By Jo Lynn Chong
Ipoh Echo had an exclusive one-on-one with Jennifer Liau, co-founder of JJ ROLL (House of cakes and rolls) on Wednesday, March 4. Famous for their Swiss rolls that attract tourists from as far as Singapore, have you ever wondered about the brand story behind JJ ROLL?
Jennifer Liau, having been involved in charity work since 1999, met her business partner John Lim while she was part of the Ipoh Love and Care Society, where she was the president for 10 years. Hence the name JJ as it stands for John and Jennifer.
Lim, from Penang, started baking cakes at the age of 17. He worked in a cake shop in America that was using Taiwanese recipes and owned by a Hongkonger, where he honed his skills. “When I first met him, he was still working under someone,” Jennifer narrated. “I asked him to sponsor cakes for us to sell for charity but he said, ‘I’m just an employee… How about you come up with the cost, and I’ll bake for you at home?’ ”
Thus, JJ ROLL started simply with a fridge, an oven and cake mixing machine. “Lim baked at home, so we did the simplest type of cake which required the least baking equipment, and it was, of course, this Swiss roll,” Jennifer enthused. “After baking, you just spread something on it and then roll it,” she explained.
“Last time, we didn’t have so many flavours, we only had jam, strawberry jam, blueberry jam, those very simple flavours,” she elaborated. “Lim told me that ‘We want to do something special. We want to be a Swiss roll specialist’,” she explained.
As demand for their Swiss rolls increased, so did their variety of flavours as they started adding crushed fresh vegetables and fruits into their Swiss rolls. Slowly, what started off as a part-time business for Jennifer eventually became a commitment. In 2007, they registered as a retailing business and rented a shop, officially employing workers. After moving to a few places, they moved to their current location at 127, Jalan Bharu Off Jalan Raja Permaisuri Bainun, 30250 Ipoh in 2013.
Besides being free of preservatives and artificial colouring, Jennifer told Ipoh Echo that it is the lightness, moistness, low sugar content and fresh ingredients of the Swiss rolls that keep customers coming back. “If customers have any comment or complaints, we will take note and make improvements,” she also explained.
“Every month, we have a percentage that goes to charity, so we can create a lot of job opportunities for people who are in need, be it young or old or retirees, or single fathers or single mothers,” Jennifer explained. “We have over 30 employees here.”
Besides selling Swiss rolls as their main speciality, JJ ROLL also sells homemade cakes and goodies such as Tiramisu Classic Cake, Brandy Fruit Cakes and Pineapple Tarts. Their bestselling Swiss rolls are Coffee Walnut with Peanut Butter Cream, Chocolate Hazelnut, Pandan, Vanilla with Durian Filling and Vanilla with Cempedak Filling as well as their combination roll which comprises of the flavours, Pumpkin, Spinach, Carrot and Banana, all with cream cheese. Prices for single-flavour Swiss rolls range from RM9 to RM18. Their new offerings are homemade Blueberry and Cempedak ice cream both priced at RM4 as well as Durian ice cream priced at RM5. Also upcoming, homemade Cinnamon roll.
When asked if they ever had plans to open any affiliated cafes, branches or make their business a franchise, Jennifer told this scribe that they are unable to manage if they do so as their products can only last three days and they are not able to have a central kitchen since every chef only specialises in their own cake design.
To date, JJ ROLL offers more than 40 kinds of Swiss rolls. “In the whole of Malaysia, our shop offers the most Swiss roll flavours,” Jennifer enthused.
Opened daily from 8am to 7pm, even during public holidays, bookings for specially designed cakes are encouraged to be made early. Pork-free and accepts payment via E-Wallet, Boost and Touch ‘n Go. For more information, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jjcakes and their Instagram page at jjrollipoh or contact 016 551 5796 or 016 559 5796.