Desserts not only have to taste great these days but look amazing as well. And Malaysia has the talents to create premium products, discovers Karen Ho.
In December 1967, a thoughtful mother decides to send a cake to her son who was turning the milestone age of 21; a son who was a soldier stationed in an army camp along the Indonesian border near Tawau. It was a simple cake, sent by normal post from Kuala Lumpur all the way to a remote area in Borneo.
By the time this delicate gift left the city and travelled by air, ground and water to reach the camp which only received external supplies on a weekly basis, it was very likely that over a week had passed. The birthday cake was a surprise in more ways than one. "When it reached me, the cake was rotten!" laughs my father at the memory during a chat about cake one evening.
Back in those days, cakes were a rare treat for the average Malaysian, and fortunately, when my childhood rolled along, more bakeries appeared that weren't just focused on bread and sugary doughnuts.
The humble chiffon cake or spongey Swiss roll used to bring wide-eyed delight to a skinny young girl with ponytails and pink-rimmed spectacles. The idea od proper cake delivery hadn't even been conceptualised yet. Nowadays, cake designs have evolved into such sophisticated creations that I wonder whether we will one day see a flying cake.
I blink several times. I pinch myself. After confirming that I haven't died and gone to heaven, I venture closer to check if the vision of paradise in front of me is real or just a mirage. This large table capturing everyone's attention in the spacious room is festooned with the most tantalising assortment of desserts, from cute little profiteroles and decadent cakes to elaborate jelly creations and Malaysian-flavoured innovations. My stomach murmurs in appreciation.
I have waltzed into The Cake Show 2019. Organised by Eat Cake Today, a cake-ordering and delivery portal that offers premium cakes, this inaugural event is showcasing the trending cakes this year and for next year. The spread laid out on the table for everyone to admire represents a tangible version of the online products and they're not just for display.
Someone reminds me: "You'd better take photos now because they're all going to be eaten soon." I circle the table, wiping away my drool every few seconds as my eyes feast on offerings such as a conical tower of colourful macarons, an elegant 3-tier white cake with a crystallised concept, a curious cendol cake, and a chunky salted egg burnt cheesecake that looks like the firemen arrived too late.
Sighing in happiness, I hear the chocolate salted caramel praline cake topped with thick caramel drizzle calling out seductively to me, while the mango and passion mille crepe flaunts its cheery hues. Like a kid in a candy store, my yearning sweet tooth shifts into overdrive, with a little voice inside my head saying "I want to try that one. And this one. This one too. Oh and that one."
REALISTIC AND ARTISTIC
The cakes and pastries are not the only captivating displays in the room. A vintage table lamp tempts me to flip the switch to turn on the light. A rose makes me want to lean in for a sniff. Slices of toast look ready to be lifted from the toaster and spread with butter and kaya. The level of realism is almost mid-boggling.
In this corner of The Cake Show 2019, one of the vendors on the Eat Cake Day portal, C3 Lab, present their skills in Chocolatier and Sugar Artistry in the form of vintage tables and homewares sculpted from chocolate and delicate sugar flowers handcrafted from gum paste, all of which are entirely edible.
These are not cakes, but showpieces, however, are artistic structures made from chocolate and do not contain any sponge or cake inside. Neither are they supposed to contain any inedible props inside such as a steel support or pipes.
The talented pastry chefs behind these creations are also the three founders of C3 Lab. Chef Chong Ko Wai and Chef Lawrence Cheong have been teaching pastry-making full-time for eight years, and have won numerous awards in local and international pastry competitions. They met their third co-founder Chef Chen Mei Ling when she was studying at the same academy where they worked. She developed a passion for sugar flowers after deciding to make her own wedding cake.
Male voice booms over a microphone, inviting everyone to come closer to the demo kitchen area where the invited pastry chefs (including C3 Lab) take turns to provide a simple demonstration of their speciality. Like a fashion show, a variety of trending or soon-to-be-trending creations is paraded one by one on the counter, from the playful Topsy Turvy cake and messy Boba Lava Cake, to an alluring geode cake and practical jar desserts.
Sufficiently teased, there's only one announcement that we're all anticipating. The male voice cuts through the ambient chatter once more, signalling at last the moment of indulgence when the guests can enter dessert paradise.