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  Chinese Way>Life

Home baking heating up

2013-09-19 11:10:45

(China Daily) By Wang Zhuoqiong


Because many families have to purchase utensils from scratch and are unfamiliar with recipes and the cooking process, baking a cake is often seen as an immense project.

"The complication of baking for many Chinese families is the same level as for a Westerner wrapping a dumpling. But when you do this regularly, it can become a lifestyle," Shao said.

Sweet cravings have boosted the rising presence of bakeries. When Mark Huetsch from the United States started dating Wang Liang during his studies at Peking University, she took him to try her favorite cake. The disappointing taste encouraged Huetsch, from Illinois, to bake at home for her. She liked his pies and cakes instantly.

Four years ago, the couple founded Pantry's Best as an online store offering home delivery of pies, cakes and cupcakes.

Insisting on using only the best ingredients, such as 70 percent black chocolate and imported cream cheese, their brand was listed on a review website as one of the top three bakeries in Shanghai and they have since opened brick-and-mortar stores in both Beijing and Shanghai.

They have tailored their recipes for Chinese customers, who do not like things to be too sweet. "Mark was very surprised to know that Chinese people don't like the strong taste of sweetness. But later on, he learned that Chinese foods have many layers of flavor," Shao said.

Top left: A teacher from Pantry's Best demonstrates how to properly handle almond flour. Top right: Flour and butter. Middle: Baking students display their handmade cupcakes. Bottom left: Almond flour and sugar powder. Bottom right: A student is proud of her newly made cupcakes.

Now employing about 40 people, Pantry's Best has about 20,000 customers with each order averaging 200 yuan.

Online shops that sell baking utensils and ingredients have also seen a boom. Jiayouzhubi is one of those most frequently visited by home bakers in Beijing. Guo Guiping and her team founded the shop on Taobao in 2005 but it was only in the last two years that her business started to take off rapidly. "People began to have a growing passion for baking," she said. "Our orders are so big that we never manage to dispatch them all in one day."

Their popular items vary by season. Mooncake molds and utensils are most popular this month as Mid-Autumn Festival approaches. In summer, ice-cream molds are bestsellers, she said. But in general, baking utensils are the most desired.

"The interesting part of baking utensils is that if you buy one for a cake, you want to get another one for pizza and another one for pudding," she said.

Their revenue has doubled in two years. Guo said the availability of cooking and baking methods, recipes and tools on the Internet has greatly pushed the sales of related products. Secondly, unlike supermarket retailers, online shops have a wider selection and provide delivery. Jiayouzhubi also sells imported foods such as vanilla beans. Such ingredients are often hard to find at regular retailers, Guo said.

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