The prettiest cake in town
- Cheeko B. Ruiz () - December 11, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - This is one gift you can – and should – judge by its box. About as much thought and attention go into each box of Sandy’s Rumcake as are put into the delicious cakes that have gained a loyal following over the last 22 Christmases.

Sandy’s Rumcake is a home industry that fires up around November, and it started from the rum cake recipe of Sandy Romualdez that was a hit at family holiday celebrations as well as with relatives and friends lucky enough to receive one as a gift.

In 1989, Sandy’s sister Jeangay Viray decided to make a business out of it, selling rum cakes for Christmas while she kept her job as a travel industry executive.

“When I started in 1989, it was only me because my sister Sandy was living in the States. She had given me the recipe and I asked her if I could do a business. I am by nature a businesswoman and I’ve always wanted to make extra money because I have so many kids. Before doing the rum cake, I would sell cookies, chocolate chips, whatever my mom taught me,” shares this mother of five.

“Sandy’s only condition when I borrowed her recipe was, when she comes back from the States, we will be business partners and of course I said yes,” Jeangay relates. Sandy came back to the Philippines in the early 1990s, but unfortunately passed away of a heart attack in 2005.

Other delicious offerings include food for the gods.

“Initially, we only had the original butter rum cake, courtesy of my sister. She was a good cook, she was the baker. On the other hand, I am the type who would really focus on one flavor then improve it to the max.”

Jeangay later started experimenting and came up with new variants – original butter, chocolate orange rum, coffee rum, butter orange rum and limoncello. The product line included different sizes and combinations – the round bundt in small and large sizes, and sampler boxes of three, six and twelve to allow for tasting the different flavor varieties. She also has food for the gods in boxes of eight and 15.

But realizing that their customers mostly gave the rum cakes away as gifts, Jeangay took it a step further, making sure their cakes looked as good as they taste. “I’ve always capitalized on the packaging. I was the one doing the packaging because I wanted our products to have an impact on people who receive them.”

The emphasis on taste and packaging proved to be an excellent combination. Beginning Christmas of 1994, Sandy’s Rumcake developed specially made gift boxes, the design of which were changed every year.

“Since our volume was getting bigger, I started to research on who could supply my boxes. I began to outsource,” Jeangay says.

“As early as May every year, I already start to think of the look or theme. I’ve done various designs – there’s native, Santa Claus with the beard, boxes that double as trays. What determines our theme? Whatever ideas I get. And also, we make adjustments depending on the budget of our client.” This year, the boxes look like chocolate cakes with white frosting topped with a cherry crown.

The late Sandy Romualdez (left) is responsible for the original rum cake recipe. Aside from the winning taste, festive packaging makes these cakes truly special.

“I put myself in my customer’s shoes. I base it on how much I believe is reasonable to spend. But prices now are a lot higher than last year. I can’t do anything because the prices of the ingredients went up, especially the butter and also the boxes.” This year, prices range from P220 to P750.

Among their clients are travel agencies, airlines, stock brokers, banks and finance companies.

“It’s amazing how the company has grown after 21 years. We are grateful that our clients keep coming back. More so, those who received the gifts later become our clients as well,” Jeangay says.

“This year, as early as November our deliveries have been non-stop. Everybody wants to give gifts early.”

If unopened, the rum cakes can last for 30 days without refrigeration. This enables clients to order and bring or ship them all over the country, some even to America. One client even mailed a rum cake to her mother in Chicago.

Jeangay believes the secret of her success is her personal approach.

“I talk to them personally, they tell me their budget, then I can adjust. Because of this approach, my sales have gone up tremendously. Of course, the packaging also counts a lot,” she says. And it also helps that the cakes are melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

Sandy’s Rumcake is at Eastwood’s Gourmet Market daily from Dec. 16 to 31, or call tel. 826-0552 or cel 0920-9026709 ot 0917-8331119.

The late Sandy Romualdez is responsible for the original rum cake recipe. Aside from the winning taste, festive packaging makes these cakes truly special.

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