Tucked away in a refurbished shophouse along quaint Cavan Road, a little bakery is serving up something big. Delivery vans frequently stop at #11, picking up delectable, freshly-baked cakes and pastries eager to make their way to the homes and tables of expectant customers. The last-mile delivery of Edith Patisserie’s promise is in full swing.
Step into the inviting shophouse, and you’re likely to be greeted by Ethel Tan or Shaun Ong, pastry chefs and joint owners of their fledgling business. Their kitchen is modestly proportioned for the hive of activity going on; but it feels organized, with music in the background and purposeful staff poring intently over their creations. You take note of the vibe, then turn to the young entrepreneurs to ask them how did they got their start.
Surprisingly, Ethel says that she read law at Durham University in the UK. “But it was only during an internship at the end of my 2nd year that I realized this wasn’t my true calling, that I couldn’t do this the rest of my life. In any case, I soldiered on and completed my degree; but when I returned home after graduation, I visited At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy, and was blown away by what I saw.” The young lady ended up enrolling in an 18-month Diploma in Pastry & Bakery programme in 2012, using the money she had inherited from her mother (who had unfortunately passed away when she was abroad) to pay for school. Her father was initially upset at what he saw as a complete waste of a good education; but he has since come round to support her choice.
Fate brought Shaun to At-Sunrice through a different route. “My Grandma used to teach me how to bake cupcakes and cookies when I was in Primary school, and I found I enjoyed it: spending time with her and making something with my own two hands – though I later found she had taught me all the wrong things! So when I came across the At-Sunrice website, I was intrigued; I ended up taking a Certificate in Production, just before going into NS. It was back in the Fort Canning days; there was a charm about the place, even though it was eerie at night!” Shaun apparently enjoyed the experience enough to go back after his NS, this time to a spanking new Tai Seng campus, and enrol in a DIPB course – where he met Ethel.
Initially, they were somewhat put off by each other; but midway through the course, there was combustion, and they became a couple. After At-Sunrice, they worked for different employers; but both independently felt restless, and yearned for something more. Ethel remembers realizing that “there’s immense pressure in the commercial world to take short cuts, and I didn’t really like it.” The couple often had conversations about what they felt was lacking in the industry, and as their convictions grew, they decided to try to do things their way. In 2014 they set up their own shingle, initially renting a commercial kitchen until they found a suitable location and site on Cavan Road to call their own.
Edith Patisserie has a simple proposition: It offers freshly-baked handmade cakes and pastries at an affordable price, delivered right to your doorstep. Ethel and Shaun take pride in taste-testing their healthy recipes, making sure they are light-handed with sugar and excluding any margarine and preservatives without compromise to flavour and texture. The result: Delectable, guilt-free pleasures like their Thai Milk Tea Cake, a concoction of Thai tea sponge, Thai milk tea pastry cream, whipped Chantilly and Thai tea glaze. Equally exquisite is their Lychee Rose Cake, featuring vanilla chiffon sponge and rose buttercream, with fresh lychee pieces generously sandwiched in between. For something classic, you can try their Pandan Coconut Gula Melaka Cake that pairs fragrant pandan chiffon sponge with salted coconut buttercream and gula melaka flling. And for chocolate lovers, there’s the awesome Speculoos Chocolate Crunch Cake, a perennial best-seller.
There are currently 32 featured cakes on the patisserie’s menu (not including their popular Custom Bake offering). The two boss-bakers work with a small crew every day to fulfill each order, exercising their creativity and craft, using good-quality ingredients and paying attention to the minutest detail. Customers can look forward to convenient, fuss-free delivery (or opt to self-collect if they wish) and a 100% fresh cake tailored to the local palate. Shaun and Ethel offer a palette of signature cakes, supplemented by a custom bake service where they collaborate with customers to create one-of-a-kind designs. Thanks to a tasty website and the power of the Internet, their reach has extended beyond our shores, garnering orders from as far away as the USA and Europe for their customers’ friends in Singapore. The business is growing steadily, with enough orders to require at least one member of staff to be onsite baking 7 days a week.
Has working in such close proximity to each other impacted their relationship? Shaun says “it was good that we first got to know each other as competitive students in a classroom environment. It gave us time to develop a respect for each other’s qualities and skills before any sparks flew.” Ethel chips is here: “Running a business is a full-time commitment. I’m glad that we can lean on and trust each other; that allows us to divvy up responsibilities and play to our strengths. But on all major decisions, we make them together.” “We started small, and were debt-free from Day One,” says Shaun. “One day we may have to expand and move to a bigger space. But we’re not in a hurry; we need to focus on our craft, and provide a work environment that fosters teamwork, mutual respect, and shared success. So that everyone can bring their best to the table each day. Integrity is important to us: Good ingredients go a long way, and taste amazing. Without that, we’d have to slog doubly hard.”
“We started small, and were debt-free from Day One,” says Shaun. “One day we may have to expand and move to a bigger space. But we’re not in a hurry; we need to focus on our craft, and provide a work environment that fosters teamwork, mutual respect, and shared success. So that everyone can bring their best to the table each day. Integrity is important to us: Good ingredients go a long way, and taste amazing. Without that, we’d have to slog doubly hard.”
Turning wistful for a moment, Ethel reveals that “we named our business after my mum Edith; it was the most natural thing to do. Mum and Dad always wanted the best for me – that’s why they nudged me into law school – but above all, they taught me to make my own decisions in life, and not to look back with regret. Shaun and I are proud of what we’ve worked hard to build … and I’d like to believe Mum would be happy, too.”
#01-04 Cavan Suites, 11 Cavan Road
Tel: (65) 6443-7150 / 9060-2494
Order through website: www.edithpatisserie.com
(2 days for standard orders, 7 days for customized orders)
Free delivery for orders above $100.
Deliveries: Mon – Sat 10am – 7pm, Sun 10am – 4pm.
Self-collection available: Mon – Sat 11am – 5pm, Sun 11am – 2pm.