Entrepreneur

Engineering Was So Stressful That This M'sian Baked To Relax—Now It's Her Job

  • The Quirky Taste is an online business based in Jalan Ampang started by Melissa Sukumaran in 2016 that focuses on creating custom multi-tiered cakes for events such as weddings, birthdays, and corporate events.
  • Prices for her custom cakes begin at RM300, and they also provide a delivery service.
  • Melissa aims to grow the cake industry in Malaysia through workshops and other educational endeavours.

It was during her student days in Cardiff that Melissa Sukumaran began learning how to bake. Then, it was during her time working as an engineer that she starting perfecting her craft.

“I started baking more seriously as a way to release my work stress,” she said. “That is when I started playing around with flavours and adapting recipes to suit my taste.”

“I then began providing baked goods to everyone around me using the same ingredients I would give my family members.”

“It hit me then that people want a personal touch when it comes to baked goods, and that’s what inspired me to take my baking to another level.”

After starting up in 2016, Melissa now runs The Quirky Taste—an online custom cake business that focuses on creating beautiful and great-tasting multi-tiered cakes for weddings, birthdays, and other events.

She runs The Quirky Taste alongside her fiancé who acts as the person in charge of QC and always makes sure the goods look immaculate before they ship out.

According to Melissa, the idea to begin The Quirky Taste stemmed from a conversation she had with a former colleague who was also a chef.

“We were talking over lunch and came up with this idea,” she said. “Without her support and my fiancé’s help, the baking would have never reached the level it is at today.”

Stacking Up The Business

Melissa describes her cakes as “made as if they came out of your own oven, but with a heightened sense of art.”

She uses only premium ingredients, saying no to sub-standard butters, and bases her recipes on careful research and input from those close to her.

Image Credit: The Quirky Taste

“I started learning the art of decorating from ‘uncle’ Google and YouTube, but I elevated my skills by joining classes conducted by renowned international artists,” she explained. “I’m mostly self-taught, but I do go for occasional classes to keep myself updated with current designs.”

Based in Jalan Ampang, The Quirky Taste operates through their website and Facebook page, where customers can contact Melissa directly to customise an order a cake for their events (their prices start from RM300).

They have a delivery service for clients located a bit further, with all of larger multi-tiered cakes assembled on-site.

“We also have a dedicated delivery service for our other smaller cakes,” she said. “We always want our clients to be able to reach us no matter the distance.”

Shifting Perceptions

The challenges that Melissa currently faces mostly have to do with the public perception towards cakes—specifically fancy tiered-cakes.

“For a lot of people, it’s just a cake,” she said. “I personally know friends who made do without a wedding cake just because they felt that the money spent was not worth it.”

On that point, Melissa is trying to change that perception through teaching and informing.

“We’re slowly penetrating the market by educating our clients,” she said. “We take the time to teach them and understand their concerns while getting them to understand ours.”

Image Credit: The Quirky Taste

Elaborate Designs

Though only having been operational for two years, Melissa has huge plans for her business. Firstly, she aims to develop her business into one of Malaysia’s top event cakeries by becoming a one-stop provider of premium cakes for her clients.

“We work very closely with all of our clients, right from the design, flavour, and everything else,” she said. “We educate them and tell them that the premium prices are due to the ingredients used and the man hours put into designing, baking, and decorating.”

“Once they taste it, they know the difference.”

Another thing that Melissa hopes to accomplish through her business is the education and development of cake-decorating in Malaysia.

“Ever since I started taking my cake decorating seriously, I’ve had a few ‘cake crushes’—if you can call them that,” she said, referring to some of the celebrity bakers and cake decorators out there.

Melissa with Faye Cahill in 2017 / Image Credit: The Quirky Taste

“I’ve always admired their skills and learned from them ‘virtually’,” she added. “Then I thought why not bring them to KL and let other bakers in Malaysia and around Asia learn from them.”

This incentive has already led to Melissa bringing over celebrated cake-designer Faye Cahill to KL for the first time to conduct a workshop, something she’s quite proud of.

“I’ll also be bringing over internationally renowned sugar flower artists Giovanna Smith over very soon!”

Image Credit: The Quirky Taste

The plans to educate are also pushing her towards opening a neighbourhood café with teaching facilities (this is still a work in progress) and also to begin a #madeinMalaysia workshop series that will bring together Malaysian cake decorators to learn from and support each other.

“In addition to growing the cake industry, other industries such as coffee, food, and photography will benefit as well.”

Melissa ultimately hopes to get people more interested in cakes by helping her clients, bakers, and entrepreneurs understand the business.

“A lot of new bakers undervalue themselves because they want to get right into doing business,” she said. “Anyone can start a business, but not everyone will survive through the storm.”

“More often than not, greed overtakes passion and many cave in!”

For budding bakers and entrepreneurs, Melissa had some words of wisdom to share.

“People only see the tip of the success iceberg,” she said. “However the real bulk of it is underwater and can’t be seen.”

“That bulk represents the hard work, focus, learning, and persistence that is required to form that wonderful icy tip,” she added.

“Success doesn’t come by luck or accident. It costs us something.”

  • For those interested in The Quirky Taste, their cakes, and their events, hop on to their website or Facebook page.

Feature Image Credit: The Quirky Taste

 

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