Recently I learnt that there’s an alternative to traditional foam latte art today that’s even more colourful and more customisable. They come in the form of meringue cookies, a concept that’s popular in South Korea and Japan, but not quite in Malaysia yet.
“I noticed many South Korean and Japanese Instagram pages like home café videos that baked cute cakes and desserts, which I wanted to try making myself as well. One day, I stumbled upon a YouTube video and started learning how to bake cute meringue cookies,” Denise Teh, the founder of Sweet Hato, shared with Vulcan Post.
After finding joy in the process and realising she wanted to take it further, she launched Sweet Hato in June 2020. In a way, it also gave her the luxury of some time off from the “real world” after the pandemic kicked in.
It Wasn’t Meant To Be a Full-Time Thing
She was a fresh law graduate that had already been called to the Malaysian Bar in 2020, and had been looking for a job after she was done with her legal training in February 2020. However, the pandemic and following MCO put a damper on her plans, so she moved onto baking.
When she first started baking meringue cookies, her friends did suggest she sell her cookies. However, she was hesitant because it took her a long time just to pipe one character.
“To me, maybe Sweet Hato was just a page where I could express my creativity and share my baking creations. But ever since I started it, orders kept coming in,” she shared.
Because of how well-received her meringues were, Denise began doing this full-time instead, with some help from others during festive seasons. Business picked up rapidly, and this CNY, she was left severely short-handed.
She ended up working all day from morning to past midnight, even on CNY eve and the first day. After that experience, she’s determined to expand her team.
Your Fave Cartoons In Your Drinks
On her Instagram page, you’ll notice that most of her meringue creations are animals and cartoon characters familiar to most of us, like Shin Chan, Stitch, Winnie the Pooh, Doraemon, and so on.
Every week, Denise releases a new “Character of the Week” with a fixed design and price, which will be slightly cheaper than other characters. “For example, if this week’s character of the week is Dumbo, it is RM39. Whereas if you order Dumbo during other days, it would cost RM42.”
Each bottle contains about 21 meringues on crackers, but customers can also request for them to come without the crackers, which would add 7 more meringues per bottle for no extra cost.
You can also customise your meringue and she will quote you according to how complex the design will be. “Sometimes it’s a picture of their beloved pets and sometimes a screenshot photo from Google. From there, I will try to pipe the characters given as closely as possible,” she explained.
As of now, there’s only one size of bottles. If it’s an event that you’re ordering for, she can customise your packaging according to your budget with some add-on gift tags or pouches. So far, she’s catered to baby showers, birthdays, house-warming parties, and door gifts.
A Tedious Making Process
“Piping the meringues takes up the bulk of my time and meringues have a very long bake-time. It takes on average approximately 4 hours to bake a single batch,” she shared.
How long she takes to pipe one meringue depends on the complexity of the design; it takes about 2 to 3 minutes for her to pipe one of these princesses.
While it’s tedious to pipe these meringues plus design them, the good news is that her hard work doesn’t disappear too quickly. “Even after I have finished up my drink, the meringues are usually still intact, but they do become soft after a while. It does not disintegrate unless I use some force like my teaspoon to break them up,” Denise said.
However, meringues are very sensitive to moisture, which is why Sweet Hato’s containers are airtight, and customers are recommended to consume them within 3 weeks.
Making Meringues Familiar To Malaysians
As of now, the bulk of Denise’s customers are B2C, but she has supplied to big-name customers like Maxis for a team-building event and Isetan for a Christmas gift box.
She still gets many questions on what her meringues are, but understands that it’s because it’s not as popular of a dessert here yet, compared to something like macarons.
I’ll have to admit, even I wasn’t too sure about meringues in drinks until I stumbled upon Sweet Hato, so I learnt from Denise that aesthetics aside, meringues don’t serve the main purpose of sweetening your drinks. She likens them to marshmallows, whereby they do add a bit of sweetness to the drink but can’t actually replace sweeteners.
Moving forward, Denise wants to do more than just meringue cookies in drinks, as she’d like to integrate meringues into cakes and other desserts. Whatever she does with Sweet Hato, she affirmed that meringues would still be the main focus of her business. Right now, she’s also exploring the idea of opening up a physical cafe or shop for Sweet Hato.
“Sweet Hato has been here for barely a year, but I’ve gotten many requests, even from Singapore, on whether I conduct classes to teach baking meringues,” Denise shared with Vulcan Post.
“I hope to be able to be well-equipped and gain more experiences throughout the years to be able to conduct classes on how to bake meringue cookies in the near future.”
As Sweet Hato now takes up much of her time, Denise doesn’t see herself returning to law anytime soon. Furthermore, she’s gotten the support of her parents to continue the business after they saw how it grew.
Featured Image Credit: Denise Teh, founder of Sweet Hato