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This Johorean architect quit his career to bake elegant, intricate cakes that go up to RM6K

It was never really in ex-architect Zuhair Shaid’s plans to start Reka Baka, a business baking intricately designed cakes. However, he already had some interest and experience in baking prior.

As a kid, the Johorean used to help his grandmother make traditional cakes at home. “Come Ramadhan and Raya, I would be the most excited. I’d beg my mom to buy me baking ingredients,” he fondly recalled to BASKL.

This interest never left him and served as a means of keeping him sane during his studies at Universiti Malaya. For eight years, he was pursuing an education (from foundation to a Master’s degree) in Architecture. 

Zuhair would occasionally bake for friends and lecturers for the fun of it. Until one day, a friend approached him to make her wedding cake. That kickstarted his venture in the world of cake making.

“Orders began coming in back then and I had to juggle cake making with my design theses and studio time,” he told BASKL.

The start of something new (sort of)

It wasn’t until 2019, when he was working as a Design Architect at an architectural firm, that he launched Reka Baka. 

Prior to that, he was selling his cake creations (mostly custom orders) under a different brand with one of his baker friends. All while being a full-time architect in Subang Jaya.

But handling a professional career with a time-consuming side hustle can be draining to anyone. And Zuhair eventually felt the effects of it in 2022.

“Working life was tough with short deadlines especially when you’re dealing with early-stage (architectural) design proposals,” he shared with Vulcan Post.

“I managed to deliver the works and proposals with great satisfaction from the boss. But it came to a certain point where I was too exhausted and burnt out.”

Working nearly 24/7 every week to pursue both of his interests became too taxing on him physically and mentally. After all, he juggled the two ventures by spending up to five hours per night baking cakes.

So he ended up having to make a decision—he had to choose one path and one path only, which led him to sign off from the architecture field and pursue Reka Baka on a full-time basis. 

Cake, or art?

Just scrolling through Reka Baka’s Instagram feed, you’ll notice that the brand’s cakes are not simple by any means.

Taking inspiration from all around him, Zuhair’s cake creations feature both intricate and elaborate designs. Even a regular tall, one-tiered floral cake comes out a stunner after he’s done with it.

The ex-architect shared that he learns new decorating styles from time to time, sometimes from another baker, and some designs are self-discovered.

Many of these designs use edible sugar paste, fondant, and rice paper for their exterior. Hearing this, you’re probably wondering about the taste. 

After all, cake isn’t meant to be just a display, it’s also a dessert to enjoy.

He shared that fondant and sugar paste taste like marshmallow, whereas rice paper is pretty tasteless. As for the inside, he typically uses Italian meringue buttercream and chocolate ganache for stability and “good outer layer covering”. 

“As part of our principle, we want the cake to look beautiful and stable, but also delicious inside,” the baker stated.

Though he does acknowledge that not everyone likes the taste and texture of fondant.

“Even though it’s edible, for me fondant isn’t meant to be eaten, same as sugar paste and rice paper. It’s edible but only as a medium for cake covering, protection for the real cake inside and for decoration purposes,” he said.

Thus, Zuhair recommends consumers cut the cake and scrape off the fondant or outer buttercream layer, before eating the cake. 

Cakes for all kinds of occasions

Currently, Reka Baka offers two types of cake packages for those looking to own and taste a piece of Zuhair’s creations. 

The Petite Package for petite cakes is more suited for intimate weddings and ranges from one-tiered (from RM230) to three-tiered plus (RM720).

If you’re having a grander ballroom-like occasion, its Grand Package would probably be a better fit. The smallest size is a three-tiered cake (from RM1,150) up to a seven-tiered plus cake (from RM6,150).

To clarify, cakes under the Grand Package are not wholly edible. Instead, it’s a fully dummy-tiered cake with a hidden cake slice for the cutting ceremony. But fret not as complementary square cake slices are provided for guests.

But if you’d prefer it to be a real cake from head to toe, Zuhair is happy to customise that for you too.

Once the cake’s size is selected, customers can start coming up with some design ideas. It doesn’t have to be concrete as Zuhair’s role is to help flesh it out and bring your design to life.

Afterward comes the question of the dessert’s flavour. 

The home-based brand has a decent list of cake flavours to choose from, with its bestsellers being lemon cake with lemon curd and blueberry, as well as pistachio cake with pistachio buttercream and raspberry.

Some of these recipes come from classes, while others are modified from what he finds on the internet.

Customers can book as late as two weeks before the delivery, but three months before the event would be the ideal period. If your wedding’s in a year’s time, a booking can also be made now.

However, do note that a 50% deposit is required upon booking your order. The remainder of the cake’s cost is to be settled two weeks before delivery.

Taking it one step at a time

Speaking candidly to Vulcan Post, Zuhair shared that there wasn’t an exact plan when he quit the architectural world for Reka Baka. All he knew was that he no longer felt attracted to the field, citing long working hours and low pay.

Not only that, but it had been quite disappointing for him to repeatedly decline cake jobs, especially for weddings. 

So now that his time is more freed up, he’s able to manage higher order volumes despite still being a one-man show. From only three to four cakes a week, the baker can now take up to 10 orders.

Though, he occasionally does hire part-timers for busier weeks.

“While it’s exciting to keep the orders coming, after a while I think I need to step back and analyse. I’m taking this early one to three years of journey as a pilot study. To experience how it is to be an entrepreneur.”

In that, we wish him all the luck with his entrepreneurial journey,

Learn more about Reka Baka here.Read articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Also ReadEarly-stage startups, here’s how you can get a cut of RM36K from Sidec’s 2023 accelerator

Featured Image Credit: Reka Baka

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