Meet home baker cum entrepreneur Matthew Shia, Tueetor’s featured trainer who was also Tueetor’s featured baker at KidZania’s KidZ & Food March 24th and 25th event. The 26-year old who is self-taught is an avid experimenter with gourmet baking recipes. So much so that his cupcakes and cakes are loved by a growing base of loyal friends and fans.
Between his full-time undergraduate studies at SIM and being the principal baker of ONLYKAI, an online boutique bakery, Matthew keeps himself extremely busy by passing on his skills as a baking instructor not just to keen adults, but for the first time ever at Tueetor @ KidZania, children as well. Matthew took time out to teach buttercream swirl art for cupcakes to some 4 groups of lucky kids. We asked Matthew to share his inspired baking journey with us. Interviewed, written & compiled by Cecilia Leong.
Tell us about the recipe that started this whole baking journey for you.
The recipe my friend was looking for, was the ever-popular Strawberry jelly hearts cheesecake recipe. It’s a cheesecake recipe that has to be refrigerated, and because it had sliced strawberry hearts encased inside gelatin jelly, she wanted to present these cakes to her partner as a Valentine’s Day present.
So it was from that recipe I started baking. I failed, miserably at least two or more times but after several attempts and experiments, I managed to get what I wanted in the end…the texture, the sweetness, the colour as well. Suffice to say she was very happy. And so was I.
Was that how ONLYKAI was born?
I didn’t set out to start up a business, I started off wanting to bake just for friends. To see them happy when they tried my products is reward enough. But eventually these same friends started ordering, and they kept ordering. And I thought, why not transit it into a business instead, and see how it goes from there… In the process, one of these die-hard loyal fans, a friend of mine wanted to partner up with me. So ONLYKAI was born, and in a blink of an eye, it has been 3 extremely busy years.
How do you manage to juggle full-time school with baking and training?
When customers place an order, I will try to fulfill the order but when an order has to be delivered during school days, I had to reject quite a few, just to cope with my studies. You see, behind each and every order, there’s a lot of creative research and design work that goes into it. I will also test out the recipe to ensure that it works or that it’s exactly what the customer wants. So it’s not just about the time taken to bake the order, it’s the time that goes into testing, tweaking and ensuring the flavours and colours are just right, particularly if it’s a recipe that I’m doing for the very first time.
Does your baking portfolio and training workshops comprise mainly of buttercream cakes and cupcakes?
As of today, I focus more on buttercream designs. Reason being I find that most Singaporeans aren’t very fond of tasting too-sweet cakes such as fondant cakes, because they find them extremely sweet. That’s why I stay away from experimenting with fondant. But I hope someday I’ll be able to pick up a less-sweet fondant recipe, and introduce that as a new addition to my baking and training portfolio.
Buttercream swirls and teaching my students how to cream and ice cakes is definitely something I want to continue to do moving forward. I strongly believe that anyone can bake. I just think you just need to pick up a simple recipe, a recipe that you find not too daunting and start baking. Bake for any purpose…bake to eat, bake to destress, bake to have fun.
For about a year now, I’ve been listing myself on platforms such as Tueetor to be able to teach classes that are generally very small-sized, say up to 4 students at a time. Recently I held a Basic Cake Decorating workshop and I find that when students are up to a challenge, graduating from decorating smaller cupcakes to bigger round cakes, the students find they truly learn something useful and take away more skills than a simple baking class. So this Basic Cake Decorating workshop would form my base lesson from henceforth.
How do you create those beautiful ombre colours, for example on a 3-tier wedding?
Most of those cakes were one-off creations, and as you have pointed out, they had ombre colours which were iced by mixing different colours. The dreamy transitions from the darker shades to the lighter shades, basically the colour gradients are really easy to create. You just need to be adapt with the turntable, because the colours are mixed when you use a spatula to smooth out and mix the buttercream frosting.
In this particular case, the ombre wedding cake was created to match the bride and groom’s colour themes for their wedding. That cake took at least 8 hours to create (I woke up 5 am for it), and as it was my first 3-tier wedding ombre cake, I wanted to make sure it was perfect. I’m just extremely happy the couple loved the cake, as the groom was a good friend of mine, and it was especially gratifying knowing that I’ve pulled off my very first ever wedding cake.
What are the most sought-after requests you have received for ONLYKAI?
Actually, what I’m really proud about my home-based boutique bakery is that, other than being able to create artisanal wedding and birthday cakes for my clients, we are starting to experiment with seasonal flavours and creations too.
For this year’s Lunar New Year, we completely sold out our all-time favourite best seller, Salted egg cookies, alongside wacky flavours like nasi lemak and tom yum cookies as well. I’ve also managed to incorporate mooncakes to my portfolio by coming up with a Black-Gold moon cake creation I named ‘Indulgence’, which had flecks of real gold leafs on them. I also introduced Thai milk tea and Thai green tea flavours. I’ve learnt to add a twist to all traditional flavours and the response has been overwhelming.
What is your go-to all-time-favorite recipe?
My all-time favorite recipe is one I have created. The pandan gula Melaka brownie recipe, something I call the ‘greenie’. It’s basically a brownie recipe I’ve tweaked with a Peranakan flavor, with pandan gula Melaka, because I’m really intrigued with the flavor. When I first tried it out, I fell absolutely in love with it. For example, I was at a recent event and the primary audience was the elderly. Most of the elderly totally avoided trying the sweet baked goods, like cakes and all, but they picked up my ‘greenie’ when we told them it had pandan gula Melaka. And they loved it a lot!
How do you feel about your career as a home baker so far?
It’s been an amazing journey for me and my partner. So when members of the community, perfect strangers, such as the residents of Tampines – old and young alike, are joined by Minister Baey Yam Keng to give me their thumbs up; that to me was an absolute high and certain validation for my home bakery and myself as an amateur baker.
My main philosophy behind baking is the concept of reunion. I believe that to reunite loved ones, families, and watching people come together and reconnect through my bakes, amidst the busy lifestyles of most Singaporeans, fuels my passion for my baking. And I can’t wait to show everyone what I can come up with next.
We hope Matthew’s testimony as a home baker and a co-founder of his own artisanal bakery has inspired you to pick up a spatula to start baking. If you have a skillset and a passion like Matthew you can teach, or if you feel you want to level up on your skillset, you can learn. For more information on how to list yourself as a trainer OR a learner on Tueetor, visit https://tueetor.com for more details. Or call us at 6206 6660. For more information on how to engage with Matthew, visit https://bit.ly/2pMYN1T . Lastly, here’s an amazingly simple yummy Nutella Cupcakes Recipe, courtesy of Matthew. Bon appetit!