Rising to the Occasion: Sweet Success in Ambient Cakes

Among the many heirlooms of British colonial rule that can still be observed in Malaysian society, none persevered stronger than teatime. Born in the early 19th century when aristocratic Englishwomen needed a late-day refreshment to tide themselves over till dinner, the tradition of sipping a hot cuppa with a snack on the side has been enduringly sewn into the local fabric.


While choices abound from the sweet to savoury, Western to ethnic and regional delights, ambient cakes remain the popular mainstay of the ritual for many. The term refers to baked concoctions that can conveniently be kept and consumed at room temperature. Butter cake, marble cake, sponge cake, and Swiss roll are but a few examples belonging to this variety of ready-to-eat favourites that adorn our dining tables in the mid-hours of the afternoon.


And suppliers are plenty. In the past, one can already rely on a considerable motley of mom-and-pop establishments, retail chain outlets, roadside vendors, and in-house supermarket setups. The rise of coffee culture and increasing affluence in recent years has led to individual restaurants, cafés, hotels, and boutique bakeries also joining the fray.


Judging by the numbers, it is easy to see the reason behind this proliferation. According to a 2015 Euromonitor Market report, the baked goods market has grown at an average of 3% per annum from 2010 to 2014, with cakes making up 31% of the RM1.82 billion in the year’s total sales.


The emergence of ambient cakes as a major economic commodity necessitates a workforce that is able to keep pace with the demands of a hungry public. In terms of volume, there is no shortage of talent in the country, especially with the plethora of tertiary institutions and vocational schools offering baking courses.


However much product can be churned out though, it is quality and consistency of taste that ultimately ensure commercial success. Ambient cakes have evolved into a showcase of creative culinary artistry and the total reinvention of a much-loved treat. Bakeries therefore require hires who not only work in great quantity and speed, but likewise possess a flair for tempting new customers and the skill to have them coming back for more.


These attributes are honed through real-world experience. In addition to internships, apprenticeships, and work placements, contests provide invaluable opportunities to discover personal aptitude and undergo a form of learning not found in the classroom or kitchen.


In keeping with nourish!’s mandate to advance the Malaysian food industry, we have partnered with the Penang State Government, Halal Penang, and KDU University College Penang to host an Ambient Cake & Coffee Pairing Competition. Held as part of the Penang International Halal Expo & Conference, the event gathers more than a dozen chefs to produce palate and aesthetically-pleasing cakes that go well with a cup of black brew.


The 2018 edition of the annual affair saw Eaddie bin Mohammed Faizal of Top View Restaurant & Lounge took home the gold in the professional category, while KDU undergraduate Fion Goh come up victorious in the Amateur section. They managed to beat a pool of participants ranging from budding students and industry players to independent artisans and humble home bakers.


The competition was made possible with the support of main sponsor Dr. Oetker Nona, as well as contributions from DaVinci Gourmet, De'Longhi, Dimattina Coffee, Lotus Biscuits, KENWOOD, Maple, and Paysan Breton.



For More Photos: Ambient Cake and Coffee Pairing Competition Photo Album

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Tristan Toh
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