artisinal cakes

A quick three-minute scroll through Kek & Co’s instagram page is enough to get your mouth watering. The multi-coloured delectable-looking cake creations adorned with the most intricate of decorations are truly a sight to behold, and are undoubtedly an explosion of succulent flavours upon consumption.

The women behind the cakes are as well put together and as polished as their designs – founders Satira Diana Borhannuddin, 35, and Farah Melissa Aniah, 30, are impeccably made-up for our shoot, dressed in chic outfits from local label Thavia, a brand founded by Tengku Chanela Jamidah.

As they carefully prepare a few cakes for the camera, Satira explains how the company came to be.

Having both been in the industry for over eight years, instead of continuing as competitors, Farah and Satira decided to join forces and form Kek & Co – which saw a steady growth in popularity and now has 100,000 followers on their Instagram page.

The founders of Pearl Cakes Events (Satira) and Raindough (Farah) were competitors, albeit friendly ones, who helped each other out by passing orders to one another.

“We would push orders to each other, discuss problems that we faced as bakers at the time – back then it was a very new scene for people our age to dominate the cake industry,” explains Satira from their base in Petaling Jaya. “There wasn’t really a cake scene, it was still new and awareness on cake artistry among consumers wasn’t so great.”

These days, having an intricately-designed unicorn, or lifelike flowers and figurines on a cake may seem pretty commonplace for many a birthday, wedding, product launch or corporate event, but when Farah and Satira started out, the industry was in its infancy.

“So, I approached Farah to partner up. I knew for a fact that her skills and mine were very different – Farah’s focus is more on baking whilst mine is more on decorating,” says Satira. “Farah agreed and now it’s been almost three years. We knew each other through the industry, it’s a small scene and we have a lot of mutual friends.”

Satira (let) and Farah have been in the cake baking business for over eight years

With a new base, an expanding full-time team and several part timers, the duo continue to share the beauty of their delicious cakes, dessert tables and gift boxes.

“We get celebrities, politicians, corporate orders, everything is custom-decorated, our brand is spread through word of mouth and social media so sometimes if we have a certain client from high society we tend to get others, as they talk about it among their friends,” says Satira.

With just a few pictures and a couple of keywords, these two experienced bakers are able to put together a design to suit the occasion.

“That comes with experience, just putting things together,” says Satira. “People who appreciate custom designs as opposed to a copy of someone else’s work will appreciate the time and effort people go to when designing a cake.”

Kek & Co have a notably higher price point (their cakes cost up to RM6,000) compared to most bakers, a critique the girls are well aware of, choosing to stick to their guns when it comes to the quality of their work.

“We are very firm with where we stand,” says Satira. “Compared to most bakers we are on the higher side but that comes with us having a lot of experience because we started at the beginning of the artisinal cakes scene in KL.

“Apart from our artistry, it’s also having eight years of experience in being solution providers. For example, you deliver a cake and something happens along the way, we will make sure te cake is fixed. We are equipped with the experience to fix it compared to the newer bakers, so you are actually also paying for that service, the expertise, the insurance.”

One of the beautiful designs from Kek & Co.

From a variety of flowers to Game of Thrones themed characters and figurines based on actual people, all of Kek & Co’s decorations are top notch, but the crowd favourite is their iconic Unicorn.

The unicorn craze got so big last year that the girls decided to hold workshops on it.

They held several locally, and even travelled to Bangkok, Sydney and Singapore to hold cake demonstrations to baking enthusiasts there.

“Our brand is not just known in Malaysia, it’s known worldwide – while the majority of our followers are Malaysian, we are also followed by many in Australia, the United Kingdom and Russia,” explains Satira. “We’ve been invited to many countries but it depends on the host in the country, what they want us to teach, based on what’s relevant to their trends. However, there’s almost always one unicorn class.”

During the workshops, Farah does a baking demo and how to create frosting, and Satira does the decorating bit.

“Being overseas helped open our minds to what it’s like to have a business in different countries,” says Farah. “We realised how lucky we are here, we have access to a lot more materials and supplies that we need for our business, a lot of those things you can get in the supermarket.”

Apart from their designer cakes, dessert tables and workshops, the girls also collaborate with local fashion brands on gift boxes for festive seasons or collection launches.

Kek & Co has collaborated with local designers like Yadotsa, Alia Bastamam and My Apparel Zoo, using their prints on their gift boxes and packaging.

“Usually what we will do is for example before Raya, they’ll share a sneak peek of their print, we’ll ask about their collection and figure out whether its something workable for us to translate to our cakes and packaging. We will help to promote each other, usually through gift boxes for their clients, and at the same time we’re promoting their brand using their prints,” adds Satira.

What works for these “kek girls” isn’t just their industry know-how, but the merging of their individual skill sets and personalities.

Satira, who studied architecture, mass communications and even had a stint in arts school, happily declares that she dropped out of all three and never graduated.

“Can I say that I’m a three-time college dropout?” she laughs. “My mum is a lecturer and she’s proud of me, so I have nothing to hide!”

Farah did accounting and decided to quit after three months of bookkeeping, deciding it was not for her.

Presently, both girls are thriving at what they are passionate about – Farah manages operations and does the accounting, deals with suppliers, deliveries, emails, and Satira takes care of the creative side of things – marketing, social media, PR, and cake designs.

While each team member has specific responsibilities, everyone has a hand in every aspect of the business, to ensure that everyone is able to cope in an emergency.

“Sometimes there’s not enough time or manpower, or when one of us is not well, that’s why it’s important for the whole team to be very versatile and know how to do everything. You have to be an all-rounder,” explains Farah, adding, “That gives us satisfaction and every time we get to be a part of someone’s celebration and they’re happy and they give us amazing feedback about how we made their day, it’s a priceless gift back to us knowing that we made people happy,” adds Farah on what makes them satisfied.