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The 26-Year-Old Baker Who Took Advantage Of Our Guilty Pleasure To Succeed In A Saturated Market

Three years ago, Eddie Tan, a culinary arts graduate, turned down the golden opportunity to work in an award-winning restaurant in Marina Bay Sands. Now he is a baker who operates his own business called Cake Tella, a local cakery in Petaling Jaya.

Starting From The Bottom

The 26-year-old studied culinary arts and majored in hot cooking at KDU college. After working in a local restaurant for 6 months, he handed in his letter of resignation and headed to Singapore for an interview with DB Bistro Moderne, an award-winning restaurant at Marina Bay Sands.

“I went there to interview and I got the job on the spot, however I had to wait for a month for the working visa to be approved,” said Eddie. Before he agreed to take the job in Singapore, he questioned his decision.

“As a chef we work very long hours (Eddie used to work 6 days a week with an average of 14 hours a day in a restaurant). So why don’t I work hard for myself rather than working for someone?” After some careful consideration, Eddie turned the job offer down.

Image Credit: Time Out KL
Image Credit: Time Out KL

After that Eddie worked as a baker in a bakery at the local shopping mall. It wasn’t a glamourous job and he was paid a low salary of RM1,200 per month. Then he moved on to another bakery shop which specialises in crepe cakes; however despite the change of job, he was still getting paid the same salary as before.

“With a salary of RM1,200, I don’t even know how I actually survived that period, my girlfriend had to pay for our dates, but now I’m the one paying for our dates,” Eddie jokingly shared with Vulcan Post.

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Despite his humbling start, Eddie knew that the jobs he took would pay off in the long run, as he was still considered as a newbie in the baking industry. After working hours, he spent time to read recipes and self-help books to improve himself, he also tried out different cake recipes.

“If you try something repeatedly, you will get really good at it. So if I need to bake a really good Chocolate Mousse, I need to test the recipe many, many times, like 10-20 times just to get it right. My focus was to learn as much as I could about baking.”

Signature Baileys Choc Mousse W Caramelized Hazelnut
Signature Baileys Choc Mousse With Caramelized Hazelnut.

Cake Tella And Their Alcoholic Cakes

Cake Tella launched three years ago when Eddie was just 23 years old. When he started out, he decided to specialise in crafting cakes that are made with alcohol. This is an uncommon decision, seeing as most bakers would prefer to have their products appeal to the mass market. Won’t specialising in alcoholic cakes put his business in a position that would only appeal to a niche market? Eddie did not think so.

“The alcohol part was to create a niche market, to create something special so people would talked about it, something to stand out,” explained Eddie. In a saturated baking industry where everyone is already trying to bake the perfect cupcake or mille crepe, Eddie went on the road less taken—and it has paid off. Currently, two of the best sellers in Cake Tella are alcoholic, the Signature Baileys Choc Mousse and Tiramisu Kahlua.

Kahlua Tiramisu With Caramelized Almond.
Kahlua Tiramisu With Caramelized Almond

Aside from alcoholic cakes, Cake Tella also have crepe cakes for consumers who do not consume alcohol. The prices range from RM80 to RM 150, depending on the weight of the cake and the ingredients used. Of course, the non-alcoholic cakes are slightly cheaper. Overall the price is moderately higher compared to Secret Recipe, however, Eddie affirmed that they only use good and high quality liquor to ensure that his customers taste the greatest and highest quality of cakes.

If you opt for an alcoholic cake and you would like to have extra shots of alcohol—don’t worry, no one is going to judge you for wanting a cake with extra ‘fun’—you just need to pay RM10 per shot. Moreover, you can also have the option of customising your cake by adding decorations such as their chocolate man (like the gingerbread man but it’s made of chocolate) and alcoholic whisky chocolate cake pop.

For true chocolate lovers who can differentiate a good from a bad one, you’ll be glad to know that Cake Tella uses couverture chocolate which is a type of chocolate that contains a higher percentage of cocoa butter (between 33-38%).

Nutella mille crepe accompanied by 18 pop rock choc man.
Nutella mille crepe accompanied by 18 pop rock choc man.

How Important Is A Good Cake?

A cake can make or break a celebration, at least that’s what party planners will tell you—and based on Eddie’s personal experiences, those party planners were not pulling your leg.

In fact, many people use service recommendation websites like RecomN.com just to order the birthday cake of their childrens’ or friends’ dreams, plus they take the time to leave positive comments to recommend a particular service to other users. All this fuss serves to prove that a cake is not just a cake, it’s also a representation of the celebration itself.

Eddie said that he has encountered numerous experiences whereby a birthday celebration was spoiled by a bad tasting cake. That being said, Cake Tella has a policy to ensure that every customer is pleased with his cakes—a 100% refund and 50% off the next order for unsatisfied patrons. Fortunately for him, thus far this has only happened once in the past three years of operation.

Whisky Salted Caramel Choc Mousse
Whisky Salted Caramel Choc Mousse

Luck + Hardwork

Other than operating from his home (Cake Tella does not provide home delivery services), Cake Tella’s cakes can also be purchased from several cafés like Rekindle in SS2, CAFFEine in Setiawalk Puchong, Crave in Oasis Square and many more within Klang Valley.

“Many cafés actually accept my cakes, I was really lucky and I have built a lot of confidence in my cakes,” said Eddie who was in doubt when he first started. This partnership with cafés allowed him to expand his business beyond his humble home.

Eddie also mentioned that he is thankful for his father who helped him as a mentor while running his bakery ingredient shop. “His most memorable advice for me is always open your door and be thankful for the sh** you run into now, because it will make you stronger.”