Melody Lorenzo is best known for her pies, those colorful confections celebrating flavors from her childhood in the Philippines, like ube, calamansi, and pandan. The pies debuted in 2019 at Undiscovered, a night market featuring Filipino makers and food from chefs and bakers including Lorenzo, and have since gained a cult following under her business Sweet Condesa, which had been a staple at the San Ramon farmers market since July 2020. Fans who couldn’t get enough of the purple-hued ube or the tart-sweet calamansi pies shared photos of the Filipino- and Latin-inspired desserts, hashtagging Lorenzo on social media as #PinayPieLady.
Despite growing her reach through the farmer’s market, where customers would travel from around the Bay Area (and even from out of state, Lorenzo says) for a taste of Sweet Condesa pies, Lorenzo took a break from the market in December 2021 to focus on making desserts for local weddings. Now, she’s back to sharing her desserts outside of the catering world, locking down a production space in the Mission District starting in August. She’s selling her desserts via Pastel, a local baked goods delivery service with pickups throughout the Bay Area. And although the Mission District spot won’t be a storefront for Sweet Condesa’s goods, it will be closer to Lorenzo, whose family moved to San Francisco last summer, with a potential for pickup orders, she shares.
The foray into selling pies at the San Ramon farmers market grew out of necessity in 2020; Lorenzo had just quit her job with the state in February to formally start a full-time business catering weddings, rather than baking as a side gig — only to have several events be canceled due to the pandemic. The pies were a massive hit at Undiscovered and sold out, and Lorenzo decided to bring the items back to the farmers market, finding fans in the Filipino community and those less familiar with Filipino flavors. “Being born and raised in the Philippines, I grew up with these flavors — ube, calamansi, pandan — all these flavors that are part of my identity, basically,” Lorenzo says. But rather than the traditional format for Filipino desserts, Lorenzo translates those flavors into the aforementioned pies (and the smaller tartlets), as well as scones, banana loafs, and more. The result is a sense of nostalgia for customers who grew up in the Philippines and for clients whose grandmas and moms look at the menu and “get excited” about the flavors, she says.
But the pies and tartlets are just a portion of what Lorenzo can do, despite it being what she is known for, and Lorenzo has quite a few other desserts to offer. Besides the guava cheese, dulce de leche, and brazo de mercedes-flavored tartlets — and wedding cakes — that she bakes for her clients nuptials, Lorenzo also runs a dessert-filled tea party event, which she announces via her Instagram, with the same Filipino and Latin flavors as her popular pies. It’s there that she gets more creative, with a 10-course pastry and dessert tasting for up to 40 people, with the ticketed event held in Victory Hall in San Francisco or other local venues. Imagine ube queso scones, calamansi financiers topped with a calamansi curd on top, guava cheese galettes, or a savory longanisa quiche bite, all devoured at long tables with linens and porcelain tea cups, in a family setting. “It’s just nice to create that sense of community,” Lorenzo says about the tea parties.
With Lorenzo selling her goods via Pastel while she sets up the new production space, she’ll be bringing back more of the favorites her fans have come to know, with rotating flavors. Expect a number of pies, of course, but there will also be white chocolate scones and vegan tsokolate banana loaf. Lorenzo is at the forefront of a new wave of Filipino and Filipino-American bakers in the Bay Area, and it’s only making Northern California more delicious. “There’s just a lot of upcoming makers, which is great, but I think the most important thing — because there’s so many of us — is what makes you unique,” Lorenzo says. “It’s very important to continue to share your story.”