Diners in Singapore have an insatiable appetite for the sweeter things in life.
And cakes, it seems, from pound cakes and flourless ones to French petit gateaux and even tiramisu, never go out of style. Cupcakes, too, are still the rage these days.
Going by the number of new cake and patisserie shops - there have been no fewer than five which opened in the last month and another is slated to open on Saturday - the appetite for cake is still growing.
In fact, in the last four months alone, at least 10 food and beverage outlets specialising in cake and cake-related desserts have set up shop.
New openings include Cakes Literally at 138 Owen Road at the end of June, and Joys Baking & Co at Block44 Owen Road opposite Pek Kio Market and Madame Patisserie in Boat Quay, both of which opened in July.
More recent openings include Missus Bonbon at Delfi Orchard, The Audacious Bakery in Everton Park and The Sweet Movement off Jalan Besar.
Shop owners say they see opportunity and potential in opening their businesses despite competition from existing cake shops.
They feel that they each bring unique offerings and interpretations and fill a niche in the dessert scene, whether in terms of the type of bespoke service they offer or the variety and texture of their cakes.
Cakes Literally's self-taught baker-owner Carissa Choh, 28, who offers cakes such as carrot and zucchini, and flourless orange, says: "I flavour my cakes with natural fruit and also use vegetables to inject colour into them, instead of artificial colouring."
Her cakes, for example, are more "rustic" in style, she says.
"If I like to eat these types of cakes, surely there are people who will enjoy them too. I just want to share my cakes with others and, hopefully, they will like them," she adds.
THE SWEET MOVEMENT
Where: 62 Somme Road, 01-01
When: Noon to 8pm (Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Fridays to Sundays), closed on Mondays and Thursdays
The Sweet Movement, a hole-in-the-wall dessert cafe with just two indoor seats and another eight outdoors, opened in Somme Road off Jalan Besar two weeks ago.
It is an offshoot of three-year-old cupcake and dessert shop Dessert Cup in the basement of Raffles City Shopping Centre.
The offerings at The Sweet Movement are exclusive to the shop. Items available include bite-sized and individual desserts that range from sticky toffee banana pudding to miniature macarons in flavours such as creme brulee, wasabi and gula melaka.
It also has a variety of desserts in shot glasses as well as chocolate-coated cones filled with chocolate ganache spiked with Grand Marnier and Baileys Irish Cream liqueurs. Other treats include a selection of cookies, meringues and panaforte, an Italian confection typically made with fruit and nuts.
Prices range from $2.20 a macaron to $2.80 for a mini cake.
The 400 sq ft space also doubles as Dessert Cup's central kitchen.
Ms Winnie Tay, 35, owner of both shops, says: "We have been getting more corporate orders and had outgrown our space at Raffles City, so it made sense to find another space we could work in."
The former branding and marketing manager, whose husband runs a motoring consultancy, opened her first food and beverage outlet, Greek cafe Mykii in Holland Village, five years ago. It closed after two years when its lease ended, but the same kitchen team now runs both Dessert Cup and The Sweet Movement.
She says: "We have noticed a trend and increased demand for small servings of dessert. People like variety and with the bite-sized desserts at The Sweet Movement, we make it a little easier for them to taste more items without having to worry about the calories."
Where: Delfi Orchard, 402 Orchard Road, 03-27
When: 11am to 7pm (Mondays to Saturdays), closed on Sundays
After five years in the finance industry - two years as a trader and three years in investment banking - coupled with countless late nights, Ms Joan Chien, 31, owner of month-old customised cake shop Missus Bonbon in Delfi Orchard, decided that she had had enough.
The National University of Singapore alumnus, who has a degree in business and finance, says: "I wanted something more fulfilling.
"My hours were long and I thought I might as well invest my time in a business of my own, paired with something that I enjoy."
Ms Chien, who has always had a love for cakes and desserts, then decided to pursue her true passion.
In 2010, she left her banking job and enrolled in an intensive six-month classic pastry diploma course at the French Culinary Institute in New York.
There, she attended culinary school in the day, then at night and on weekends, the tenacious baker worked at celebrity and Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud's Cafe Boulud and Bar Boulud, to gain as much exposure and experience as she could.
Upon graduating, she did stints at two Michelin- starred French restaurants - L'Oustau de Baumaniere in Les Baux in the south of France and Carette, a patisserie in Paris - before moving back to Singapore to join the pastry team at Boulud's db Bistro Moderne at Marina Bay Sands. She then moved to 1-Rochester's pastry arm 1-Caramel before striking it out on her own.
