Ensaymada (Cheese-Topped Yeast Buns)

Nicole Ponseca

Jeepney and Tita Baby, NYC

Miguel Trinidad

Jeepney and Tita Baby, NYC

“Salty elements are common in Filipino pastries, and these sweet coiled yeast buns—a cross between a soft dinner roll and a cupcake—are topped with melty sweetened butter and the grated Edam cheese Filipinos call queso de bola, or “ball cheese,” after its traditional round shape. The word ensaymada derived, no doubt, from the ensaimada made on the Spanish island of Majorca, which gets its savory tang from dense pork lard instead of cheese. Ensaymada can be enjoyed any time during the day but are always best fresh from the oven. You can also pop one in the microwave to warm it a bit so you get the full effect of the melted sugar, butter, and cheese topping.”—JBF Award nominees Nicole Ponseca and Miguel Trinidad



  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar


  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup (175 ml) warm milk
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar, divided
  • 3 1/2 cups (420 g) all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) vegetable shortening or lard
  • Butter, vegetable oil, or cooking spray for greasing
  • 1/2 cup (75 g) grated Edam cheese


Make the frosting: in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using a handheld mixer), beat together the butter and the sugar on medium speed until the sugar has dissolved, about 4 minutes. Set aside.
Make the rolls: In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk with 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Let sit for 10 minutes, until foamy.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix the remaining sugar, the flour, and the salt on low speed until combined. Add the egg yolks and the shortening or lard, and then add the yeast mixture, a little at a time. Beat together on low speed, scraping the bowl so everything is incorporated.

Transfer the dough to a clean work surface and knead it with your hands until it is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes; the dough should be delicate and still slightly sticky. Form the dough into a ball.

Grease a large clean bowl—large enough to hold the dough when it’s doubled in size—and place the dough in the bowl. Loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel, and set it aside in a warm place to rise—this could take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on your kitchen, but usually it takes about 1 hour. In the meantime, grease 10 fluted brioche molds, or 20 muffin cups (two standard muffin tins).

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface, punch it down, and divide it into 10 equal pieces. Use a rolling pin to roll each piece into a flat rectangle about 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick. Brush each rectangle with some of the frosting, then roll it up like a thin jelly roll and place it in the prepared molds or muffin tins.

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Loosely cover the dough with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel, and set aside in a warm place to rise until they have doubled in size, about 30 minutes to 1 hour. Again, the time it takes will vary based on the temperature of your kitchen.

Brush the tops of the buns with a little frosting and bake 18 to 22 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Let the ensaymada cool in the pans on a wire rack.

When the ensaymada have cooled enough to handle but are still warm, spread the rest of the frosting over the tops and sprinkle with the cheese. The buns are best the day they are made, but you can reheat leftovers gently in a toaster oven or microwave to get them warm before eating.

Excerpted from I Am A Filipino by Nicole Ponseca and Miguel Trinidad (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2018. Photography by Justin Walker


Makes 10 large or 20 small buns