Taking the Cake
Maggie Tiojakin, WEEKENDER | Tue, 01/31/2012 1:08 PM |
With bakeries now a crust above for the country’s growing middle class, two young women are having their cakes and eating them, too.
When hairdresser Johnny Andrean opened BreadTalk in Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta, in 2003, it quickly became clear that his localized version of the Singapore bakery was destined to be a success. In its opening few days, people waited in long lines for the fancifully named breads and cakes.
BreadTalk was in the right place at the right time. After the very dark days of the late 1990s economic crisis, urbanites suddenly had more disposable income to splurge amid the economic rebound. In tandem with the booming “charge it” credit card culture, Jakartans have feasted on the new opportunities to partake of consumer treats, including delectable edibles.
This has led to a sequence of trends sating the Indonesian public’s famous sweet tooth, from cupcakes – and the urbanista legend of the search for the ultimate red velvet version – the frozen yogurt phenomenon (now not so hot) and macaroons.
Apart from the big bread franchises (Korea’s Tous les Jours opened its sophisticated French-themed bakery in Senayan City in December), there are also independent entrepreneurs with dreams mixing it up in their own bakeries and cake shops.
Getting the Goods
Jana Parengkuan did not grow up with a love of cooking. The daughter of a Javanese father and a Czech mother, she says she ate whatever was on the table, which was often a home-cooked fusion of both cultures.
“In my home, there was a bit of both countries, because my father is Muslim and my mother Christian,” says the wife of emcee and radio host Erwin Parengkuan. “We celebrated Idul Fitri with my father, but we also observed my mother’s Christmas traditions.”
The attractive 30-something is a self-taught artist; Erwin recounts waking up one morning to find that his wife had completed a breathtaking painting without his knowledge. She learned to cook out of necessity, because the oldest of her four children was a finicky eater. And she brought that artist’s attention to detail to her new forays in the kitchen.
Cookbooks and the step-by-step instructions to be found on YouTube recipe videos were her lifeline in making interesting meals. So was her husband, whose late mother had run a traditional restaurant in Jakarta and always made sure to cook at home using fresh ingredients.
“I would call up Erwin to ask him what ingredients were needed for a dish, and to pick them up on the way home if they weren’t in the house.”
Her experimental meals pleased her family, and Jana began branching out to cook for friends, especially with her own line of cakes and cookies. That led to online sales, and eventually the placement of her baked goods in upmarket grocery stores.
Although the couple considered opening a bakery in Bali, they eventually decided to remain close to home in Jakarta. Their bakery – appropriately named The Baked Goods – occupies a bright, inviting space at the corner of Jl. Sabang and Jl. Kebon Sirih in Central Jakarta.
“We originally thought of having a place where people could pick up the food only, but we realized that they also wanted a place where they could stop, relax and hang out with friends,” says Jana.
The store offers a cornucopia of cakes and cookies, including Czech specialties such as Bublanina, a type of fruit-topped coffee cake, made according to her maternal grandmother’s recipe, as well as different types of savory cheese biscuits and quiches (Jana says she and Erwin do not really like sweet foods).
Jana grew up observing the traditions of her Czech family in carefully preparing jams and other preserves. She says all of her wares are natural and cooked without preservatives.
“People will say, ‘why take the time to use the real food when there is instant to choose from?’ For me, it’s a case of why not, when you know that it’s better for you,” says Jana, who plans to add pasta dishes and her family’s favorite salads to the menu.
It’s said that one can never trust a skinny chef, but the slim Jana avows that she oversees the cooking of all her goods, and also enjoys her food. “Just ask Erwin, he’ll tell you how I like to eat,” she says. “It’s all about moderation.”
For her the ultimate proof of the pudding is in the eating. “I feel satisfied when I see an empty plate. Then you know you have made someone happy.” + Bruce Emond
The Baked Goods
Jl. H. Agus Salim 16
Menteng, Central Jakarta
A Fairy (Cake) Tale
“I love ’em,” says Irawati Ariadi with a laugh of her fascination with cupcakes. “I began fantasizing about them when I read Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five. I thought, what is this delicious cake that everyone in the book loves so much? And then I became obsessed with it.”
Hence the recent opening of Baker Street, a cupcake outlet and café whose name pays homage to sleuth Sherlock Holmes’ place of residence. This is Ira’s first go at running her own business, and she had held on to her day job as director of communications at a local advertising agency. Hailing from a poor background, Ira fought to continue her schooling through securing scholarships, and also worked to put herself through college.
She always dreamed of having her own business. To help her manage the operational side of the business, she asked her two closest friends to join the enterprise – Merry Sitorus and Grace Law.
“I knew I wouldn’t be able to run this 24/7,” says Ira. “And I am so lucky to be able to work with the greatest partners in the world.”
Before she worked for the local advertising agency – and well before she decided to open her own cupcake outlet – Ira spent 12 years working as a tour guide at a local travel agency. She has been to most parts of the world. She speaks smatterings of Spanish, Russian, Italian, Chinese and many other languages that came in handy during her trips. She’s proficient in English.
“Oh, the stories I could tell you about my days as a tour guide,” she sighs with a smile.
She says she looked for cupcakes wherever she went. “Anyway, I wanted to try different types of cupcakes. So I would ask for them no matter where I was.”
And the best cupcakes she ever had were the ones she found in England, where they are called “fairy cakes”.
“The recipes I’m using right now are from England,” says Ira. “This is why they are smaller than the regular cupcakes you see in malls or even American cupcakes. And while I had wanted to call them fairy cakes here at Baker Street, I was afraid people would confuse the term and think each cake came with a Disney fairy figurine.”
Baker Street specializes in British cupcakes and tea-time delights, such as pound cakes and shortbread. Ira was inspired by one of the coffee shops she visited in London, where people would come and chat and enjoy each other’s company over a cup of tea and a delightful sweet snack.
“It feels beautiful, warm and familiar to me,” she says.
Even though the cupcake business is thriving in Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Bandung and Bali, Ira remains undaunted by the competition. She says every cupcake is different, and Baker Street’s cupcakes are made so as to please more than just cupcake lovers.
“The cupcake base is quite tasty on its own,” says Ira. “And the icing decoration isn’t as elaborate as most cupcakes. Plus, we serve original flavors like green tea and coffee; mocha rum and pink lemonade; or ginger and vanilla cinnamon.”
Does she bake them at home?
“Baker Street cupcakes and tea-time delights are 100 percent homemade,” says Ira. “I bake once every two days, or to order. I would come home from work and start baking until late at night. It’s exhausting, but I am very happy doing it.”
At 34, Ira is thankful for many things: she believes in the power of will, passion, kindness and an all-round positive attitude. More than that, though, she believes in the power of cupcakes.
cupcakes are hard to come by,” she says. “And the best cupcakes
can lift your spirits.”
Laser Game Building
Jl. Kemang Raya 16A