KUALA LUMPUR, May 4 — There aren’t any bold colours or lurid rainbow splashes. The hues are often pastel; the flavours of the cake straightforward and fuss-free. But there is an elegance and beauty to every slice.
These are cakes you imagine both Marie Kondo and Martha Stewart would approve of.
This is the world of Liangren Pastry, one filled with simple cakes that belie plenty of thought and care.
Liangren Pastry is founded by Chin Fei Yee, 34, and Liew Hoe Wah, 35. Initially the couple was just having fun baking and cooking during the first movement control order (MCO).
Eventually they came up with the idea to build an online store to sell their homemade desserts, since they were already passionate about making them.
Liew, who has more than 10 years of experience in industrial bakeries, shares, “As Fei Yee works as a freelancer, she has plenty of time to handle this. We started off with our logo design while simultaneously creating both our Facebook page and Instagram account.”
Despite his present occupation as a baker, Liew is also a bit of a photography fanatic. Chin notes, “Besides baking, he loves shooting photos. This is after designing and decorating the cakes and desserts. These photos will then be uploaded to our Liangren Pastry Facebook and Instagram.”
Their personal preferences and palate do colour the direction of their offerings. Liew says, “As bakers, we do not really like fresh cream cakes that are dense and taste too creamy. Therefore, we will consistently modify our recipes before coming out with a new flavour.”
This might explain the familiar yet ever so slightly unique twists they incorporate into each of their fresh cream cakes.
Take their Matcha Tangerine Cake, for instance. It’s easily one of their most popular cream cakes. Chin says, “We use imported Japanese matcha powder, which is free from artificial colouring. It has a very good aroma that blends well with the sweet and tangy tangerine.”
Surprisingly, these citrusy notes are present in quite a number of recipes: from the tartness of their homemade lemon custard, another bona fide bestseller, to a more subtle fragrance perfuming their delicate madeleines.
Sometimes they get inspired when they least expect it. Liew shares the story behind one of their signature desserts, the Peach Kuchen: “We learned how to make it when we were on a working holiday in Australia. The recipe was given to us by one of our colleagues, Aunt Elaine, who often baked it for us.”
More intense flavours make an appearance from time to time too. Their decadent Chocolate Mud Cake with Lotus Biscoff would satisfy any cocoa-centric craving while a more Japanese-influenced Uji Matcha Pound Cake is the go-to for those who prefer a touch of tea-like bitterness.
After establishing their business with an early rollout of accessible items, the duo started brainstorming ideas for new product releases. They came up with the Weekend Dessert Box, a confectionery package with rotating contents such as their Chocolate Strawberry Roll and their Earl Grey Mango Roll.
Chin says, “Once we launched our Weekend Dessert Box, we knew we had to include the Peach Kuchen in it. This cake brought back a lot of the good memories for us.”
The idea behind their Weekend Dessert Box seems a simple one yet has endless possibilities. Liew explains, “We realised that people don’t really need a whole cake when they’re craving for desserts. So we came out with a sort of mix-and-match dessert box so that customers get to try two or three types of dessert at once.”
Like so many other newbie food and beverage (F&B) startups that launched during or right before the first MCO, Liangren Pastry had to tweak their business strategy during a time of uncertainty.
Chin says, “Liangren Pastry is a fully online operated bakery. One of the obstacles we faced during MCO was not being able to join any offline marketplace to reach out to more potential customers. To overcome this, we consistently collaborate with other homemade brands and also came up with some gift boxes during festive seasons.”
Logistics was another major challenge. Be it decadent cream cakes or light-as-air rolls, all are perishable products and far from the most robust when transported from the bakers to their customers.
Liew explains, “Cakes and desserts must be handled with care which is why we had been looking for a trustable rider. Fortunately, we eventually found one. Also, we have since rented a space for our workshop.”
Clearly for the startup, staying lean and agile is part of the game. Every success breeds more successes albeit one step at a time. Organic growth for the pair is preferable to a swift leap then falling down without a safety net.
Part of that growing safety net is the loyal audience they have built over time. Chin says, “We’re grateful that Liangren Pastry has gotten a lot of good feedback from our regulars. Most of the orders came from our existing customers. Positive word of mouth has helped introduce new customers to us which has contributed to our business growth.”
To keep up with the increased demand, Liangren Pastry currently operates on a pre-order basis as the duo insists on baking their cakes fresh instead of having ready stock.
Liew says, “We do not take bulk orders as our team only consists of two persons, which you can tell from our brand name — liǎng rén — which means 'two people' in Mandarin. Also, we work hard in ensuring high quality control as we only bake limited cakes or desserts daily.”
To keep up with trends, these ever-curious bakers have also improved the decorations of their fresh cream cakes over time. These days, customers can expect a more minimalist Korean-style design with a few tiny edible flowers as well as lush green leaves.
Ultimately, both Liew and Chin hope that the visuals are only the part of the equation in drawing attention to their craft: “While we do hope that people will recognise our products at first sight, at the end of day, it’s when they’ve really tasted the cake and decided it is worth every penny spent. This is our goal that we are truly working hard for.”