KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 14 — The teddy bear smiles at you from inside the chiller, where it shares space with a tray of colourful macarons and eight other desserts that are just as easy on the eyes.
But it’s the former that usually catches customers’ attention first, with its glossy chocolate glaze coat and tempered chocolate ears. Not surprisingly, this Bear Necessity is one of The Tiny Temptress’s bestselling items, moving up to 90 pieces each day on weekends.
The café is only two months old but already has over 14,000 followers on Instagram, who have contributed hundreds of picture-perfect posts of their gorgeous desserts on pretty plates, presented on pastel-hued trays. How did this dessert café chalk up so much attention within such a short amount of time?
The café may be new but The Tiny Temptress has been around since 2013, starting as an online patisserie specialising in macarons, particularly customised designs that range from corporate logos to cheeky characters.
Although founder Wendy Loh, a law graduate from ATC (Advance Tertiary College), actually started her baking endeavours with brownies. After six failed attempts, she finally succeeded in producing a good batch and that spurred her on to try other desserts like pavlova, tiramisu and crème brulee.
And then she set herself the ultimate challenge: To conquer what many consider the toughest dessert to perfect, the macaron. Wendy pored over articles, blog posts and watched countless video tutorials on YouTube — for seven months, before even buying the necessary utensils for making macarons.
Her diligence and homework paid off, and she got the dainty shells perfect on the first try. Encouraged by friends and positive reception to her macarons, Wendy began selling them online as Tiny Temptress.
With her petite physique and sweet demeanour, one would assume that the moniker is a representation of her. “Not exactly,” she clarifies. “It started as a reference to the macarons, which are tiny and to me, seductive too. Then my friends pointed out, hey you’re tiny too! So it seemed like the ideal name.”
Tiny Temptress’s macarons took off in a big way, and Wendy was soon fielding orders for corporate functions, product launches and brand events, besides supplying to the Hello Kitty cafe in Sunway.
Working alone from home, she found it difficult to cope with the orders. “I was doing everything on my own — from shopping for supplies to baking, keeping track of orders, packing and delivery. I had to turn away a lot of orders as I simply couldn’t handle it and of course, people would get upset and complain.”
Wendy figured that a physical store was one way to deal with the high demand; she could scale up the business and people could just come to the café and try what they liked. Tiny Temptress, the café, opened this past June, with three young chefs handling most of the desserts while Wendy still bakes the macarons herself.
Keeping to her brand’s aesthetics and approach, Tiny Temptress’s creations are aesthetically pleasing, with a whimsical flourish. Wendy worked closely with her chefs for two months prior to the cafe’s opening, to come up with the creative combinations.
“We would start by figuring out the flavour combinations and once we get that right, we work out how we want the dessert to look. Taste always comes first. Then we’d order the specific moulds for them.”
Tiny Temptress leans towards what Wendy terms creative French desserts, which involves many techniques and terms that are unfamiliar to many. “Most people will order by sight; if it looks good, they want it, without knowing what exactly is in it,” says Wendy. “They’ll ask, why is this chocolate mousse sourish, not realising that it contains passionfruit Belgian milk chocolate ganache.”
To counter that, Tiny Temptress re-designed their menu, discarding the photos and maintaining a text-only description, so that customers will take the time to read and think about what flavours they like or not before ordering.
Taking it further, Wendy is also developing a booklet that contains even more details on each dessert, including explanations on the techniques used to achieve the different components. Heard of crème Chiboust? It’s a crème patissiere lightened with meringue, and you can try it in the Mister Fuji, a snowy-looking dome with a pointy peak.
That’s the other thing many often don’t realise — just how much work goes into every piece of dessert. Take The Temptress for example, which features a raspberry curd, chocolate glaze, white chocolate rose whip and almond cream in a homemade tart shell.
That’s five different elements and everything is made from scratch, including the tart shells, which are shaved after baking to smoothen and even out the edges. Some of the desserts include components that need to be prepped overnight, double baked, or cut into the desired shapes — which can be tricky when it comes to crumbly textures like the dacquoise.
The education of their customers continues as does their tweaking of the recipes; Wendy and her team strive to keep perfecting their offerings, taking customers’ feedback into consideration. Since opening till now, for example, they have reduced sugar levels by 30 per cent.
When the café first opened, there were some plated desserts on the menu but Wendy has had to put that on hold as demand exceeded expectation, and capacity. Besides producing enough for walk-in customers each day (nothing is kept overnight), they also take custom orders for the macarons and all their desserts. You can, for example, order a 6.5 inch version of the Bear Necessity.
Needless to say, the team is kept on their toes and Wendy is happy to leave things to them, and give them the freedom to explore. “I want to provide a platform for them to grow, I am happy to invest in them. When they create a successful recipe that goes on the shelf, I make sure they receive the credit they deserve. In the upcoming booklet, you will see the chef’s names along with the dessert’s name and description.”
So does she have more time to herself now that The Tiny Temptress has grown into a cafe? “I thought this would lighten my burden, but running a shop presents a whole new set of problems!” she admits with a laugh.
But it’s just a matter of time before the tiny dynamite overcomes those hurdles too. After all, by her own admission, she went from having zero kitchen experience to being a macaron maestro and now, an artisanal patissier: “At the age of 21, I couldn’t even fry an egg! I didn’t think I’d be here today.”
The Tiny Temptress is at No. 8-1, Jalan Radin Bagus 8, Bandar Baru Sri Petaling, Kuala Lumpur
Opens 1pm-11pm, Tue-Sun; closed Mon
Vivian Chong never says no to a good dessert. Find out what her other favourite eats are at thisbunnyhops.com