No matter how hard I tried, I can’t kick the sweets. Desserts, pastries, popsicles, ice-creams, and bowls of Cheng Tng — meaning “clear soup” with refreshing and almost-syrupy notes — have become a huge (and if not, formative) part of my childhood. Oft-consumed at the end of a meal or with something to celebrate, desserts — of any and every sort — have proven, time and again, to be versatile and ripe for any occasion.
Even today, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, many of us (myself included) have turned to sweets for comfort in stressful times. Although science has ruled that our love for sweets is very much rooted in evolution, I believe that desserts, too, can go beyond surface value to proffer up a slice of life. Case in point: a classic cone of ice-cream.
You can count on ice-cream, or any other frozen dessert for the record, to take your mind off things. This frozen sweet treat demands immediate attention once it is out of the freezer, and leaves no room for worry. It’s a race against time and soon you’d find yourself focused on keeping things under control that you’d forget what’s troubling you. And there’s that magic.
While the world is pre-occupied with the global pandemic, I find myself worried and frantic at reconciling with this magical sense of comfort. To dine in restaurants today may well be a luxury afterthought in the months to come, but we can always count on desserts and cakes to make life a wee bit better.
So as an ode to the struggling pâtissier and the creative home bakers, here’s an extensive list of dessert parlours and home bakers to sate your sweet tooth. And as the age-old adage goes, “There’s always room for desserts (and cakes).”
An Acai Affair
They look like globules of blueberries, but they are far from the same family of berries. Originated from the tall palm trees in Brazil, Acai berries (pronounced as “Ah-Sigh-Ee“) are more potent in their provision of antioxidants than their bluish-purple relatives. A dessert that is made from the same ingredients, such as those from An Acai Affair, can thus boast to promote graceful aging when consumed and it just can’t get better. Here at An Acai Affair, an Acai bowl (from $8.90) comprises a chock full of healthy ingredients, including kiwis, dragonfruits, granola, chia seeds, and of course, undiluted, organic acai berries, that will leave you well-hydrated and refreshed in Singapore’s heat.
The bright-lit and cozy interior at Apiary Singapore along Neil Road is easily a great late-night dating spot for couples yearning to satisfy their ice-cream craving. My first experience with this homegrown ice-cream “bar” reminds me of a Chef’s Table episode that featured Christina Tosi, which documented her proclivity for unorthodox creations. And in Apiary’s case, unique ice-cream offerings are to die for. Take for instance, the “Blue Milk” ice-cream (from $15 a tub) — a milk-based ice-cream infused with blue pea flowers and a hint of Himalayan salt — or the “+61” ice-cream (from $15 a tub) — another milk-based offering with citrusy orange zest, toasted almond flakes, and dark chocolate chips.
Birds of Paradise
My first acquaintance with Birds of Paradise went like this, “What the actual f— is botanical gelato?” And when I looked at the tinsy name cards — “Spiced Pear“, “Earl Grey and Lemongrass” and “Strawberry Basil” (all from $17) — that it started to make sense. A Michelin-recommended ice-cream cafe with a bricks-and-mortar outlet in Katong, you can be sure to try out the much-raved herbs, spices, and florals flavoured-infused, home-made gelato here. The outlet is known to only restock their products at 1 pm daily with stocks selling out quickly, so get them while you can.
A premium ice-cream brand from the Philippines, Carmen’s Best features some of the most indulgent ice-cream flavours around. Named after her only daughter, Carmen, flavours from the Filipino brand seem to be inspired from the founder Francisco “Paco” Magsaysay’s travels around the world. Crowd favourites include “He’s Not Worth It” — everything chocolate from cookies, dark chocolates to cocoa powder — , “Hokey Pokey” — a vanilla-based ice-cream with honeycomb candy — and “Cheese“.
Order here or contact +65-8870 8810.
Fat Cat Ice Cream Bar
Fat Cat Ice Cream Bar serves up an eclectic selection of toasty baked goodies and premium ice-cream. This eatery is also known for their exquisite seasonal creations, which run the gamut from candied blood orange, honeycomb and smoke milk ice-cream in “Milk and Honey” to a chocolate garden with miniature edible parts in “Chocolat Jardon” as well as the minimalist popping spheres (pictured above), in the pre-coronavirus era and we can only hope that they will resume it soon. But I digress. Fat Cat’s pre-packed pints of premium ice-cream flavours are extremely toothsome too. Whether it be the classic “Earl Grey Lavender“, the interesting traditional twist in “Pulat Hitam“, or even the insatiable “Butter Beer” (each pint is available from $16), you can be sure that there is something for everyone.
Order here or contact +65 8828 8230
Many would know of this Japanese teahouse set in CHIJMES, a 19th-century built chapel near the island’s city business district. Hvala is everything what a serious matcha lover would crave for on the sunny island. With an impressionable selection of tea leaves and powders to purchase over the counter, the minimalist cafe’s selection of Japanese sweets are each equally tempting to savour upon. Matcha-holics would love the “Matcha Petit Gateau” (from $8.80) comprising a matcha sponge, matcha mousse, matcha crumble and matcha glaze, while those who prefer a decadent mix of nutty sweetness and bitterness could opt for the “Black Sesame Mont Noir” (from $8.80). Then again,first-timers should always try out the cafe’s signature “Straight Matcha” ($6.30 per bottle) which contains only premium grade Kyoto matcha that is freshly whisked upon order. But while the CHIJMES’ outlet may not be operating throughout the circuit breaker period, you could visit another of Hvala’s outlet in 111 Somerset for takeaways.
