I participated in a storytelling competition when I was a kid. Before the end of class, my teacher would ask all participants to come in front of the class to tell the story they selected (memorised). So I did. I spoke with a masculine heroic tone. I used hands to show how big the monster was…I lost. I thought I would never tell story again.

Well, it never really ended after all. I wrote a story about a day in a Michelin-starred kitchen. I started Pastry Union, sharing stories about my love-hate relationship with chocolate. And one day, I came across a very interesting storyteller: Béatrice Coron. With scissors and paper, she creates stories of different cities. Listening to her stories of candycity, of heaven and hell, of creation and endless imagination, I am in awe.

Candycity, photo from beatricecoron.com

Then, there is Terunobu Fujimori’s story of a teahouse built too high, Takasugi-an. The teahouse, which is also a treehouse, reminds me of a childhood dream to live among the birds and leafy trees. I’m not an engineer, so I’m not bothered by the stability of this structure. His “ultimate personal architecture” is utterly poetic.

Takasugi-an, photo from dezeen.com

Stories are everywhere. Why did children need to tell story only about fairies, monster or animal? If I were a kid again, perhaps, I would like to tell a story about Sorry, I ate all the cake. I would stick my finger inside the cake to claim that “it’s mine”.  And then I would lick my finger and dig a bigger hole on the cake. Now no one dares to eat it. Again and again until it’s all gone. What’s yours?

Despite many popular cooking competition and celebrity chef’s show on TV, “Chef” remains as mysterious occupation to some of my friends and acquaintances.

A friend never dare to invite me to her house for dinner because “cooking for a chef is too stressful”. Another friend freaks out selecting a place to eat out with me, “worrying that it may not be up to your standard”. And yet another wonders, “what cake would a pastry chef have in mind for her birthday?”

I cannot speak for all chefs but many chefs spent hours standing and cooking for others during work, and especially during weekends, holidays, and birthdays (yes, including chef’s own birthday). It would be a blessing to just sit down with family and friends and catch up. During off days, it’s such a great relief enjoying food served to them, without worrying about customer’s special request like “vegetarian but okay with seafood”.

I spent my birthday making cakes for other’s birthday. One of the best birthday presents I received this year is from Pastry Union‘s customer, Kat. She sent an email to me with only four words: “Your cakes are delicious !!!!!!!!”

Growing up in a tropical country, a white Christmas was my childhood’s dream. Even though “snow” in many window display in Malaysia’s shopping malls were made from styrofoam, white spray paint and white cotton, I believed that there was something magical in this season of the year.

I experienced my first white Christmas when I was doing a student exchange program in Canada about ten years ago. My friend, Sabrina, invited me to join her family for Christmas in Sudbury.

It was the coldest month, everything was covered by REAL thick white snow. She was surprised that I never had a white Christmas. “You never take a photo with Santa Claus?” I shook my head. So she brought me to Santa and we took a photo. “You don’t know how to make a snow angel?” We lied on the ground and swept our limbs back and forth. And then, holding a shovel in the hand, she said “now the hard task. We need to shovel the snow”. I responded with excitement, “SURE! Show me how to do it!”It must be hard for her to believe that I was truly enjoying doing this painstaking chore. I had certainly spent a memorable Christmas with Sabrina and her family. Her hospitality let me felt warmth at heart, yet during the Christmas Eve dinner, I was missing my family back home.

Now, years have passed, I am back in Kuala Lumpur, running my cake shop, Pastry Union. The complex feeling that I have experienced in Canada inspires me to come up with Winter, the new cake for Pastry Union. On the outside, it captures a serene snowscape made by white chocolate and cream cheese but inside the cake, it’s a flourless chocolate cake with surprising splendour of berries that deliver wonderful flavours of summer. Wish you will enjoy this delightful infusion that brings the best of both seasons, and have a berry, merry Christmas!

A customer once asked, “Among the three signature cakes of Pastry Union, which one is your personal favourite?”

