By mixing up a spoonful of determination, and a pinch of perseverance, home baker Lulu Goh proves how a non-industry virtuoso’s passion for all things baking transcends her hobby with the birth of Sweet Endings.
Lulu Goh’s tryst with baking may read the usual story of a wide-eyed girl, seated in a kitchen just across her mother who is busy whipping up cakes for festivities. A story which may typify the passion behind her sweet treats, and the push to start her very own cake making and decorating business. However, the story does not stop there as Lulu’s plunge into the art of baking and decorating came much later in her life.
It was not after the beckoning of motherhood Lulu decided to walk the Yellow Brick Road to be part of the industry. Her oven and bakeware were put to full use as Lulu took up baking as a hobby following the birth of her second child. She would spend a lot of time in the kitchen mixing up cake batters only to see the cakes hit the skids. Despite the failed attempts, Lulu chinned up and soldiered on until she nailed the rudiments of baking. From ingredients and measurements to techniques and utensils, Lulu learned it all through trial and error with the help of her husband.
“He was my guinea pig,” quipped Goh.
As Lulu mastered the basics she refused to rest on her laurels and went on to, with the encouragement from a former colleague, dabble with fondant icing. It was through the confection she discovered her love for cake decorating. With her newfound passion coupled with a strive for perfection, Lulu enrolled and completed Wilton’s four cake decorating courses and Wilton’s better baking courses. If that is not enough, Lulu joined Squires Kitchen International Bakery School at the ICCA where she earned herself a Professional Diploma in Cake Decorating.
Lulu’s eye for detail and penchant for creativity are well translated into her cakes as it boast artistic designs, and vivid colours; promising a pie-in-the-sky to her extensive list of clients. Plus, her cakes are bound to set taste buds tingling with anticipation. Recognising her talent in the art of cake baking and decorating, Lulu, together with her husband, started Sweet Endings in 2013. The home-based baker has since conjured up exquisite cakes dressed in ambrosial ideas for various occasions.
“I Was Six When I Watched My Mother Bake Cakes”
My mother would roll up her sleeves and bake at least five types of chiffon cakes during Chinese New Year. She used a ceramic bowl to measure ingredients, a hand mixer, and an oven. No fancy equipment and no fancy gadgets. Her approach was fuss-free and her cakes turned out perfect.
“I Prefer Waking Up To The Sound Of My Mixer, & Oven Than The Thought Of Wearing Heels To Office”
Orders were pouring in by 2013. Juggling a full-time job at a top IT firm and baking late into the wee hours proved no cakewalk for me. Somehow, the idea of a full-time home baker made more sense as my eldest child was about to enter primary school. I wanted to spend more time with the family. It was then I decided to quit my job at the IT firm and turn into a full-time baker within the comfort of my home. My husband has been my pillar of strength and support.
“I Prepared Myself With What Was Needed”
With regular customers in my kitty, I took the plunge with all the business nitty-gritty sorted out. From the brand name and logo to social media and marketing plan. I had a clear idea of my demographics and my unique selling point, which are intricately designed fondant cakes using top-shelf ingredients. I also enrolled in several professional courses to perfect my skills—all within six months of quitting my corporate job. Most importantly, I made adjustments to juggle between baking and spending time with my family.
“I Nearly Caved In”
The first few months after leaving the corporate world got the better of me. I was worried orders may not come in as much as I would like to. I was insecure about my work and was almost certain my cake designs did not strike the right chord with my regular customers, let alone the new ones.
I also missed my day-to-day interactions with my peers, something which I was used to in the corporate world. Besides, this is a dog-eat-dog world industry. There are other talented home bakers who can give a run for my money. It can get a bit daunting but I was very determined and persevered. I never let any of it limit my drive and success. My mantra is to never give up. I have it on a poster—festooned on the wall in my work room.
“I Have Full Control On What I do”
I am my own boss and I am the authority of my workload and schedules. I understand my capacity in which I work and as such plan my schedule around it. The hours are gruesome and the work, tough. The silver lining is I put a smile on my clients’ face. That keeps me going.
