Which is the real Bake cheese tart?

The new Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart is not to be mistaken for the famous Bake from Hokkaido.
The new Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart is not to be mistaken for the famous Bake from Hokkaido.ST PHOTO: DON CHI
Also selling baked cheese tarts are BreadTalk's various brands, including The Icing Room (left), and PrimaDeli (above).
Also selling baked cheese tarts are BreadTalk's various brands, including The Icing Room, and PrimaDeli (above).PHOTO: PRIMADELI

They look the same and come in similar packaging.

But the new Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart at Jurong Point is not to be mistaken for the famous Bake from Hokkaido - which opened its second outlet at Westgate mall last Monday.

The tarts - made with a crisp, buttery pastry - are filled with cream cheese. Buy six from either brand and they come in a two-tiered box.

Bake's yellow box comes in a matching yellow paper bag, while Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart's version is a mostly yellow box with a turquoise top with handles. It comes in a plastic bag.

A tart from Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart costs $2.90 a piece ($14.50 for six), while Bake's is $3.50 a piece ($19.50 for six).

Also selling baked cheese tarts are BreadTalk’s various brands, including The Icing Room (above), and PrimaDeli. PHOTO: THE ICING ROOM

Bake is from Hokkaido, while Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart is by Malaysian food and beverage company Secret Recipe. The brand runs casual restaurants here, with outlets at Plaza Singapura and VivoCity, among others.

When asked about its tart brand, Secret Recipe declined to comment. However, Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart's Facebook page shows that it has 11 outlets in Malaysia. It also opened in Indonesia earlier this month.

Outside Japan, Bake - which was founded in 2011 - is located in cities such as Hong Kong, Seoul and Bangkok.

Singapore is the only country that has both brands.

Mr Koo Gin Ngee, 52, chief executive of Bake in Singapore, says: "We do receive queries on whether Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart is part of Bake and we explain that we are different brands. We believe our differentiation will be noticed... each brand will draw its own fans."

Bake's first outlet at Ion Orchard, which opened in April, sells up to 6,000 tarts a day.

Customers of Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart that The Sunday Times spoke to did not realise it was a different brand.

Housewife Miranda Chan, 56, says: "I had heard about a popular cheese tart shop opening in the west, so I assumed it was Bake's. I do like the tarts, but now I want to try Bake to see what the difference is."

Lawyer Bryan Tan of Pinsent Masons MPillay says that generic words such as "cake" - to describe a cake - cannot be trademarked.

Geographical indications are also another thing to note. "In some cases, such as 'champagne' - where the name of the product indicates the origin and quality - products that are not from that place should not use its name," he adds.

"Brand owners should invest effort to analyse their brands - if they wish to invest in and build up their brands, they should ensure they are sufficiently distinctive to be conferred protection."

Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart entering the fray may heat things up again, as the baked cheese tart craze has cooled somewhat.

BreadTalk, which launched its version in April, says there were days when its tarts were sold out at all its outlets in under two hours. On one day, it sold more than 3,800 of them.

A spokesman says: "The craze has definitely slowed compared with when we launched. An increasing number of bakeries sell the tarts and the market is more saturated."

The tarts are now sold at 22 outlets across the group's various brands, up from four BreadTalk outlets. The tarts are also sold in BreadTalk outlets in Malaysia and China.

At PrimaDeli, the tarts are now permanent fixtures on the menu.

Mr Lewis Cheng, 45, executive director of Prima, says: "At the peak of the trend, we were selling around 10,000 lava cheese tarts a day. The demand then was more than what we could retail.

"Today, sales have stabilised. We sell about one-fifth of that."

Loyal Bake fan, financial adviser Kenneth Ong, 32, will still stick to the brand.

He says: "I'm glad that people are not so crazy for the tarts anymore, so I don't have to queue for so long. Bake is still the best, but if I can't get its tarts, I'll buy them from PrimaDeli or BreadTalk."

Bake vs Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart


So who makes the better cheese tart?

Life editor Tan Hsueh Yun and Sunday Times food critic Wong Ah Yoke did a blind taste test of the cheese tarts from Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart and Bake.

And both say they prefer Bake's.

Ms Tan says: "The cheese filling is more mousse-like and the flavour of the cheese comes through very well. The pastry is genius - it is thick, but crumbles beautifully."

Agreeing, Mr Wong adds: "Bake's tart has a stronger cheese flavour. There is a nice texture to the cheese, not just smooth like the one from Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart.

"Bake's crust is soft at the bottom, while the sides and edges have a nice crisp to it."

Both Ms Tan and Mr Wong did not enjoy the thick crust of the Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart. Its pastry reminded Mr Wong of a "biscuit crust".

While Ms Tan likes the molten centre of the Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart, she says: "I taste more salt than cheese."

Eunice Quek

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 23, 2016, with the headline 'Which is the real Bake cheese tart?'. Print Edition | Subscribe