Singapore's hunger for cake seems undiminished, and there has been a proliferation of cake shops to cater to the demand for cake, cake and more cake.
No fewer than 20 cake shops and patisserie-cafes selling house-made cakes have opened since November last year.
Some which opened in the past two months include One Bakery Boutique at Thomson V One, A Bite in Cambridge Road, Chef Yamashita at Tanjong Pagar Plaza and The White Ombre in Toa Payoh North.
Others include bakeries run by Muslims that offer cakes made with halal ingredients. These include Cake Delights in North Bridge Road, And All Things Delicious off Jalan Sultan and cake shop Baker Bites in Cambridge Road.
More retail shops or cake cafes are slated to open in the coming months. These include Out Of The Cake Box, Bake A Joy and Artzbake.
The new shops add to well-known patisserie chains such as Bakerzin and Antoinette, and industry stalwarts such as Balmoral Bakery and Lana Cakes.
Last year, SundayLife! reported 10 new cake shops that had opened between July and October last year, which means no fewer that 30 cake shops opened in the last year.
While the cake scene here has been exploding with cupcakes, and those offering eye-catching customised fondant cakes, cake pops and multi-layered cakes in lurid hues, the new entrants seem undeterred by the competition.
Some are sticking to what sells - cupcakes with fancily piped frosting made of whipped vegetable fat and popular favourites such as red velvet and rainbow cakes - while others are trying to set themselves apart.
SundayLife! highlights five new and interesting cake shops and sums up what makes each of them unique, from their cake offerings to their service.
Ms Geraldine Wang, 42, baker-owner of Berry Gerry Bakes, a bakery at Thomson V One in Sin Ming Road, has opted to sell local cakes such as sugee, pandan sugee cakes and orange butter cakes, instead of the ubiquitous cupcake with frosting.
She says: "Things such as cupcakes might sell well because they are popular, but I don't believe in trends. I offer something that is not readily available in the market, and I thought, well, someone should bake these sorts of cakes."
Over at One Bakery Boutique, also in Thomson V One, baker-owner Kelly Poon, 33, says she is able to customise sweetness levels and also make cakes for diabetics using isomalt.
She says: "This is something that makes us unique because we can customise rainbow cakes, for example, that would be suitable for the whole family to consume, from toddler to grandparent."
P. Bistro in Owen Road, which opened in December last year, sells delicate mousse cakes and can customise miniature viennoiserie for diners upon request.
Of the competition, Ms Sharryl Ng, 37, pastry chef and owner of The Audacious Cakery in Everton Park, who opened last September, says: "Healthy competition benefits customers as it drives continual improvement to deliver new and quality products. As business owners, it would be be ideal if the market size can grow so that there is room for everyone.
"Unfortunately, business being business, cake shops that manage to create a brand and identity will probably continue to remain in the market, while those that do not will have to exit."
She adds that it is important for cake shop owners to identify that brand position and remain focused.
"We focus on bold flavours and a twist to familiar tastes and textures," she says. "Thus, we need to continually reinvent ourselves and will be launching new flavours such as Salted Egg Yolk Cupcake, Salted Caramel with Chocolate Banana Mousse Cake and a Green Pea Wasabi Macaron."
On the receiving end, of course, are consumers, who have a plethora of cakes to choose from, with no shortage of innovative flavours and customised creations.
Housewife Leona Wee, 35, says: "At the end of the day, if the cakes are good, and have something unique about them, there will be a following. As consumers, we look for value for money and good quality and the right cake to suit the occasion."
1. BERRY GERRY BAKES
Berry Gerry Bakes’ Geraldine Wang (above) with her classic and pandan sugee cakes. The baker-owner loves wholesome cakes sans fancy frosting
Who: Ms Geraldine Wang, 42, baker-owner of Berry Gerry Bakes
Where: Thomson V One, 9 Sin Ming Road, 01-04, off Upper Thomson Road, tel: 6457-0274
Open: 10am to 6pm (Tuesday to Saturday), closed on Sunday and Monday
Info: E-mail email@example.com or go to www.berrygerrybakes.com
What's special: Head here for a classic sugee cake or sugee cake with a twist - an intense pandan sugee cake with a gula melaka drizzle. The cakes here are a throwback to the wholesome cakes of yesteryear that never go out of fashion. Offerings include butter cake, orange butter cake and brandied fruit cake. There are also Earl Grey Cookies, Cheddar Crisps and classic chocolate chip cookies.
