She takes the cake

Many have been bitten by the baking bug lately as more people take an active interest in making their own confections.

Riding on this trend, Anna Chan, an ex-teacher who loves to bake, now runs Sugar Inc — a boutique baking school that conducts hands-on baking and cake-decorating workshops.

A fan of sweets and confectionery herself, the 29-year-old began baking in her university days.

“While others had retail therapy, I baked to de-stress,” says the self-taught home baker.

Later, this hobby became a “fun couple thing” when she dated her would-be husband. They sold her cakes at fairs and through a blog she created.

It was, however, only after she left her teaching profession to care for her two children that baking crossed her path again. In fact, it was her husband who encouraged her “to teach what she loved”.

Her enterprising journey began with the search for a perfect name, recipe development, and getting sponsors and industry partners to equip her with baking supplies and gadgets needed for her classes. Sugar Inc opened its doors in Jan 2008.

Chan’s love for teaching comes not just in the form of baking a cake. What she teaches in a span of a few hours can enrich her students infinitely.

She is particular about the class size as well as how she runs each workshop.

“Different participants have different needs, and different recipes have different requirements,” she says.

“For difficult ingredients, I maintain a class size of four students at most, so that I can guide them individually.”

Her classes last an average of two to four hours and have sensible intervals, or what she calls “bite-size chunks”, to help participants keep pace.

A perfectionist at heart, she feels that “a cake should not just be good to look at but also great to taste”. That is why she teaches her students a recipe only after numerous tasting and practice sessions.

Her greatest pleasure is seeing them succeed in baking a lovely cake.

To ensure that her students are able to bake on their own, she shares her recipes unreservedly — “honest and with no hidden secret ingredients”.

She keeps abreast of baking and decorating trends, constantly sources for new ingredients and develops new recipes and designs to keep her classes engaging.

Her recent recipes include a Neapolitan Cake, inspired by the tri-flavour Neapolitan ice cream, and a sugarless Sour Apple Chiffon cake.

For this one-woman set-up, 80% of the work is in the preparation before the actual workshop — experimenting, writing recipes and preparing ingredients.

One of her most memorable experiences was when she was asked to be a guest chef on Yummy Yummy Lunchbox, a children’s cooking show on Singapore television.

Her dream came true when her recipe book, Gorgeous Cupcakes For The Homebaker, was published.

Aware that plagiarism is rampant and untraceable, especially for recipes, she insists on writing her own recipes from scratch.

Having had her works plagiarised before, she says: “A cake needs to have integrity and so does the person who creates it.”

Inspiring others

Chan inspires people to bake, not merely by her baking skills but also through the excitement she shows when she bakes.

“Each time I bake, I learn something new,” she says.

Ever willing to share her knowledge, she makes every effort to answer any query even months after the workshops have ended. Many of her students, mostly working women in their 20s to 50s, have become her friends.

Things were tough when she first started especially since her parents disapproved of it. But she stuck to it, knowing deep down she loved what she was doing. These days, seeing how she has proven herself, her parents could not be happier for her.

She says: “If you are doing something 24/7 and you still feel you are not doing enough, you definitely are doing something you love.”

To all budding entrepreneurs, she advises: “Be original and brave, and follow your gut.” — Source: ST/ANN