The brazo de Mercedes (sometimes known as the brazo de la reina – the Queen’s Arm) is one of those classic examples of Spanish Colonial Era cuisine that has become a part of the Philippines’ culinary heritage.
In the classic version, a soft-baked meringue is spread with a thick, rich egg-yolk and cream custard. The embellished meringue is then rolled up like a Swiss roll and sliced before serving.
As this is a rather fiddly dessert to make at home, most Filipino families buy these rolls to take away from good bakeshops or restaurants. If you’re dining in, you’re even given the option to have a warm caramel sauce drizzled over the lot before eating.
Given the sweltering heat, however, serving the brazo in the classic manner sounds utterly unappealing because, chances are, it can go bad very quickly. But brazo junkies need not worry as there’s actually a frozen version of the dessert.
A frozen brazo involves using a base similar to the graham-cracker-crumb crust used for unbaked cheesecakes. This keeps the rest of the dessert from melting into a mess before freezing. With the crumb crust underneath, the rest of the components are layered on: custard after the crumbs, and a thick layer of soft-baked meringue on top of the custard. The resulting confection is left as is in the pan and has no need to be rolled up like the classic. The whole thing is frozen and served in slabs.
If you’re dining in at Cafe Las Paellas at the Festival Supermall in Alabang, your frozen brazo will be served with clear, golden caramel syrup dribbled over and pooling around it. It adds this almost nutty, smoky taste that provides a pleasant contrast to the marshmallowy character of the meringue and the rich vanilla custard.
Incidentally, you can also grab trays of it to go at Aggy’s Cakes and Sweets which is but a stone’s throw away from Las Paellas; the coffee-flavored one is just plain fab.