Thursday, 14 September 2017

How did MONICE BAKES started?

I've probably mentioned this on my blog a few times before - I quitted my full time job in April 2017 to pursue my baking passion and to focus on my business - MONICE BAKES.


I'm always happy to share about my baking story whenever people ask about it.

So how did MONICE BAKES started? (I hope I don't bore you too much!)

I always had an interest in baking when I was younger. I wouldn't say it started out as a real passion (It has never crossed my mind to be an aspiring baker when I grow up), it was just something casual I enjoyed doing. I used to only bake simple comfort food like cookies and muffins. But one fine day, my oven broke down and I couldn't bake anymore... I just didn't bother much and waited till my house renovation.

After a new oven was installed, my interest for baking was rekindled. Even so, I was only baking leisurely for about a year. During that point of time, I was regularly watching cupcake videos on Youtube and one of my inspiration was Cupcake Jemma. I started to try out doing basic buttercream recipes and playing around with piping tips. Realisation struck me that I actually really love decorating cakes!

You can see from the photos below that the cakes were not really up to standard for selling yet. I was thankful that people actually supported me back then.


I still remember that this was the very first batch of cupcakes I baked together with Serene - Smores cupcakes. And also my very first time trying out fondant! 


I didn't even know that fondant is best kept in air-con or room temperature areas. 


I found piping rosettes such a fascinating and satisfying thing to do. I guess I still do, but definitely more used to it now. 


I was still working with American buttercream as I wasn't aware of the different choices I had. American Buttercream is very gritty because of the icing sugar, and it doesn't really suit Asian palate. You should have seen my excitement when my Swiss Meringue Buttercream was successful for the first time! 


This 2 tier cake looked like it was going to topple anytime. I didn't even use the correct technique at all. 

I started experimenting with different recipes and decorating styles. Everything was very basic back then. I posted photos of my bakes on my Instagram and randomly come up with hashtag #monicebakes simply just to keep track. I always had an interest in Art and my skills were put to good use. There was once when I took part in Kiss92 contest for a simple dream caption and photo. I was called on a random morning to answer a few questions live. (Actually I was so shy)


This was the exact photo I submitted. 

"My dream is to create beautiful and delicious bakes for others to appreciate. Because it gives me a sense of satisfaction whenever I finish every piece of "artwork" and I'll never want to stop doing what I love." (3 May 2015)

People around me were being really supportive and nice. After sharing photos on my Instagram regularly, I started receiving feedback to start selling my bakes and some even wanted to be my first customer. *THANKFUL!!!*

I did procrastinate a little before building enough confidence to really start selling. When I first started in May 2015, I just uploaded a simple album on my personal Facebook and asked if anyone wanted to buy. A few friends supported me almost immediately and I also had some customers from Carousell. I still remember that my very first order was 50 Baby Shower cookies. I was really lucky to also receive another 200 cookie order which motivated me to go on.

I only started selling cakes at a much later time as they were much more challenging to work with. I also didn't really like the texture of butter cakes. And sponge cakes were a little more delicate to get the recipe right. But after several tries, my sponge cake became successful! I feel that sponge cakes will be the preferred cake choice as it is much lighter, fluffier and not as sweet (My customers tell me this too!)


And this is my FIRST sponge cake! 



I was soooo happy when the sponge cake didn't crack or over rise. 

Besides cookies, cupcakes, cakes, tarts and brownies, I have also tried baking egg tarts, swiss rolls, cream puffs, eclair, bread, pizza, macarons, meringues and more. But I won't be selling them at the moment.



I miss baking eclairs! They're actually quite simple to make. 






So how did my logo come about? It was really a random thought of incorporating a piping bag into my logo as it's the focal point of cake decoration. I intentionally connected my brand name with the icing in the bag. That's the whole point of cake decorating right? And my brother helped me transform my drawing into digital format.

Btw, I'm really bad at names. I think I should be really thankful that I was given a unique name by my parents. And since I was already known for my hashtag among my friends, I just conveniently used it as the brand name. At least it's something really personal, and I know I won't regret in the future.

#monicebakes

Baking is not the only satisfaction I gain from my business. I enjoy doing customization for my customers and I really really love doing marketing for my own brand. Being able to enjoy from so many different aspects of my business is something I'm definitely grateful for.

