Baking business puts the icing on the cake
What makes a delicious desert? Is it the intricately measured ingredients or the carefully crafted icing? Maybe it’s the mouthwatering taste and the precise buttercream to sponge ratio. All those things are important in baking, but it's the care behind the cake that really makes the difference.
Bionic caught up with Anna Yu to find out about her baking business, her goals for the future and how she’s found setting up on her own. Originally from Hong Kong, Anna took an interest in cookery when she moved to the UK aged 14, and it has been her passion ever since.
Chatting to Bionic, Anna said “I’ve been properly baking cakes since I was 16 but I started to learn to cook when I was 14. When I moved to the UK, I realised I needed to start to learn to look after myself. At home in Hong Kong, I'd never had to cook because my mum always did it, there was no need to. No one taught me, I just experimented and learned until I improved.”
A dash of determination
Although she’s admitted that her first attempts at cooking for herself didn’t exactly go to plan, Anna isn't one to give up at the first sign of trouble though and she’s a determined individual. She loved the thought of creating something with a handful of ingredients and experimenting with different flavors. So, she persevered and now her cakes are the talk of the town.
Being short on time has always been one of Anna’s biggest challenges, as she juggles cake-making with studying for a Master's degree in reproductive science - fitting baking into her hectic schedule is often a luxury she cannot afford. Amid the dissertations, research papers, textbooks, and exam revision, it can be tough, especially as baking is not something that can be rushed.
“It's been hard studying a masters and finding time to bake. It’s a lot of work.” she told us but cake crafting is special to her so she finds time whenever she can.
What ignited that initial spark for Anna? What caused her to persevere and learn to become the master cake baker she is today?
“My very first attempt at baking was in food tech class in GCSEs, I made a traditional Japanese cheesecake, which is different from a typical New York style cheesecake. It’s soft, very fluffy and very cheese-centred. After that I really felt motivated to try to bake and practice more.”
Nourishing the mind
Anna doesn't just bake for fun though. When she was at school, she noticed that getting stuck into creating something mouth-wateringly moreish really helped her through some of her biggest struggles.
“When I was studying for my A-Levels I was suffering from depression, and I found that baking really helped me. I made a cake for my friend’s birthday and I got back into it after not making anything for a while. When I went to Cardiff to study for my degree, I finally had my own kitchen, so I was able to bake whenever I wanted.”
She added “It developed from there, I knew a girl at university who was also from Hong Kong and she mentioned one day that she really missed the traditional Hong Kong bakeries. So, I baked her some Hong Kong style buns and also some more western things like macaroons. She loved them and suggested I set up a business.”
Setting up with supermarkets
Anna decided to take this friend’s encouragement into consideration, and she began baking more and more. Now she was really cooking on gas and could whip up a storm in the kitchen to conjure up cakes for any occasion - birthdays, engagements, bar mitzvahs, you name it. Her determination shone through, and she gained some worthwhile partnerships out of her passion.
Anna told Bionic “It went well from there. I had a sort of partnership with some local Chinese supermarkets, and I would provide them with baked goods and cakes. One customer spread the good word about my work to an owner of a Chinese restaurant so for about a year I worked with them to bake deserts for their customers too.”
Anna enjoyed sprinkling some much-needed cake-centred joy over the community and loved to hear locals say great things about her talents. After that year though, life began to get in the way.
Anna moved to London to train as a biomedical scientist and later to embark on her Master's degree. This meant her baking fell by the wayside, but she is now revisiting her passion.
“My boyfriend is really supportive, and he loves all the food I make, he always encourages me to follow my dreams.” says Anna when we quiz her on what spurs her on daily. She also cited a key factor for her love of cooking and that’s the feeling of uniting people.
“I love bringing people together with my baking, I love to be a host. I also love to see plates cleared and the great feedback is lovely too” She enthuses.
Spreading the joy one slice at a time
What has the biggest struggle been for Anna apart from juggling her baking with studies, work, and life commitments?
“The biggest struggle I faced is that I just had no idea how to set up a small business, I still don’t. I have an Instagram and Facebook page, but you have to be really smart with hashtags and things like that” she tells us.
Setting up on your own is tough and Anna says that although she’s researched and looked into the best ways to go about it, it’s incredibly daunting and she never knows where to start when attracting new customers.
For the moment, she’s just focusing on baking cakes that spread joy and if something more comes from it then that’s a bonus.
What has been her favourite cake to make? Anna ponders this for a moment before answering.
“I made my colleagues' son a birthday cake and another colleague asked me to bake their engagement cake. I'm really proud of those two and I think everyone enjoyed eating them. But I'm also quite proud of my time management, as it's been hard studying a masters and juggling baking. It’s a lot of work but I love it, so I always come back to it.”
Anna believes that even though it may be hard to set up your own business, if you have a genuine love for what you’re doing, you should go for it regardless of the hurdles.
“I think it’s hard to start up a business, you’re responsible for the whole thing and it's just you on your own. You have to buy the ingredients, set the prices and do deliveries.” she said.
“But I think you should just go for it, if you have a passion then there is no harm in trying.”
And what about future plans and aspirations? Anna says cake baking definitely factors into her life goals.
“I’ve always dreamt of having a café one day. My dream is to own a library café because I love reading too. I’d also love to start blogging in the future about my baking experiences.”
So, here’s to many more delighted customers for Anna, you can check out her mouthwatering cakes on her Instagram page here.
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