individual strengths to stay afloat. “What kept me going was the thought that we know our products. Mag-uumpisa kami ulit, and that’s okay. Kasi we always go back to our December 2000 experience na kami lang dalawa, pangatlo yung Nanay ko, di ba. Lahat naman nag-reset, but you have to continue to learn how to cope with the better normal,” Elaine affirms. She adds that trainings provided by DTI helped them retool and upskill to survive the lockdowns.
While The Pan Bakeshoppe’s specialty is cakes and pastries, the sisters are planning to extend their product line to include family recipes handed down from their family’s generation of cooks and more memories from their childhood. They are working on recreating traditional home-cooked Kapampangan meals like the maki-Pangan (a combination of the Kapampangan term for “makikain” and their family name) line.
That Kapampangan flare for flavor is in every plate of lasagna, cannelloni and pancit luglug
To try The Pan Bakeshoppe’s artisanal products and other meals, send them a message through their Facebook page @ThePanBakeShoppe or visit their store at 38 Mayaman Street, Diliman, Quezon City.
About the Writer
Carmen Dulguime, “beingKirei” in her social media accounts, keeps two personal blogsites: beingKirei and Virtual Cubicle. She created these initially for self-expression, but she realized that she can do more with her God-given writing gift. Finding inspiration in Proverbs 31:8 (Speak for those who cannot speak; seek justice for all those on the verge of destruction), she started writing about people she meets and have meaningful conversations with. She found some of their stories need to be told and inspire others. She contributes to NewsFeed 360 on top of working in the editorial department of WSP Inc.. Aside from writing, she tries to learn photography, play the ukulele and guitar, and read until she falls asleep.
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