Being in this saturated industry is not easy as online homebakers are on the rise due to the accessibility of social media platforms. It's easy to just bake a cake and sell, but to really stand out from the rest is challenging with so much competition. There are surely times when I feel less confident, but I am thankful for those who have been supporting my business so far.


If you have read till the end of this post, thank you for your time!  


Oh! And if you're interested in my trying out my bakes, do take part in this giveaway below! 

Children’s Day is just around the corner! Thevenin Boards and Monice Bakes will be giving away 3 boxes of skateboard-themed cupcakes and 5 sets of $10 bakesale vouchers.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Casio EX-ZR5000 Review

After my Samsung NX-Mini died on me within a year plus, I have yet to bought a new camera until recently – Casio EX-ZR5000 (Pink). During this period, I borrowed my brother's Canon DSLR to events but it was too bulky and heavy to carry it around. Given my limited photography skills, I do not require such a professional camera. Instead, I prefer something more handy and convenient with decent quality. (And it must have Selfie cam!) I remembered that Casio is well known for its beauty cam function. And speaking from experience, I really love their Casio TR150 many years ago.



Personal Requirements 

Design and Color 

I am soooooo particular about this that I wouldn't consider buying the camera if it comes only in black. I know black looks more professional but I want something pretty to look at (Pink or turquoise are my top choices)

Selfie and Beauty Cam

Because pictures can’t be complete without selfies/wefies! Even better if the camera has wide angle lens.

Decent Quality and Reasonable Price

I’m not too particular about the specifications, as long as the photos look clear and nice especially for photos. Of course, the price must match my requirements.

When I was looking for a camera, the Casio EX-ZR5000 caught my eye almost immediately due to its pretty coral pink colour. I noticed a comparable model, which was at a lower price – Casio EX-ZR65, and comes in a similar shade of gorgeous pink as well! I spent so many days considering between these 2 camera models as I wanted to save some money, but I also heard that ZR5000 have better specifications. It was such a huge dilemma.


Pardon the bubbles on my screen!

There were hardly any reviews about the ZR65, while on the other hand; the ZR5000 was raved by other bloggers. This also makes it easier for me to sell the camera at a better price in the future should I wish to change my camera. And so I made my decision on ZR5000 in the end.

In case you are wondering, you can compare the specifications and price below:

They have also recently launched the latest Casio High speed model - ZR5100. I still prefer the pastel pink!

http://www.casio-intl.com/asia/en/dc/products/ex_zr5000/spec/


http://www.casio-intl.com/asia/en/dc/products/ex_zr65/spec/


I have been using the camera for about a month or so and I have no regrets! My dad and brother were skeptical at first as they are DSLR users and felt that iPhones are comparable to the digital cams. But I strongly think otherwise, and I also didn’t want to bring my iPhone to events for photo taking. Besides, I feel that iPhones are only acceptable when the lighting is really perfect (which is not always the case).

My favourite features of ZR5000:

It’s PINK. Enough said. 

The camera is quite light and convenient to bring around. This is really important because I always carry so much “rubbish” around which makes my bag really heavy. I don’t need that extra weight on my shoulders.

The make up mode is almost perfect (the previous Samsung beauty mode was a little too fake for me). It’s also adjustable to your liking – 12 levels of smooth skin. And the front shutter button is easy to reach. Not forgetting the 19mm wide-angle lens, which makes it easier for me to take selfies that showcase my outfit or background easily.


Remote capture is very useful when I have no one to take photos for me, or when I need candid photos. The set up of the wifi can be a little frustrating depending on your connection. 


Wifi send and receive function is common but also a necessity for me to transfer photos to my phone almost immediately if I want to upload on my social media.

Other features:

The camera has a lot of other filters such as art mode, selfie art mode and more. There is also a manual function but I prefer sticking to the default mode as I’m not familiar with the technical terms of photography.

Here are some photos that I took with my ZR5000!






The selfie function has a motion shutter for hands-free selfies and group shots. I feel that the sensitivity of the button takes a while to warm up and I kept waving at the camera stupidly a few times before the sensor detected my hands.

Overall, I’m really happy with my purchase. What’s your verdict on this camera model?


Tuesday, 5 September 2017

PABLO Cheese Tart in Singapore! (Wisma Atria)

Recognize this snake-long queue at Level 1 of Wisma Atria? Japanese PABLO Cheese Tart chain which was newly opened in Singapore last month, caused a crazy hype among Cheese Tart lovers and curious onlookers for a good whole month. And yes, my curiosity has led me to succumb to my temptation. But thankfully, I queued only about 15 minutes on a weekday evening to get my cheese tart cravings fixed. 



