Home baker creates hibiscus-inspired cake for Merdeka Day

Jessica poses with her three-tiered hibiscus-inspired cake that she created to celebrate Malaysia’s 63rd Merdeka Day.

PETALING JAYA: There are many ways to express how one is proud to be Malaysian and the month of Merdeka sees no shortage of creative social media postings, paintings and writings about the subject.

Jessica Winston Jap, a 31-year-old baker from Jakarta, who resides in Malaysia, took to doing what she loves best – decorating a hibiscus-inspired cake to commemorate Malaysia’s 63rd Merdeka Day.

Besides using the national flower as the theme for her main cake, Jessica also created a special ondeh-ondeh-flavoured cake for Merdeka Day featuring the Jalur Gemilang.

Jessica took five days to conceptualise the design of the elaborate hibiscus-inspired Merdeka Day cake.

The owner of two blooming businesses, JessiCakery in Jakarta and Pétale Sucré in Kuala Lumpur, Jessica tells FMT that she has been baking and decorating cakes for the past 10 years.

But it hasn’t all been gumdrops and sprinkles for her as she had to make the difficult decision to move permanently here with her Malaysian husband.

“In Jakarta, I would be up to my eyeballs with at least 30 to 40 cake orders a month. I also taught students who were interested in baking and cake decoration.

“I moved to Malaysia in 2017 and spent a lot of my days in tears. No one was purchasing my cakes because I wasn’t the best at marketing my brand here,” she explains.

Fortunately, her sister-in-law, who is a teacher, came to her aid and by word of mouth, Jessica’s beautiful cakes soon became the talk of the town.

Jessica says there are stark differences between her customers back in Indonesia and those in Malaysia.

“In Indonesia, people love to buy artistic cakes but Malaysians are often drawn to simple cakes, which can be frustrating for me because my passion is decorating cakes.

With nimble fingers, Jessica puts the final touches to her cake.

“Most Malaysians purchase cakes only to celebrate special occasions but in Jakarta, even if there is no celebration, they still purchase entire cakes to consume at home,” she says, adding that Malaysians also tend to want their cakes delivered to them free of charge, something she agrees to only if they are regulars.

Apart from the ordinary red velvets, vanillas and chocolates that one can expect to find, Pétale Sucré also incorporates Indonesian flavours that are truly delicious and unexpected.

Feel like sampling a slice of sponge cake frosted with buttercream and topped with grated cheddar cheese? According to Jessica, this is a favourite back home as well as her Belgian chocolate cake.

Jessica’s not-so-secret love is cake decorating and flowers, so she combined them, specialising in buttercream and sugar flowers.

Elegantly placed on a marble table in Jessica’s cake decorating room is a gorgeous three-tiered cake, decorated in deep blue fondant icing with etchings of the various states of Malaysia.

The highlights of this cake are hands-down the realistic-looking sugar flowers, which to the untrained eye look like real hibiscus. Adding an accent of elegance is a golden sheet of baked Vietnamese rice paper.

Decorating this mesmerising cake was no easy task – Jessica says the sugar flowers alone took three arduous days to bring to life.

Jessica took three days to make this beautiful hibiscus sugar flower.

“I drew inspiration from the Malaysian flag. Blue represents the unity of the Malaysian people, yellow pays respect to the rulers and the hibiscus is the obvious one, Malaysia’s national flower,” said Jessica who wracked her brain for five days to come up with the design for the perfect Merdeka cake.

Jessica’s Jalur Gemilang cake meanwhile is a fluffy, airy pandan cake ala ondeh-ondeh, as it is layered with a generous amounts of grated coconut soaked in gula melaka and finished off with a buttercream Malaysia Prihatin logo.

Jessica’s second cake is an ondeh-ondeh-flavoured cake to honour Malaysia’s love for its traditional sweet treats.

“During the Movement Control Order, I noticed many people were selling ondeh-ondeh-flavoured cakes and that it is a true Malaysian dessert loved by many, so I decided to incorporate those flavours in this cake,” Jessica told FMT.

Just like everyone else, the Covid-19 lockdown affected Jessica. She has been unable to return to Jakarta to teach her students but, fortunately, the number of orders she’s received during these troubled times have increased.

Those most requested are her soft and chewy cookies and buttercream flower cakes. Well, comfort food does get people through tough times so no surprise there.

Jessica placing the finishing touches onto the buttercream Malaysia Prihatin logo.

This home baker dreams of setting up her own cosy little shop in Malaysia someday, filled with the most delicious pastries and cakes. “I realise I can’t just sell cakes, so I need to hone my pastry-making skills. I hope my dream comes true.”

Jessica’s beautiful cakes can be ordered at Pétale Sucré and JessiCakery.