Is it a cake? Is it a durian? Well, it’s both!

The 3D durian cake is often mistaken for the pungent fruit by many until they reach out and tentatively touch the thorns to discover it’s cream! — Pictures by Choo Choy May
The 3D durian cake is often mistaken for the pungent fruit by many until they reach out and tentatively touch the thorns to discover it’s cream! — Pictures by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 25 — Do you want a birthday cake that makes people stop and stare? Well, that’s the exact effect you’ll get with the 3D durian cake from cake makers, Matthew Yap and his wife, Helen Wong.

I had brought the durian cake to a Chinese restaurant for a birthday lunch. As we got ready to sing the birthday song, all the patrons from the other tables stopped eating, turned around and stared.

I could imagine what was going through their minds:“Why is there a whole durian on the table to celebrate a birthday?”

The realisation dawned on them that it was a cake when the birthday candle was lit and we started cutting through it to divide the portions.

That’s how realistic the cake looks as it fools others and it’s almost indistinguishable from the real fruit.

The unique 3D durian cake is a creation of Matthew, a self-taught cake maker. Previously an accountant who was involved in his family’s business, he now prefers to help his Hong Kong-born wife Helen at their bakery in Taman Muda, Ampang.

The couple met and lived in Canada before returning here in 1994. Matthew prefers to decorate or design the cakes, rather than baking them.

Originally, Helen who loves to bake started her business from home. About four years ago, they moved to this place in Ampang.

They do all kinds of cakes including 3D cakes for birthdays which Helen sculpts using fondant. “Nowadays people are willing to pay for something unique,” said Helen.

This includes parents who don’t mind forking out the money for their children’s birthday cakes. Some parents even want to outdo their neighbours, asking for more tiers with the cake, even though the children cannot eat it all.

“A birthday is a day to remember and if you buy a normal square cake, it’s boring so people don’t mind spending a lot,” explained Matthew.

Matthew Yap with his thorny creation that takes many hours to make from scratch.
Matthew Yap with his thorny creation that takes many hours to make from scratch.

Nowadays, using fondant to decorate a cake is more acceptable for the look. “You go for the look with fondant cake, while cream cake, you go for the taste,” said Matthew.

About three years ago, Matthew designed a 3D durian cake using fresh cream, sponge cake and durian flesh for his aunt who loved durian. It was an overwhelming success and through word of mouth, more orders trickled in.

Every few months, Matthew tweaks and updates the design of the cake to make it look more realistic. The first version looks entirely different from this current version 4.0, as it’s a lot greener in colour.

“We bought the actual durian to examine it and every now and then we change the colour of the cake,” said Matthew. Every single cake made by Matthew is different, since it’s handmade.

Sometimes it may resemble a Musang King or even a D24 variant. Most people are fooled by its intricate details down to the actual shades of a ripening durian.

According to the couple, one 5-star hotel, initially refused them entry into the hotel for a delivery, thinking the cake was the real fruit, which is banned from the hotel premises.

Initially Helen who does not like durian could not even be in the bakery or had to wear a mask, as Matthew worked on the cake. Slowly through time, she has gotten used to the pungent aroma.

There are two designs for the cake — a closed whole durian and a half portion that shows the inside of the durian. It takes about three hours for Matthew to make the open version, as it’s a lot of work to shape the durian flesh to resemble the fruit without any seeds.

The cake comes in one standard size of 1 kilogramme. “If it is any bigger, it won’t look like a Malaysian durian but a Thai one.” Customers have also requested for a smaller version but Matthew prefers not to offer too many choices.

The cake is made fresh and can last up to two days refrigerated. Usually, looks do not equal to taste, but this cake beats that urban myth.

When it’s properly cut with each layer defined and eaten chilled, the cake is light and delicious. You will ask for seconds. No wonder, one of Matthew’s customers ate the whole 1 kilogramme cake, among the four of them!

Orders come from as far as England, USA and Singapore. “We are blessed in a way that it is well received and everything is by word of mouth.” The overseas orders are usually from children who order the cake to be sent to their parents.

They also offer delivery services, only within the Klang Valley. Usually, the cake is frozen for transportation as it can sustain a three-hour car-ride. Hence, the cake cannot be delivered to say, Penang and Singapore. One desperate customer, even asked Matthew to send the cake to them in Singapore via Poslaju!

Response has been overwhelming for the handmade cake. Sometimes, during the festive season, they have had to turn down customers. For the Chinese New Year festivities, orders are almost filled up.

“You cannot do more than 20 durian cakes, and you will need to put a lot of eyedrops,” said Matthew. Some customers even buy the durian cake as gifts for their friends. “About 70 per cent of them use it as gifts and not as a birthday, since it’s something different.”

Matthew hopes to make each detail as realistic as possible. The perfectionist is already thinking of doing another version, as he believes that the cake can be further improved. “When you get good feedback from your customers, you want to improve.”

He believes there’ll always be an appeal for this kind of durian cake. “It’s very Malaysian and something different with a wow factor.”

Orders for the cake must be made at least three days in advance. You can contact Helen at 012-3603460.

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