By Susan Ho
What is a wedding, birthday and in fact, every festive occasion, without a cake? In days of yore, before cake decorating was elevated to an art form, bake artists had to make do with old fashioned icing sugar, butter and cream. Today the ordinary cream cake, while still loved and even preferred by many, has now been moved aside to make room for the newer and trendier fondant cakes. Ipoh Echo went in search for three of Perak’s best.
Painstaking Masterpieces Created Individually and by Individuals
Fondant cakes are expensive compared to the normal cakes in shops. These cakes usually range from RM150 up to RM1500. The process of creating a fondant cake is very costly. Firstly, the cakes must be decorated and kept in a controlled air-conditioned environment 24 hours a day. Fondants cannot be kept in a fridge because of the condensation that may form on the surface. It has to be kept in a cool and dry place. Thus energy costs are high. However, these cakes can last up to 2 weeks if they have not been cut. Secondly, the fondant itself costs up to RM30 per tub depending on their brand and many tubs are often used.
What exactly are these fondant cakes that everyone is so fond of? The word “fondant”, means melting in French. It is an edible icing used to decorate pastries or sculpt cakes. This icing has a chewy texture compared to creamed cakes. Fondant creates a dough-like consistency. It is usually used to cover the cake or made into shapes and patterns.
Besides fondant, gum paste is also often used to add details such as flowers and bows to the cakes. Gum paste is used instead of fondant for details because it is more solid when it dries and it creates a much more realistic look. Gum paste is made by kneading gum paste and fondant together.
Nurainie’s Wedding Cakes
Ms Nurainie works from home. She has been in the cake business for five years full time. She started off with cupcakes and birthday cakes and as of now, she specialises in wedding cakes. Once in a while, she would host workshops and courses to the public at a small fee.
She purchases her ingredients from Wah Seng weekly. She uses fondant to cover the cake to seal it completely. She also makes her own gum paste by mixing it with fondant to create realistic looking flowers. Flower petals are formed a day earlier before decorating the cake because it needs to be dried and solid before they are put together. It takes at least two days for a 2-tier wedding cake to be done, from baking to decorating.
Her wedding cakes can cost up to RM1500. She occasionally makes macaroons and cupcakes in a box of 12 to order at RM10 each. Customised cupcakes will have an additional charge of RM6. On busy days, she would pass orders of cupcakes to her students instead. Her customers have expanded over Google and Facebook. The majority of her customers are Malays.
William’s Barbie Dolls
William Tan specialises in Barbie signature cakes which have been featured in several magazines from around the world. The biggest one was a feature in Cake Masters Magazine UK that featured 10 pages of his doll cakes.
He works from an office in his family’s cake shop. Ipoh Bakery is a family business of many generations, established in 1915 to be exact. Do not be fooled by the name of the shop. Ipoh Bakery is not from Ipoh but Taiping. The name Ipoh Bakery came by only because of his ancestor’s love for the word ‘Ipoh’.
William’s interest in making fondant cakes only developed after he discovered his talent. It all started after his mother sent him for a 1-day course in KL in 2010. When he came back from the course, his mother told him that she had an order for him in queue. His first cake was only a simple flower fondant cake.
He takes up to 20 orders a month, spending at least a whole day to complete a designer cake. He charges from RM700 for a 3-kg Barbie signature cake, with prices varying depending on the intricacies involved and time spent.
His creativity brings life to the dolls. He creates dresses and gowns for the Barbies that are so realistic that one had to touch to see if they were cakes or actual Barbie dolls.
Although Barbies are his specialty, he will make anything to order. He once created a very realistic turtle for a royal family in July this year, which took him a day and a half to complete. In August, he made a cake in the form of an angel, hand-painting the face with food colours and using edible rice wafer paper for the wings. It was an angelic experience for all who shared in the cake!
William has an advantage of ingredients being sent to his office as he orders from the same source as his family’s business. Fondants can be very tricky. It comes in limited colours. He kneads different colours of fondant to mix them into a particular colour that he wants before starting his decorations. He also saves a lot of time from baking as he gets the cakes from his shop, using butter cakes under all fondant.
Besides making Barbie cakes, he makes a living from making limited quantity of cupcakes occasionally and selling tutorials via PDF file online, a 45-page downloadable tome at RM55.
Sarah’s Birthday Cakes
Sarah Lim focuses on birthday cakes having done so since 2008. She takes cake orders from 1 to 2 weeks in advance and because of her experience, she can complete three orders in a day as it only takes two hours for her to decorate the cake not including preparation work.
Her business started from her blog which soon grew to a flourishing one from the social networking site, Facebook. Her customers are usually from Ipoh although she also has customers from KL and Johor who would come all the way to Ipoh to collect the cakes from her.
From the exposure of Facebook and word of mouth, her business escalated quickly. She had no choice but to rent a place because her kitchen was too small to store all ingredients and materials. Moving into the shop above YIDA was a great choice for her. YIDA Bakery Enterprise provides bakery ingredients, products and equipments which suit her needs. Besides YIDA, she also buys certain ingredients by travelling to KL or by online purchase.
Sarah has been well known for all kinds of customised cakes. Her customers usually provide her a photo or an idea for the cake and she would add in ideas to change it into her own design. She adds that customers usually follow new trends for orders, whether the theme is a new movie, a new cartoon character or whatever is the flavour of the month. She has made 3D cakes such as Hermes bags, airplanes, Mahjong tiles, iPads, Carousels, Kit Kat bars, Ferrero Rocher, etc. She also makes customised cookies and cupcakes at RM5 and above. Her birthday cakes of 6 inches range from RM150 with 2 layered cakes at RM200 and above.
Sarah advises that the cakes should not be kept for more than three days as the cake can turn moldy inside the fondant casing. She is willing to deliver depending on the size of the order, the location and the occasion.
Fondant cakes are as much a work of art as any sculpture. Except in this case, they are edible works of art and like any good piece of art, a great deal of time and money is spent on producing one. Most people are unaware of this and have often shown resistance to the high prices being charged for orders. However, judging by the oohs and aahs expressed by guests at functions where these culinary art pieces are presented and devoured, the appreciation more than makes up for the price of each mouthful.
Ms Nurainiettyhien@yahoo.comhttp://www.NurainieTanCakes.com/016 668 8869 Ipoh Bakeryhttps://www.facebook.com/IpohBakery05 807 3354 Sarah Limqiangweilian@msn.comhttp://www.sarahomemade.blogspot.com/
Other places for orders:
Ipoh Homemade Chocolatehttp://ipohhomechocolate.lot.my/017-527 3617 Feenacakes Delightfeenacakes@yahoo.comhttp://feenacakes.blogspot.com/019 559 6869 / 05 528 4294 Lily Homemade Cake’s Ipoh012 505 7972www.lilyhomemadecakes.com Aunty Lee Cake & Pastrieshttp://www.auntylee.com/05 254 2088