Ms Chien is married to Mr Adam Low, 35, who runs several businesses, including an import and exporting trading company, and recycling and junk removal firm Junk To Clear.
Her cake shop specialises in custom-designed fondant and buttercream cakes, as well as dessert tables for private events that feature everything from macarons and meringue kisses to cake pops and cupcakes.
Chef-owner Chien and her two-member pastry team work out of a central kitchen in Siglap. Cakes come in a variety of flavours such as Spring - cherry blossom cake with green tea butter cream - and Autumn - spiced apple cake with salted caramel buttercream. She can also create customised flavours upon request.
Prices for customised cakes start at $100 a kg, depending on the complexity of design.
For Ms Chien, how a cake tastes is just as important as how it looks.
She says: "Cake decorating is a medium that combines a good-tasting cake with artistry."
Where: The Central, 6 Eu Tong Sen Street, B1-09 (Clarke Quay MRT Exit F)
When: Noon to 9pm (weekdays), 1 to 9pm (Saturdays), 1 to 7pm (Sundays)
THE TIRAMISU HERO
Where: 121 Tyrwhitt Road
When: 11am to 10pm, closed on Wednesdays
Info: Call 6292-5271 or go to thetiramisuhero.com
Cake shops here are breathing new life into tiramisu, the classic Italian dessert that was all the rage in the 1980s and into the 1990s.
Back then, many restaurants and cafes had it on their menus.
These days, however, the dessert is no longer ubiquitous, although they are a staple in Italian restaurants.
Recently, shops here including four-month-old L'Atelier TiramiSu at The Central in the Clarke Quay area and The Tiramisu Hero in Tyrwhitt Road, which opened last month, have taken to specialising in tiramisu and offering it in various flavour permutations, from strawberry and lemon to pandan and matcha.
The Sweet Movement in Somme Road even has a version of the dessert that incorporates the zesty yuzu fruit.
The dessert, which means "pick me up" in Italian, is traditionally made with rich whipped mascarpone cheese and ladyfinger biscuits dipped in a boozy mixture of strong coffee and alcohol such as Amaretto or Marsala wine.
Owners of both L'Atelier TiramiSu and The Tiramisu Hero say the dessert is timeless and do not see it as old-fashioned.
They add that few desserts can be rich but moist and light at the same time. And the fact that it has alcohol, they say, is a plus too.
But to keep it relevant, shop owners have added twists to pique diners' taste buds.
Ms Peggy Chang, 28, co-owner of The Tiramisu Hero, says: "I don't find the dessert old-fashioned - to me, it is traditional."
She likens tiramisu to mooncakes, which have traditional baked versions with lotus paste and salted egg yolk, as well as new-fangled and innovative ones in myriad flavours.
She says: "We offer more flavours and present tiramisu in different forms such as in a jar, cupcake or in a slice, and this gives people a reason to try it."
The shop, which also serves savoury fare, offers tiramisu in flavours such as strawberry, as well as others such as Milo, Ovaltine and Horlicks.
Between one and four varieties are available daily. Prices start at $7.50 a jar.
L'Atelier TiramiSu, on the other hand, serves only tiramisu and beverages.
It has five variations of the dessert, each made with different base flavours and different types of alcohol. For instance, its Matcha version is flavoured with green tea and dark rum, while the Lychee tiramisu is made with lychee liqueur and vodka. Its traditional tiramisu, the Classico, is made with espresso from beans roasted by Liberty Coffee, Marsala wine and Kahlua, a coffee liqueur.
Earlier this month, it launched a Pandan Tiramisu, flavoured with pandan, coconut liqueur and Malibu rum.
Here, tiramisu is served as a slice and is priced from $6.80 a serving. Whole cakes cost $48 each.
The recipe for the various tiramisu is based on one that was given to its co-owner, Mrs Judith Josset, 55, by her second husband's cousin, who is Italian. The former human resource manager is married to Frenchman Alex Josset, a retired banker in his 60s, and runs the shop with her son Sherwin Ting and his girlfriend Amelia Goh, both of whom are 28 and hold jobs in science research.
Mr Ting says: "My mother does a lot of baking, but I like her tiramisu best.
"We might have only one product, but the possibilities are endless, and in time, we hope to offer more tiramisu in different flavours and textures."
Where: 12 Jalan Pisang
When: Slated to open on Saturday at 10am, following which usual opening hours will be 11am to 8pm (Wednesdays and Thursdays), 10am to 10.30pm (Fridays to Sundays), closed on Mondays and Tuesdays
Those who want a taste of deliciously moist halal cupcakes with luscious centres that range from creamy Nutella to Milo custard should make their way to Fluff Bakery in Jalan Pisang, near Arab Street.