In a cake scene where cupcakes and customised fondant cakes are a dime a dozen, baker-owner Geraldine Wang has decided to offer creations that are a lot less common. These include good-quality sugee and butter cakes. The self-taught baker, who used to handle marketing and communications for a private hospital, opened her shop last November.
The singleton, who has been baking since she was a child, took to the craft more seriously two to three years ago.
She has a love for sugee cake, the rich and dense Eurasian confection made with egg yolk, semolina and ground almonds, and was determined to find the best recipe.
Many families would not divulge their sugee cake recipes to her and after following countless disappointing recipes in cookbooks, Ms Wang then took to reverse engineering her favourite cake. After numerous attempts, she got the recipe right three years ago.
She says: "I had never looked at baking as a career but more of a useful skill. Cakes made from scratch are nice, personal gifts."
Her preference is for wholesome cakes without fancy frosting and she thought there were bound to be others like her.
She says: "I wanted to offer good quality local cakes, and at times, with bit of a twist."
For her pandan sugee cake, she soaks semolina in coconut milk instead of fresh milk, then drizzles the top with a thick gula melaka syrup. It has already proven to be a hit with customers.
A 16cm sugee loaf cake is priced at $15 while a butter cake starts at $10. Larger cakes are available on request. Order at least three days in advance.
2. AND ALL THINGS DELICIOUS
All the cakes and baked goods at And All Things Delicious (above) are made with organic unrefined sugar and natural ingredients
Who: Mrs Dewi Imelda Wadhwa, 35, baker-owner of And All Things Delicious
Where: Block 462 Crawford Lane, 01-61, tel: 9382-4767
Open: 9am to 7pm (weekday), 9am to 5pm (Saturday), closed on Sunday
Info: Go to andallthingsdelicious.com
What's special: All its cakes and baked goods are made with organic unrefined sugar and natural ingredients. No frosting made with hydrogenated vegetable oil in lurid colours are found here. It also sells scones, slices and assorted brownies. Although the cake shop is not halal-certified, Mrs Wadhwa, who is Muslim, says she uses only halal ingredients in her creations.
It was only last July that Mrs Dewi Imelda Wadhwa, a part-time art director of an advertising photography studio, decided to turn her passion for baking into an online business.
Now, 11 months on, the mother of two sons, aged three and six, who is married to commercial photographer Sameer Wadhwa, 44, runs a bricks-and-mortar store, which opened last month.
She says her unique selling point is offering cakes that are "simple, wholesome and comforting".
"I don't follow trends. A lot of people crave comfort food and not novelty cakes. My cakes go back to the basics and I use only organic unrefined sugar and farm-fresh eggs sourced in Singapore," she adds.
Offerings at her takeaway cake shop range from carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and banana upside-down cake to blueberry sponge cake with frosted lemon drizzle.
If, on the off chance, she is asked to bake a cake and frost it, she uses a Swiss meringue butter cream. And to tint it pink, for example, she uses raspberry puree instead of bottled colouring or colour paste.
Prices range from $5.50 a slice and $45 and up for a whole cake.
3. THE WHITE OMBRE
The White Ombre co-owners Tricia Tjhin and Nicholas Ang
Who: Baker-owners Tricia Tjhin, 33, and Nicholas Ang, 34, who are engaged
Where: Block 206 Toa Payoh North, 01-1209, tel: 6254-6434
Open: 10am to 7pm (Tuesday to Sunday), closed on Monday
Info: E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or go to thewhiteombre.com
What's special: The White Ombre a takeaway cake shop and it also conducts classes on how to make items such as cake pops, rainbow cakes and macarons among other things.
On the shelves of The White Ombre's display counter are symmetrical slices of perfectly formed rainbow cake, each decorated with a pink macaron, which sell for $7 a slice.
Those keen on learning to make their own can attend one of the cake shop's classes.
There, for $150 a person for a basic course which includes ingredients, you can learn everything related to creating, preparing, baking, assembling and piping a rainbow cake.
In fact, you can learn how to make almost everything that the shop sells, from its cake pops ($2.50 each) to its macarons ($2 each). The only thing the owners will not teach is their signature Earl Grey Strawberry Shortcake.
The cake shop and baking studio is run by recently engaged couple, Tricia Tjhin, 33, and Nicholas Ang, 34, who had run Cake Over Heels in Mid View City with a third partner. The other partner left to pursue another business so the couple decided to relaunch themselves with a new brand and in a new location.