“My Inspirations Are Limitless”
I turn to Pinterest and Instagram for a little spark. I also have my intimate circle of bakers who are never short of ideas to keep me going. Believe it or not, 80 per cent of my Instagram feeds are all about cakes and some.
“I Can’t Imagine Baking Sans My Acetate Smoother”
In the case of a calamity, I would grab all of my baking knick-knacks to safety. But given a choice, I would save my acetate smoother. I get a panic attack when I don’t see it in my tool box.
“I Baked A Few Memories Along With My Cakes”
My favourite radio jockey personally asked me if I could bake his son’s first birthday cake. I said yes in the blink of an eye. I also had a client who contacted me for a cake order which was meant to be flown to Bali. I did not know she is a senior member of a royal family. Imagine my surprise when I did get to know. Indeed, the memories are sweet but my most favourite one would be the time I baked for my daughter her first fancy castle cake. That certainly takes the cake, pun unintended.
“The Idea Of Geode Cakes Warms Me Up”
There is something avant-garde about geode cakes. Geode cakes coupled with marbling effect. This trend is currently taking the industry by storm and there’s no reason it shouldn’t. It is not only visually poetic but delicious too.
“I Swear By These”
The one cardinal rule I follow is to never trust the oven’s temperature. Always get an oven thermometer. Your cakes will thank you once you are able to accurately control your oven’s temperature. I also recommend cake goop to grease your pans. This stuff works like magic and is even better than parchment paper. You don’t have to deal with the annoying mess of cake getting stuck at the bottom of the pan. For a smooth and polished look on your cakes, an acrylic smoother will be your best bet, whilst acupuncture needles are the answer to air bubbles in your fondant.
“I Had My Share Of Disasters”
I recently baked three chiffon cakes but it was a disaster. Chiffon cake is quite basic as it requires eggs, oil, flour, sugar, baking powder, and flavourings of your choice; yet I, for some reason, did not get my basics down. For the first cake, I forgot to whisk in the sugar into the egg whites. The second cake had no baking powder, whilst the third was taken out of the oven way too early. Clearly we all have our bad days and I am no exception to the general rule.
“I Work Like A Zombie On Auto-Mode”
I start my mornings with a quick breakfast for that picker-upper before heading out for supplies. I would then start prepping for the day’s bake and/or the fondant work for the week. Lunch time right up to tea will see me in my Mummy avatar before I put in another two hours of prep work. I will be back tending to household duties before I start working again at 10 pm right up to 4am. I am lucky to have my own personal space for my cake decorating. The ‘Cake Cave’, as I would call it, is fitted with lights, shelves, workbench, and an air-conditioning, among others. The Cake Cave is where my ganache work and cake decorating come to play.
“Myself In Three Years Time”
Hopefully, I get to be recognised as one of the top cake decorators in the country. I also hope to be more exposed to the international audience. My latent desire is to get back to teaching so fingers crossed.
“These Are Some Of My Favourite Things”
I love baking a simple, and ultra-light sponge cake punctuated with some fresh cream. I also love whipping up a no-bake cheesecake. Chilled and delectable, just how I would like it. For some fun and quality time, my daughter and I love making meringue kisses. We play up with the colours and sprinkles without a care in the world.
“There’s No Easy Way Out In Cake Decorating”
Creating fondant cakes may appear intimidating but it can be done if you have a clear mind of what you would want to achieve coupled with a surgeon’s precision. Visualise how your cake would look like with all the ideas. If it helps, sketch your cakes for a clearer picture. Have a clear mind what you or your customer want. Once you have that down try to go the extra mile by turning up the creativity a notch. Most importantly don’t be lazy when it comes to cake decorating. There is no shortcut to it and even the slightest details will be noticed if you are sloppy. That will be the coup de grâce to your career in the industry. It’s also important to seek advice from fellow cake decorators whom you can trust. This helps when you are in doubt if your final product will look good or otherwise.
“My Perfect Birthday Cake Is All About Geode”
Without a shadow of a doubt, it would be a tall geode cake with a hint of marbling effect finished with some edible gold foils. Perfect to the tee.