Jin Yu Man Tang Dessert Shop
For the most part in history, dessert is a course that rarely appears in most Chinese meals; instead, most high-end Chinese eateries in the past would offer up plates of fresh fruits to conclude a meal. This makes sense considering how the Chinese are used to incorporating sweetness in their arsenal of savory dishes — think the tropical fruits in the classic sweet and sour pork. But times have changed and the plethora of Chinese desserts offered are as extensive as its mains. At Jin Yu Man Tang Dessert Shop, familiar Chinese desserts are the go-getter. If anything, the dessert shop’s “Mango Sago Pomelo” (from $5) and “Taro Ball with Grass Jelly” (from $3.50) are excellent to against the sweltering heat.
Available on GrabFood, Deliveroo and Foodpanda.
NOW Bakery Singapore
Wave goodbye to the generic swiss roll cake with NOW Bakery‘s signature blancmange rolls. The delicate fluffy roll cake features a moist and creamy (and almost custardy) center that makes for an Instagram-friendly cake to feature on your feed when sliced. Choose between an assortment of flavours, including “Gula Melaka Coffee” ($14.90), “Black Sesame” ($14.90), and “Vanilla” ($15.90).
Old Amoy Chendol
The affordable, old-school dessert easily conjures up the good ol’ Kampung days, and that alone is enough for a feature here. The princely third-generation hawker Zhao You Ning has revealed in interviews to have used ingredients that are thoughtfully sourced — think authentic Japanese Azuki red beans fired over charcoal and Gula Melaka from Sarawak — and vowed to continue preparing the dessert laboriously by hand. At only $2.20 for a bowl of artisanal Chendol, this is definitely worth every bang for the buck.
Order here. Contact +65 8748 7590
Sweet Cheeks Gelato
One of the newer kids in the block. Sweet Cheeks Gelato resides in the quiet neighbourhood at Thai Thong Crescent (or Potong Pasir) and it offers a myriad of delectable sweet treats — that is, gelato duh. The spanking new cafe is known to open late before the circuit breaker measures were set up for the partying crowd and those pulling an all-nighter. The dessert parlour’s “Cinnamon Brown Bread” (from $17) and “Bailey’s & Brownie” (from $17) come highly recommended.
A Wild Flower Bakery
When it comes to baked goods, you rarely can remove guilt from the equation. And yet home baker Jasmine from A Wild Flower Bakery has thoughtfully concocted a healthier menu of low-carb, sugar-free donuts, cakes, and cookies. Dubbed “Keto Bakes”, items from the menu run the gamut from “Keto Cinnamon Donuts” ($20 for a box of six) to “Keto Peanut Butter Cheesecake Thumbprint Cookie” ($25 per bottle), and are baked fresh upon ordering. What’s more? These are baked with zero calories Monk Fruit Sweeteners too!
The aesthetic of Doughter Bakery’s Instagram feed screams everything from #minimalist to #foodporn. The online-based home bakery’s assortment of cookies and cakes is exceptionally impressionable and each of which seems to deserve a cup of milk (or coffee) to complement. The brand’s “Sea Salt and Chocolate Cookie” ($20 for 14 pieces) is an unreservedly sinful decadence, while the “Matcha & White Chocolate Mochi Cakes” ($18 for six pieces) or the traditional “Kaya & Coconut Mochi Cakes” ($18 for six pieces) are perfect for a tea-time snack. Doughter Bakery is also committed to donating 10% of its profits to The Courage Fund that supports vulnerable individuals and families affected by the coronavirus pandemic from April till June.
For Jessica Chow, what started as a work sabbatical in 2019 unexpectedly culminates to form an online baking business selling decadent tarts and crumbly cookies with fudgy insides. At Lookie Cookie, cookies from the Valrhona Dark Chocolate Cookie Family (from $24 for a box of 16) are made with chocolates (the kind that you feast in posh restaurants) from one of the world’s best and largest chocolate producers, Valrhona. Chow uses the French label’s Guanaja 70% dark chocolate, which has hints of fruity notes and sublime bitterness, in her cookies, and of which, many have raved about the zesty orange chocolate and sea salt variants. But while cookies alone are never enough to be shared, her tarts, whether it be the “Valrhona Dark Chocolate“, “Lemon Meringue” and “Uji Matcha Cheesecake” ($55 for a 23cm tart), are great alternatives for the family.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but Singaporeans seem be craving a lot of Basque Burnt Cheesecake lately. The mechanics to these glorious creations are complicated to say the least, which is why we have our reliable home bakers from MyDailyBread to turn to. Sinfully creamy with a sublime (but tart) bitterness, two variants of Basque Burnt Cheesecake, namely “Original” (from $28) and “Earl Grey” (from $30) exist at MyDailyBread, but what really stands out at this home bakery is its wide assortment of macarons, such as the “Sea Salt Dark Chocolate“, “Lychee Rose“, “Salted Caramel” ($36 for 20 pieces) to list a few.
Order here. Contact +65 8511 7445 or +65 8222 1205
The French always had the way of life that is part-elegant, part-laid-back, and yet wholly indulging. French cuisine has long been touted as the exemplary standards and much of the kitchen vernacular is rooted in French — an example, the word “pâtissier” is French for pastry chefs. So it seems almost too naturally that much of French cuisine is linked to perfection and subtlety, and what better examples that demonstrate this with French pastries? Over at Shesells.seashells.sg, a plethora of French goodies greets the eye. From artisanal madeleines to petite financiers (a light and moist French almond cake made from egg whites, flour, and powdered sugar), you’ll be spoiled for choices. The catch, however, is that you’d have to compete to get an order in its monthly bake sale slots.