Aside from teaching customers to make what many other cake shops sell, the couple say that while they are aware of the competition, they are not threatened by it.
Ms Tjhin says: "We know that we are different because we can customise almost anything under the sun, be it the shapes of cakes or cake flavours."
4. LYNN’S CAKES & COFFEE
Cake shop bosses Jonathan Lim and Lynn Saijan-Lim use halal ingredients in their cakes
Who: Mr Jonathan Lim, 43, and his wife Mrs Lynn Saijan-Lim, 40, owners of Lynn's Cakes & Coffee
Where: 11 Eng Kong Terrace tel: 6314-2886 or 9023-4678
Open: 11am to 7pm (Tuesday to Thursday), 11am to 9pm (Friday, Saturday and eve of public holiday), 11am to 8pm (Sunday and public holiday), closed on Monday
Info: E-mail email@example.com or go to www.lynnscakes.com.sg
What's special: Mrs Lynn Saijan-Lim, who is Muslim, uses halal ingredients. She bakes popular cakes such as carrot cake, red velvet, and a brightly hued rainbow cake from scratch. While other rainbow cakes may just look good, hers has a burst of orange zest flavour. She also has a light chocolate cake with a chocolate ganache that may give Lana Cakes a run for its money.
The seven-month-old cafe and cake shop took over the space occupied by SwissLink Bakery and is located in the same row of shophouses as coffee joint Necessary Provisions, in the quiet neighbourhood of Eng Kong Gardens, off Jalan Jurong Kechil.
Former housewife and hobby baker Saijan-Lim and her husband Jonathan Lim, a senior officer in the Singapore Police Force who left recently, decided to try their hand at a new business together that would centre on her baking. She had been baking for about four years at the time.
The couple, who have a daughter, 16, and a son, 11, decided to take the plunge with a cake cafe to showcase Mrs Saijan-Lim's homemade creations. The new kitchen would also serve as a space for her to create customised cakes that include ones for weddings, given her keen interest in making sugar flowers.
A 15cm round rainbow cake starts at $60. A slice of a 23cm round cake is priced between $5.50 and $7.50.
She says: "We like that we are located in a housing estate which has a very different vibe to a HDB block. Here, it is serene and quiet. We also realised that there were not many bakeries selling cakes made with halal ingredients in the west side of Singapore and saw an opportunity to provide for the community."
5. CHEF YAMASHITA
Masataka Yamashita of cake shop Chef Yamashita
Who: Masataka Yamashita, 49, patissier-owner of Chef Yamashita
Where: Block 1 Tanjong Pagar Plaza, 02-44, tel: 6604-9709
Open: 10am to 6.30pm (Monday to Saturday), 10am to 4pm (Sunday)
Info: Go to chefyamashita.com
What's special: Expect fine and elegant Japanese-inspired French-style gateaux with delicate sponge and intricately piped cream. The patissier, who uses imported ingredients such as strawberries and chestnuts from France and Japan, plans to use more seasonal Japanese fruit in his creations.
The name Masataka Yamashita might ring a bell, especially if you are familiar with cakes from Patisserie Glace at Icon Village, and Flor Patisserie in Duxton Hill. That is because the chef-patissier, who now runs his own month-old 450sq ft patisserie, used to run these shops with various partners, before venturing out on his own.
He moved here six years ago from Nara Prefecture in Japan, where he had been running a cake shop for eight years, to help set up Patisserie Glace in 2009. The following year, he left to set up Flor Patisserie with a business partner.
At his new shop, creations include the Luna Wrap - a sponge cake that resembles a pancake, which is filled with custard and cream and topped with fresh fruit, then folded in half; and Mount Fuji, a dome-shaped cake with chocolate sponge and chestnut cream; and Ichigo, a Japanese-style Strawberry Shortcake. Individual cakes are priced from about $5 to $8.
The pasty chef, who has been baking for about 29 years in various pastry shops in cities that span Kobe to Osaka, says it took him about six months to develop the Luna Wrap, to create an airy but malleable sponge cake that would not break or crack when folded.
Asked about the competition from other cake shops, including the two that he had previously opened and which continue to serve some of his creations, he says: "It has
always been my dream to open my own shop, and although I may have run those, I am no longer there.
I am now at my own kitchen at Chef Yamashita."
This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on June 22, 2014. For similar stories, go to sph.straitstimes.com/premium/singapore. You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.