Devil is wicked, Mooo is a Gemini, and Garden is poetic. Hmm… this is a tough question, as if asking a mom to choose the son or daughter she loves most. In fact, the birth of Mooo is my answer to the debate between chocolate cake and cheesecake.

Mooo has layer of chocolate cake sandwiching a baked cheesecake which is then coated with cream cheese mousse. When indulging the Mooo, sometimes you will get velvety melt-in-the-mouth cheesecake, sometimes you will enjoy the hint of bitterness from the chocolate and your mood may sway from moment to moment. Chocolate and cheese are both super rich foods;  each has its own character, yet like twins, they blend together so well.

Since we have cows to thank for the creation of Mooo, it’s justifiable to let lovely cows made from dark bitter chocolate to roam the creamy pasture. And the cow goes Mooo.

I was in the midst of designing and developing cakes in Pastry Union kitchen. It was one of those dog days. Not only the chocolate was melting, but also the sketches with cake ideas. Nothing seemed to give me the “Eureka a-ha” inspiration. Well, not until the rain falls.

I smell the scents of rain on dry earth. I feel a breeze of freshness thread through the air. It’s a moment to capture and I wish to share this experience through my medium — cake.  I can start sculpting tree, flowers, birds with fondant and coloring, but this cake is about celebrating the beauty of nature. Loading a cake with more sugar and artificial coloring is not the way things work in Pastry Union. More cake sketches, more research, more mock-ups, more trial and errors.

A frequently heard advice is to go with something you love. Chocolate cake (What else?). Cranberries come next. They are simply too good, why should I have to wait until Thanksgiving or Christmas to enjoy them?  So I have chunks of flourless chocolate cake with cranberries-infused chocolate Chantilly, and to the breath of new life: fresh wholesome nuts (seeds) emerge and dot the landscape.

Presenting the Garden – Can you feel the wafts of petrichor?

The day I decided to start Pastry Union, I decided that chocolate cake will be the signature cake. It’s easy to decide on starting with chocolate cake, since chocolate can always give me the energy kick when I’m feeling down. Yet, there is endless possibilities with chocolate cake. Where should I start?

Many of my friends wonder: as a pastry chef, with all the desserts luring you everyday, how could you resist the temptations? Usually, I would reply “I taste. Not eat”. Yet, frankly, my friend, if I would describe my relationship status with cakes on Facebook, it will always be “it’s complicated”. Like a seesaw, the crave for great cakes and the weight-calories warning is constantly playing in this love-hate relationship. There’s a little devil in me, and in many cake lovers, looking for chances to strike and eventually, the “rational” surrenders.

Let’s make a Devil cake then. A moist and rich chocolaty cake dedicated to all chocolate lovers. A cake to indulge in each and every bite, not to fill up the stomach. Will a chocolate layer cake suffice to experience the wonders of chocolate? Probably not. So, here you go, a Devil cake, lovingly made from: Chocolate sponge with velvety chantilly cream; enveloped in rich mousse and ganache. Horn: dark bitter chocolate (70% cocoa solids) fused with a dose of wickedness.

“I don’t mind going to the gym after tasting your cake,” said a customer. The Devil grins.

“No shortcut. Great design starts from scratch from sketch.”

This is one of the principles I told myself when I started my cake shop, Pastry Union. I am so busy sketching, cooking and many many other things till I suddenly realise that it has been months since I last posted in Kitchen Nonsense.


“How to make chocolate mousse?” my sister once asked.

I replied by giving around half an hour lecture on chocolate, cream, ganache detailing the Hows and Whys of the method bla bla bla… She stopped me and said, “Okay, I gave up. It’s just too complicated.”

I am so used to reading books written for professional chefs and teaching chefs-to-be that I overlook what my sister actually needs is a simple 1-2-3 recipe. And then I come across this interesting website, They Draw and Cook. Here, artists from around the world use beautifully illustrated recipes to bring joy back in the kitchen. These illustration awake my crayon childhood. They certainly ring a bell that cooking can be simple and fun, can’t it?

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