Fancy macarons that come wedged with ham and cheese, orh nee or durian mochi?
There’s a local patisserie, Nanatang, where you can get these beautiful and delicious-looking sweet treats.
Instagrammable, plus-size versions of the macaron — known as “fatfat-carons” — have caught wind in South Korea.
While a typical French-style macaron is usually piped simply with a layer of buttercream, “fatfat-carons” are stuffed, almost to the brink of bursting, with ingredients from mochis to whole strawberries to gigantic blobs of cream.
Rolling Up Her Sleeves To Bake Full-Time
The bakehouse and studio along Kampong Bahru Road was founded by self-taught baker Serena Tang in 2013.
The 28-year-old Singaporean holds a double degree in marketing and advertising, and has had zero culinary experience.
I started out as a home baker selling online, mostly on Instagram. I was just baking part-time as a hobby while studying and working full-time.
After working for a few years, I realised that I don’t feel accomplished with an office job, so I decided to resign and focus on baking.– Serena Tang, founder of Nanatang
She has always wanted to helm her own bake shop after many years of home baking. That was how Nanatang came about.
“Nanatang was created as a space to bring together people to create beautiful things and where it is normal to hear people say ‘cake is life’,” said Serena.
“Nanatang is actually a nickname that my friends gave me. There were too many “nanas”, so they added “Tang” which is my surname to differentiate from others.”
Her “fat-carons” retail at S$35 for a box of 10 and while they look similar to a regular macaron, they are filled with a thicker layer of buttercream in popular flavours such as Speculoos, Citron, Earl Grey or even Cream Cheese.
And of course, their star product is none other than the Insta-worthy, super thick and chunky “Fatfat-carons” that retail at S$30 for a box of four, except that they are filled with funkier fillings.
Think interesting flavours such as Apple Cinnamon Crumble, Ondeh Ondeh, Oreo Cheesecake, Kaya Fancy Cheese, Orh Nee, Durian Mochi and Ham and Cheese.
Besides the “fat-carons” and “fatfat-carons”, Nanatang also specialises in buttercream cakes decorated with intricate flower piping that are inspired from South Korea.
These Korean-style flower cakes have been in trend recently for their aesthetics.
Marrying Korean-Inspired Creations With S’porean Flavours
The Ham and Cheese flavour would probably raise eyebrows, but Serena said that they wanted to create “something fancy and shocking that aim to trigger people to try them out”.
“We try to localise the flavours hence we have ‘Singaporean flavours’ such as durian, orh nee and milo dinosaur.”
As opposed to S$20 for a box of 10 regular macarons (or S$2 a piece), these “fatfat-carons” admittedly come at steeper prices, but you probably are getting more bang for your buck with each “fatfat-caron”.
With her everything-Korean obsession in pastry-making, one might assume that she is Korean. After all, she sports the same dewy, fair skin like most Koreans have.
However, Serena stressed that she is not Korean. “I just happen to have very fair skin and small, single-eyelid eyes,” she laughed.
She also just loves travelling to South Korea — she would make a trip there at least twice a year before Covid-19 happened.
“I have many Korean friends as well, whom I got to know from class collaborations so I am very updated with the Korean trends,” she said.
“These “fatcarons” called “뚱카롱” are super popular in Korea and I wanted to introduce them to Singapore.”
She added that they not only have to be visually beautiful, they need to taste good as well.
From Selling Bakes To Conducting Baking Classes
While she could clearly carve a niche for herself among Singaporean bakers, she didn’t think that it would be sustainable.
Instead of selling bakes in an already saturated industry filled with home-bakers and bakeries, she decided that she needed to differentiate herself.
There were too many ‘bakers’ but not many ‘baking teachers’. And how many cakes do I need to bake and sell in order to be sustainable?
It was too difficult. Teaching makes more sense as it was not so saturated when I first started out, and sharing knowledge was enjoyable for me.– Serena Tang, founder of Nanatang
Therefore, when she saw opportunities in teaching baking classes, she jumped on them.
“I kept experimenting with different recipes and went into Korean flower piping when it was getting popular,” said Serena.
One day, a Korean flower piping instructor sent her a direct message on Instagram after seeing her work. She wanted to collaborate with Serena to teach classes in Singapore and that was how she started to move towards baking.
She opened her baking studio in 2017 to conduct baking workshops.
They collaborate with many international, award-winning baking instructors such as French cake designer Luma’s Cake and chocolate sculptor Carla Puig.
Today, it is a baking studio that caters for the latest cake trends through exciting workshops and Insta-worthy cakes.
On average, they sell 200 to 500 cakes/boxes/sets per month.
“It is actually not a lot as Nanatang focuses more on teaching than selling,” added Serena.
Where There’s A Whisk, There’s A Way
Looking back on her journey, Serena said that she had zero knowledge on organising baking classes.
“From finding students, to preparing ingredients and renting a studio to conduct classes, I explored every step by myself,” said Serena.
It was really fun and that sense of accomplishment she gets really keeps her going.
“From there, I started to collaborate with different instructors with different specialisations. As it goes, we became stronger and bigger,” said Serena.
Nanatang now consists of a team of people who are passionate about caking and each person brings their own strengths to the business.
For example, Serena is good with piping skills and macarons. Her assistant is good at fondant modelling and 3D skills while another employee is good with chocolate.
As a result, Nanatang is “able to provide a huge range of products and accept any kind of custom cake for any occasion”.
So does she have plans to open a cafe here?
It was actually my goal before I got to understand about the teaching industry. But for now, I don’t think I want to open one after observing the cafe industry in Singapore.– Serena Tang, founder of Nanatang
She explained that a cafe is probably more difficult to manage [than a baking studio] and has its own set of challenges especially in operations and manpower.
With Covid-19 and the circuit breaker, cafes have been badly hit and Nanatang could not conduct any classes either.
“We relied solely on selling. Fortunately, we were able to survive. Our “fat-carons” and “fatfat-carons”, as well as our durian swissrolls and mochi were well-received.”
Not Resting Her Laurels
While she did not have prior culinary experience to starting her own baking studio and online bakery, she says that her “just do it” character helps.
“I am someone who doesn’t give up easily. When I want something, I will work really hard towards it.”
At 28 years old, she is one of the youngest baking instructors in Singapore.
As a result, she channels creativity and fresh perspectives into her products and classes. “I don’t like anything too boring, hence I am constantly creating new products and design,” said Serena.
“There are always new ideas, new products, new creations. People who think out of the box will usually survive the longest,” she added.
She stressed that photos are key — “you must know how to take good photos, as they are the first things that people see”. Nice photos will definitely garner more attention, she said.
On her advice for budding baker-entrepreneurs, she begs them to think harder before choosing this career as it is tough one and one can fail very easily if you are not unique.
If you think you can earn a lot of money [in this career], please reconsider and maybe choose an office job instead.
It is 100% not possible to do everything yourself. You will need a team to work together with each person specialising in a certain area.
Entrepreneurship is full of head attacks. If you are weak, don’t do it!– Serena Tang, founder of Nanatang
Featured Image Credit: Nanatang