Those with a sweet tooth will be especially familiar with the way desserts such as cakes, tarts and pies are served. These are often presented in a box or paper container, or in a plate. The Chinese, however, have introduced a new way to store cake — in a can — much like how foods like baked beans and sardines are sold in supermarkets.
Leong Wai Yi, founder of 3°Celsius Creations was scrolling through social media when he stumbled on a news story of a café in China selling cakes stored in cans. That inspired him to bring this fresh approach to Malaysia. “No one had done such a thing in our country. I thought it would be a good opportunity to venture into this business. Eating cake out of a can is a unique experience compared with having it in a box,” he says.
Leong then initiated his plan in mid-2021 and spent three months on R&D to come up with a few flavours and recipes. He took another three months to work on production before launching 3°Celsius Creations — derived from the best temperature for storing desserts to ensure they remain fresh — early this year.
“We sourced machines and cans from China and began doing R&D right away. It was challenging. We needed to try a lot of flavours to attract customers because we were afraid people wouldn’t be able to accept this new concept of eating cake out of a can.”
Leong and his team decided to roll out two much-loved “common” flavours — Opera Rocher (chocolate) and Double Berry (a combination of strawberry and raspberry) — to test the market. Subsequently, they added more options such as Ondeh-Ondeh, Brown Sugar Jujube, Vanilla Bean Original Burnt Cheesecake and Niko Neko Matcha Burnt Cheesecake as customers began to discover the brand on social media.
While competitors were not an issue, the company was concerned about whether its creations would be well received by the local market. “Some people said it was like eating cat food. Others were concerned that it contained a lot of preservatives because it came in a can. But we use only fresh ingredients and there are no preservatives. We post regularly on social media to inform consumers about what goes into the cake.”
In a collaboration with IJO Matcha, a home-grown business that makes matcha desserts and beverages, 3°Celsius Creations created a special flavour with a local twist called Ondeh Matcha. The cakes were sold exclusively at the former’s pop-up stores across the Klang Valley.
Looking at the positive outcome of the partnership, the company went on to work with another shop in George Town, Penang. “We consign our products at a tufting store, Olo Studio. It has a small corner selling cakes and drinks. We deliver the cakes weekly.”
Prior to establishing 3°Celsius Creations, Leong ran an online bakery for more than five years, during which he supplied custom-made desserts for parties and events. It was a different business model altogether as he was producing cakes and other sweet treats based on requested quantities. Now, he sets a limit of 50 cans of cake per week. “Customers can reach out to us on Instagram or Facebook to place orders. We announce a delivery date weekly and it is advisable for customers to contact us three days prior for us to run the production.”
The made-to-order model allows the team to estimate the work and amount of ingredients required for every batch. “We need two to three days to prepare all the ingredients because we have different elements packed in one can of cake,” says Leong, adding that he rents a working studio in Klang as space for the business.
Ingredients such as butter, cream, fruit puree and chocolate used to make the sweet delights are chosen from high-quality brands and imported from France through a local supplier. As such, the cakes are sold at a higher price bracket. A can of 150g is packaged in sets of two (RM49.90) and four (RM89.90). “We use mostly premium ingredients. I want to create a unique experience for people through flavours and that may not be possible with the usual ingredients.”
The cans used to house the layered cake are made of aluminium. The environmentally friendly material was chosen because it is reusable and easy to recycle, Leong notes. Having said that, the packaging is not the only unique selling point of 3°Celsius Creations’ products.
“The can is an attractive concept. But the cake itself is also special because it is made of seven to eight layers, containing different textures and substances that will give customers an exceptional experience. They get a mix of crumbs, sponge and cream in every bite.”
As a chocolate and coffee lover, Leong loves the Opera Rocher. “It is layered with chocolate ganache and soaked in coffee syrup. You get to taste the best of both worlds.” Best consumed within three to five days, the best-selling cake comprises seven layers of filling including sable crunch, hazelnut chocolate ganache, chiffon sponge and coffee mousse, topped with a Rocher glaze.
While only customers in the Klang Valley and a small part of Penang are able to enjoy the company’s offerings now, Leong plans to expand its reach across the country. The team is actively doing R&D to realise this vision, on top of coming up with new desserts sometime this year.
This article first appeared on Sept 12, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.