Sweet buns filled with custard

Sweet buns filled with custard


7000 Islands
Jana Liebenstein

Travel opens the door to new discoveries. During a recent trip to Camiguin Island, my partner and I stumbled upon pastel. Visitors cart boxes of the soft buns filled with sweet sticky yema home to other parts of the country; as we later learnt, pastel is one of the Philippines’ best-kept pasalubong (food gifts) secrets and is available only on the exotic isle and nearby Cagayan de Oro.

This recipe is inspired by the multiple pastel we scoffed at Vjandep, the bakeshop which invented the sweet treat. They are best the day they are made, but can be refreshed by briefly warming in a low oven or microwave. Make sure to stir the yema constantly to prevent curdling and lumps.


Quantity Ingredient

Sweet dough

Quantity Ingredient
170ml full cream milk
7g dried yeast
3 eggs
410g plain flour
90g caster sugar
1 teaspoon fine salt
125g unsalted butter, cubed and softened

Yema (Condensed milk custard)

Quantity Ingredient
160g condensed milk
60ml full cream milk
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
15g butter, cubed and softened


  1. To make the sweet dough, heat the milk in a small saucepan over low–medium heat until lukewarm. Remove from the heat. Add the yeast and whisk well to combine, then stand in a warm place for 7 minutes, or until it starts to froth. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk 2 of the eggs. Reserve the remaining egg for eggwash.
  2. Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, and beat to combine. Add the yeast mixture and whisked eggs, then knead on low speed for 2 minutes, or until a dough forms. Increase the speed to medium, then add the butter in three batches and continue to knead for a further 8 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic (it will be quite sticky). Transfer to a lightly greased bowl, cover with a tea towel (dish towel) or plastic wrap, then stand in a warm, draught-free place for 11⁄2 hours, or until doubled in size.
  3. Meanwhile, to make the yema, place the condensed milk, full-cream milk and egg yolks in a large heatproof bowl and whisk until well combined. Place over a saucepan of gently simmering water and cook for 25 minutes, whisking constantly, or until very thick. Whisk in the vanilla, remove from the heat, then vigorously whisk in the butter until combined. Place the bowl over another bowl filled with iced water and set aside to cool and thicken further.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Lightly grease twelve 7 cm dariole moulds. Knock back the dough and divide it into 12 even-sized pieces, about 65 g each. Shape into balls, then place in the moulds on two baking trays. Brush with eggwash, then cover with a sheet of baking paper. Set aside for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.
  5. Bake the bread, covered with baking paper, for 15 minutes, swapping the trays halfway until golden and risen. Allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the side to release the buns and cool completely on wire racks.
  6. To fill the buns, fill a piping bag fitted with a 1 cm nozzle with the yema. Using a small sharp knife, make a small incision halfway up the side of each bun and wiggle the knife gently to make a hole in the middle. Insert the piping nozzle into each hole and fill.

What is it?

  • Yema, made from egg yolks, condensed milk and butter, is a common filling for Filipino baked goods. The ingredients are added in different proportions and cooked to varying degrees of thickness, depending on the application. When reduced to a dense mass, they become a ‘candy’, also known as yema.
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