Western Cakes with a Local Twist @ Bloomsbury Bakers

Have you ever tried Chendol… fused inside a cheesecake? Or how about Orh Nee (yam paste)… mixed into a creamy Western sponge cake?

A glass cabinet full of cakes greets you at Bloomsbury Bakers.

A glass cabinet full of scrumptious cakes greet you at Bloomsbury Bakers.

From the end of July, you can do so for a limited period… thanks to a new line-up of cakes that will be released by Bloomsbury Bakers, a cake shop tucked away in Bendemeer.

These locally-flavoured cakes were introduced by the bakery in celebration of SG50 and the intention of the bakers is to have these fusion desserts evoke a sense of nostalgia amongst Singaporeans.

Ann Chong and Ng Hu Yi, the founders of Bloomsbury Bakers.

Ann Chong and Ng Hu Yi, the founders of Bloomsbury Bakers.

Said Ng Hu Yi, 27, co-founder and pastry chef at Bloomsbury Bakers, “These are all local desserts that we like to eat. Right from the start when we set up the shop, we meant to do some local flavours, so that is how these came about. Also, we love to eat chendol, Orh Nee and Pulut Hitam… and we only make things that we love to eat.”

Bloomsbury Bakers offers a scrumptious array of cakes and tarts.

Bloomsbury Bakers offers a scrumptious array of cakes and tarts.

Bloomsbury Bakers was started one and a half years ago by Ng and her friend Ann Chong, 37, her fellow co-founder and pastry chef. Said Chong, “We met in London when we were studying pastry and our school was located at Bloomsbury Square. That’s actually how the name of the shop came about.”

Members of the media were invited to Bloomsbury Bakes for a taste testing session of these scrumptious treats. Here are my comments.

Orh Nee Cake ($6.00 per slice)

Orh Nee Cake.

Orh Nee Cake.

This is Bloomsbury Bakers’ version of the traditional Teochew dessert, and comprises of home-made yam cream tucked in between three layers of vanilla sponge cake. It is then coated with fresh coconut cream and garnished with candied ginko nuts and toasted coconut flakes.

I found the sponge to be light and fluffy. The chunky yam cream was not overpowering too, and at the same time, gave some moisture to the cake. The addition of the toasted coconut flakes were good to provide a crunchy texture. The piece of candied ginko nut was a little strong for me, but the flavours of the rest of the cake balanced themselves out really nicely, giving way to a rather pleasant and light dessert.

Said Chong, “Sponge cakes are our signature cakes and we wanted to increase our variety of sponge cakes. As Orh Nee is one of our favourite local desserts, we thought it would be good to incorporate that into a sponge cake. Also, Orh Nee is very heavy while sponge cakes are very light, so we felt that it would make a good balance.”

Pulut Hitam Tart ($6.00 per piece)

Pulat Hitam Tart.

Pulat Hitam Tart.

Filled with a layer of slow-cooked Pulut Hitam at the bottom and topped with smooth coconut panna cotta and garnished with crispy coconut nougatine, this is a Western adaptation of the popular Malay black glutinous rice pudding dessert.

Said Ng, “We really never knew how to cook Pulut Hitam so making this was a lesson for us. We always thought there is gula melaka in Pulat Hitam until one of our staff told us that there actually isn’t.”

The final result though, was a delicious and tasty tart that I surprisingly enjoyed. I must admit that the idea of a glutinous rice tart had me rather intrigued at the beginning and I was curious as to how it would turn out. The Pulat Hitam, with its very mild flavour, actually complemented the crunchy and buttery tart base rather well and I thought the amount of Pulat Hitam used had been just right too, without drowning out the actual tart itself.

The coconut panna cotta also provided a very nice flavour and I liked the crispy addition from the coconut nougatine, with its strong honey flavour. However, perhaps the taste of the nougatine could have been a little less strong though, as the burst of flavours in my mouth after eating this, slightly drowned out the otherwise pleasant and tasty tart.

Chendol Cheesecake ($6.50 per slice)

Chendol Cheesecake.

Chendol Cheesecake.

This interesting cheesecake combines the usual ingredients found in chendol – chendol, red bean, grass jelly, corn and attar chee, swirled into a non-bake cheesecake and topped with a gula melaka glaze.

Said Ng, “We thought chendol would be quite nice in cheesecake. Actually, this came about because we were in the market and saw chendol being served at a dessert store – and suddenly we had the idea to put it into a cheesecake. The name chendol cheesecake also does sound quite nice!”

But despite their initial idea, they quickly realised that getting down to work on the chendol cheesecake had been far from easy. Said Chong, “But when we got started on it, we found that the gula melaka was quite tricky for us to work with though, as we had never used it before. So that took many tries to get the gula melaka glaze correct. But gula melaka is truly one of the most local ingredients that we have used in our cakes, and it does not react the same way as sugar. It was really trial-on-error for us.”

A whole freshly baked Chendol Cheesecake.

A whole freshly baked Chendol Cheesecake.

She continued, “We also realised that you really need the right balance between the chendol and cheesecake. The cheesecake cannot overpower the chendol and so that went through many rounds, in order to get it right.”

However, the final result though, was a scrumptious and satisfying cheesecake that was also rather addictive. While the flavour of the cheese and chendol were both quite rich and intense, I felt that they were quite well balanced and though, neither seemed to drown out the other.  The chendol seemed to have been replicated quite well in the cheesecake, and I admit that I rather liked the cheesy twist. Also, the base of the cheesecake was just right – without being overly soggy or crunchy.

Other cakes available

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake

Besides the three locally-themed desserts, Bloomsbury Bakers also has a wide range of other cheesecakes, sponge cakes and tarts. Some of their bestselling items include  their lychee martini sponge cake and a speculoos cheesecake – made with caramel, cheese and Digestive biscuits.

Tips for Bakers

What tips do Ng and Chong have for aspiring bakers who love to cook? Said Chong, “Setting up a shop is very different to baking once in a while at home. Prior to the shop, I occasionally baked at home, but I have never done any recreational baking for family and friends, since opening the shop. Now I can’t imagine going home and baking – but if you’re passionate about it, then go for it. It can be quite fun and a huge learning journey.”

Bestselling Specaloos Cheesecake.

Bestselling Specaloos Cheesecake.

She continued, “We still have our passion for baking, but it has expanded beyond just baking. Being part of the food & beverage landscape in Singapore is quite challenging and we are still navigating our way through that difficult space and learning the ropes of having a business.”

This cute toy fish greets you at the counter at Bloomsbury Bakers.

This cute toy fish greets you at the counter at Bloomsbury Bakers.

For more about Bloomsbury Bakers, check out their website at bloomsburybakers.com.

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