Click here to watch a short clip of the PABLO Cheese Tarts
(Video credit: Colman C)



I have yet to try their Cheese Soft Serve Ice Cream which looks quite enticing.




PABLO has an open kitchen concept for others to observe the whole process of baking and decorating the cheese tarts. You can watch these delicious tarts being baked right in front of you! As a baker, I always find the process very satisfying to watch. 



Iconic PABLO Cheese Tart

The Iconic 15-cm Cheese Tart flavours include Original Cheese ($15), Matcha Cheese ($18) and Chocolate Cheese ($18).

Instead of the shortbread buttery crust, the crust is more flakey and has slight resemblance to that of a portuguese egg tart. Unfortunately, this Iconic PABLO Cheese Tart falls short in terms of its texture. Perhaps it must be eaten fresh (I kept mine for about 3 hours), but I was told by the staff that it can be kept in room temperature for about 6 hours. 

Glazed with a layer of apricot jam on the top, the tart is filled with cheese that is of a mousse-like texture, and somewhat similar to custard. In fact, it reminded me of egg tarts, but with cheese. Don't expect that the cheese will flow out like a lava cake and the cheese flavor is quite subtle too. This would probably suit those with a lighter palate who doesn't want something too gelat. 



PABLO Mini Cheese Tarts

On the other hand, the PABLO Mini Cheese Tarts ($3.5) are definitely cheesier in terms of taste. The cheese also has a firmer texture which is close to a cheesecake.

The crust has room for improvement but the cheese could be just a little smoother. Other than that, the mini cheese tarts are decent in terms of its overall taste and texture. I can't say that the standard is in proportionate with the hype that the brand is receiving, but if I pass by Wisma Atria again and there isn't a long queue, I wouldn't mind buying some for supper.



This was really difficult to decide but if I really had to choose between the big or mini tarts, I would prefer the big ones because the mini ones were more similar to cheesecakes and I'm not super fond of it. But as greedy as I usually am, I will gladly have both all by myself.

PABLO Cheese Tart Singapore
Wisma Atria Shopping Centre
435 Orchard Road #01-02/38, Singapore 238877 
(Orchard MRT)

Contact: +65 6835 9269

Opening Hours: 10:00am – 10:00pm

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Loacker Singapore | Cocoa & Milk Flavours

I can't say that I'm a crazy huge fan of wafer biscuits (I know my bf is one!) But if I had to choose a favourite brand, it's definitely Loacker Wafer! This is my 100% honest opinion even though it's a sponsored post. Have you ever tried other brands of wafer biscuits and the biscuit is just too light and airy? And to make things worse, there's a slight artificial taste to it as well. Loacker Singapore is the complete opposite, with a rich intensive chocolate flavor and dense texture. 


Loacker Singapore kindly sent me 3 different flavors to try - Cocoa & Milk, Napolitaner (Hazelnut) and Vanille (Vanilla).


Cocoa & Milk is Loacker’s new flavour launched on the market and has been awarded the ‘Product of the Year 2017’ in the‘Biscuit’ category. With 7% cocoa wafer, the combination of dark chocolate and milky white cream gives a really good balance of sweetness and is rich in taste.

One of my favourite aspect of Loacker is that you can just pop them in your mouth conveniently with these Quadratini bite-sized pieces. It can be quite a messy affair to take a bite of the bigger wafer biscuits and you end up with crumbs everywhere on the table and floor. Great for late night snacks when you are lazy to clean up!





The Vanille (Vanilla) Crispy Wafers suits those who are less of a chocolate lover, like me. Still packed with rich vanilla flavor and layered with delicious cream, this flavor is my favourite!


Napolitaner (Hazelnut) Wafer is filled with smooth and light hazelnut cream that has a fragrant nutty taste. Hazelnut has been one of my favourite flavor of all time. This is a tad too sweet for my palate but perhaps it will suit those with a sweeter tooth! 


Loacker Minis are great for sharing and they come in different flavours including the classic minis as well as the unique types such as Coconut, Cappuccino and Tortina.




You may refer to the retail price of Loacker below:

250g – (Retail Price: S$4.95)
125g – (Retail Price: S$2.95)

175g – (Retail Price: S$3.75)
45g – (Retail Price: S$1.20)

Thank you Loacker Singapore and Matrix Star for the Loacker Box!