The bakery opens its first stand-alone store on Saturday. Previously, its cupcakes had been available in limited quantities at only Penny University, a cafe in the East Coast, and Parlour by Ashley Isham at Orchard Central.
Cupcakes at the new shop are priced at $4 each and come in flavours such as Nutella Red Velvet and Salted Caramel. There are more than 80 cupcake flavours, from Mango Sticky Rice to Basil Lemonade, but only six will be showcased each day.
The bakery will also offer a selection of tarts, pies and whole cakes, and will be taking orders for events in the coming months.
Behind Fluff Bakery, which has attracted more than 15,000 followers on photo-sharing site Instagram since it was founded in August last year, are husband-and-wife team Ashraf Alami, 32, and Nursyazanna Syaira Mohammad Suhimi, 26.
Mr Ashraf, a former group tuition teacher with a diploma in financial services, had encouraged his wife, a self-taught baker who first learnt to bake from her mother as a child, to pursue her passion.
Ms Nursyazanna Syaira has a bachelor's degree in psychology from SIM University and had previously worked in television production and marketing before going into baking full-time last year. She used to be an in-house baker at Penny University.
Their bakery is a dream come true for the couple.
A month after tying the knot in January this year, Mr Ashraf was diagnosed with two brain tumours.
He is now on medication and in stable condition. Ms Nursyazanna Syaira says that the initial weeks and months were tough for the newlyweds, but they pulled through.
"The whole thing really brought us closer together," she adds.
Overcoming the ordeal gave them the drive to accelerate their plan to open a stand-alone store.
They, together with silent investors, spent about $100,000 to renovate the shop.
With their new kitchen and appliances, the couple say they hope to make 800 to 1,000 cupcakes a day.
Ms Nursyazanna Syaira is known for cupcakes with creamy or fruity centres that range from flavoured custards to apple pie filling.
Each cupcake is cored by hand and piped with filling before it is topped with frosting.
She decided to add fillings to her cupcakes because she found normal ones boring - there was just too much cake after a while.
"I thought that adding an additional flavour dimension in the centre would not only make the cakes more unique, but also keep them moist," she adds.
THE AUDACIOUS CAKERY
Where: Block 2 Everton Park, 01-61
When: 10am to 7pm (Mondays to Saturdays), closed on Sundays
Everton Park, an HDB estate off Neil Road, has been attracting a range of new food and beverage outlets from coffee joints to cafes.
Last month, The Audacious Cakery opened on the ground floor of Block 2.
The eight-seat, 700 sq ft dessert cafe and cake shop offers a selection of French-style mousse cakes, cupcakes, tarts and pastries such as croissants.
It was set up by pastry chef-owner Sharryl Ng, 36, a former market research director.
Here, indulge in cupcakes that range from lush Black Sesame made with rich sesame paste to Lemon Raspberry, a vanilla buttermilk cupcake with a raspberry jam centre and lemon Italian meringue buttercream.
There are also alcoholic flavours such as Irish Cream - a Guinness Stout cake with a whisky ganache centre and Baileys Irish Cream frosting; and Strawberry Daiquiri - white rum strawberry cupcakes with a rum, lime and strawberry Italian meringue buttercream frosting. Cupcakes are priced from $3.50 each.
Other sweet treats include tarts (from $5.80 for a 6cm tart) such as Lemon Meringue and Chocolate Souffle - a lighter but still decadent chocolate tart; macarons in flavours such as Espresso, Passionfruit Cream Cheese, and Coconut and Lemongrass (from $2.50 each). Petit gateaux (from $6.80 each) include the Foret Noir or Black Forest made with Valrhona chocolate, Kirsch-soaked cherries and Kirsch cream; and the Exotique, mango and coconut mousse on a jaconde sponge decorated with fresh mango and papaya. Whole large cakes can be ordered at least five days in advance.
The cafe also serves coffee by artisan coffee roaster Papa Palheta and tea by TWG Tea.
Ms Ng says she started baking just two years ago. While she takes charge of the baking, her husband Kenneth Lai, 36, a programme manager in a British technology and appliance company, handles the cake shop's "money matters".
The mother of two children, aged nine and two, says she used to bake at night after work.
"Baking was a way for me to destress and is something that I found to be very enjoyable," she adds.
She then decided to enrol in an intensive three-week professional baking course at culinary school Creative Culinaire in Tiong Bahru, which equipped her with the know-how and technical skills to create her own recipes.
On why she set up shop, she says: "The important thing is to say that 'we tried'. We'll give it our best shot and see how it goes, especially since we are still young."