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The taste of success

SINGAPORE — For wedding-cake maker Teo Pau Lin, the baking aspect of her craft merely creates a canvas to showcase the fantastical — and sometimes outrageous — designs that have become her signature style.

Wedding-cake maker Teo Pau Lin now makes about two or three cakes a week, delivering each one personally. Photo: Alan Lim

Wedding-cake maker Teo Pau Lin now makes about two or three cakes a week, delivering each one personally. Photo: Alan Lim

SINGAPORE — For wedding-cake maker Teo Pau Lin, the baking aspect of her craft merely creates a canvas to showcase the fantastical — and sometimes outrageous — designs that have become her signature style.

More than a dinner afterthought, the wedding cake is an aesthetic centrepiece that caters to the eye more than the taste buds. And it is Pau Lin’s ability to deliver such visual feasts every weekend at ballrooms around Singapore that has made her firm, Crummb, a thriving one-woman enterprise.

Among her quirkier creations: A silhouette of the Singapore and London skylines to celebrate the couple’s respective hometowns, goose feathers that appear to float across the cake and, intriguingly, a homage to supermodel Kate Moss’ wedding dress.

“Wedding cakes are like a really far-fetched dream. It is the one cake that most people will have only once in their lives,” said Ms Teo, 42, who started Crummb in 2010 after 15 years in journalism.

Looking to take a break after becoming a mother in 2007, the former Straits Times journalist considered turning her love for baking — which she had picked up from her mother as a teenager and recently rediscovered — into a business.

While her experience was mostly in making cupcakes and tarts, she boldly decided to focus on wedding cakes, which she describes as the “ultimate cake” in the business. But aiming high also meant a steep learning curve. Her first Crummb creation literally melted in front of her eyes days before it was due to be delivered.

“It was the first time I worked with fondant (an icing material used to decorate cakes and pastries) and the butter cream melted because it was too humid. It was like watching an avalanche in slow motion,” she recalled.

She had to start from scratch, making her own fondant, and was able to deliver the cake on time and to the customer’s satisfaction.

Working from home, she started getting a steady stream of orders from friends and family. Her business grew through word-of-mouth recommendations and marketing efforts on her blog, which already had a following from her days as a prominent food journalist.

Earlier this year, she moved into a cavernous space in a quiet corner of Bukit Timah, sharing it with her husband’s TV production business. She now makes about two or three cakes a week, delivering each one personally. Prices start from S$580 for a three-tier cake and S$940 for a four-tier cake, and replacing any of the tiers with dummies may lower the price.

Despite her ability to crystallise most of her customers’ ideas, once in a while, a request comes along that stumps her. One was to recreate a cake that appeared on American lifestyle doyenne Martha Stewart’s website — an emerald-like Art Deco piece with a dragonfly made of sugar.

“I just didn’t know how they did it. And Martha didn’t share,” she said.

While she has more orders than she can handle on her own, Ms Teo is reluctant to expand her business by hiring staff until her two daughters — Noel, six, and Kate, three — are older. However, she is planning to start offering desserts in a few months.

In the meantime, she will continue to deliver her cakes, one delicious creation at a time, to help make every couple’s special day just a little more unique.

“I’m in a happy business. I get to go to so many weddings and see people doing up the whole thing. It’s like being a wedding crasher,” she said with a chuckle.

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