All about ube: How one foodie is bringing the Filipino favorite to the main stage

All about ube: How one foodie is bringing the Filipino favorite to the main stage originally appeared on goodmorningamerica.com

This cafe makes some of the most Instagrammable desserts -- and they’re all purple!

For the past five years, Cafe 86 in Southern California has taken Instagram by storm with its unique desserts that all include one main ingredient: ube, or purple yam.

“If you eat ube on its own, there really isn’t much flavor,” said Cafe 86 co-owner Ginger Dimapasok. “But once you mix it with sugar, coconut milk and butter, it changes the taste with silky, rich and vanilla undertones.”

Their love of food and Filipino backgrounds inspired Ginger and her husband, James, to share a piece of their culture through the flavors of their childhood.

Ube is a staple in most Filipino desserts. She said that the color usually shocks people at first, but they’re pleasantly surprised by the taste when they try it. Now, Cafe 86 incorporates ube in every dessert on its menu.

Born to be a foodie

Ginger, who was born and raised in the Philippines, got the cooking bug from her mother, who she says is an excellent cook. Ginger would help out at her family’s restaurant as a kid, but she didn’t have to travel far to indulge her interest in making pastries.

“My love for cooking was inspired by the bakery next door to my parents’ restaurant,” said Ginger. “I would go back and forth next door.”

Ginger said that she loved seeing the pastry chefs at the bakery make wedding cakes, and she would spend so much time observing them. To this day, she still gets nostalgic when she steps foot in local Filipino bakeries in Southern California.

From that moment on, she was influenced by other chefs, such as Julia Child and Chef Nora Daza, who Ginger describes as the “Filipina Julia Child.”

Ginger attended New York’s Natural Gourmet Institute for Food and Health in 1999 where she mastered her skills as a chef. However, it wasn’t until 2012 that Ginger and her husband started talking about the idea of opening up a cafe of their own.

PHOTO: Ginger Dimapasok with friends and her culinary school cohort at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Food and Health.  (Ginger Dimapasok)
PHOTO: Ginger Dimapasok with friends and her culinary school cohort at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Food and Health. (Ginger Dimapasok)

“We are both foodies and we love trying new things, so we wanted to come up with something of our own,” she told “GMA.”

Bringing ube to the masses

In 2014, Ginger and her husband opened the doors to their first Cafe 86 location in Chino Hills, California.

PHOTO: Ginger and her husband, James pose at their Cafe 86 location in Chino Hills, Calif.  (Ginger Dimapasok)
PHOTO: Ginger and her husband, James pose at their Cafe 86 location in Chino Hills, Calif. (Ginger Dimapasok)

At first, Ginger thought it was just going to be a regular bubble teashop serving coffee and other drinks, but she wanted to make her shop unique with the addition of ube desserts. The first ube creation that she ever sold was her now-famous ube truffles -- ube rolled like a large cake pop and coated with crushed Oreo crumbles. It’s still the most popular and addictive dessert that they sell.

Today, Cafe 86 has grown to three more locations including a shop in Las Vegas. and it celebrates the purple yam with more than 50 ube-related dessert items on its menu.

Since their first shop opening five years ago, the menu has evolved with ube additions such as bread pudding, cheesecake and even Pop Tarts filled with the purple goodness. Ginger has also creatively fused different desserts from various cultures together, creating things such as ube panna cotta and ube conchas.

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They even put their own spin on classic Filipino desserts such as their ube cupcakes topped with leche flan, a Filipino custard and halo-halo, a shaved-ice dessert made with coconut, fruit and ube ice cream.

Today, Ginger’s innovative dessert ideas have garnered a large following on Instagram and have sparked a conversation about Filipino cuisine. She said that the outpouring of support toward her cafe keeps her on her toes and inspires her to come up with more ideas to incorporate ube in new dishes.

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With her cafe, Ginger wants to make ube a staple ingredient that people use in restaurants across the country. She also hopes that local farmers will grow purple yams so that its more accessible for chefs to integrate into their menus.

“The ultimate goal is to bring ube to the main stage and be able to make ube as normal as matcha is today,” she said.

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