You know D9 Cakery for its signature Hilton cheesecake but new Executive Pastry Chef Cindy Khoo is hoping to put her fresh-from-the-oven, wander-lusting confections on the map and into the shopping list of the bakery’s regulars.
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The 27-year-old up-and-comer blends her love for travel, aesthetics and baking into one giant globe of 14 new colourful creations worth celebrating about, and celebrating with. The cities she’s chosen to take a cue from are Paris and Tokyo, two major melting pots that Cindy Khoo frequents and loves.
The Ma-Chakura Azuki is a perfect example of how this young chef utilises her French pastry-making techniques to achieve lighter Japanese flavours. The bitter-sweet dream is constructed using matcha Joconde sponge, Azuki bean infused with sakura flower and matcha-infused mousse, all shaped to look like the gentle folds of a Geisha’s kimono and obi, which caught a young Khoo’s eye during a trip to Japan when she was little.
But perhaps her most visually stunning piece of cake that’s now available at D9 Cakery is the Royal Hazel. The engineering graduate-turned-baking champ has found a way to defy gravity by building a chocolate cake that looks like an upside down fountain — more or less. Its majestic gold-dusted chocolate topper mirrors the topsy-turvy splashes of water and is said to be a quasi-reflection of the Fontaines de la Concorde, two monumental fountains located in the Place de la Concorde at the heart of Paris. But the real icing on the cake is what’s inside: Super smooth and rich Gianduja spread combined with premium Valrhona chocolate that’s mixed between layers of crispy feuilletine.
If you’re a fan of coffee cakes, then the Mandarin Cafe is a must-try. It’s tiramisu-like but more mousse-y with coffee and chocolate-infused cream mixed with tiny confit orange layered between sponge cakes. As for the inspiration behind this creation, it’s one that is closer to home. Cindy Khoo admits, “The Mandarin Cafe was inspired by my dad as he enjoys coffee and does not like desserts that are overly sweet.”
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Here, she answers other burning questions we have about her new appointment as one of the youngest executive pastry chefs in Singapore.
Tell us more about the infamous signature Hilton cheesecake and how important was it to keep that on the menu even with the launch of your new dessert collection?
The Hilton Cheesecake has been a firm favourite with so many of our guests over the years — some of them were even able to tell when we tweaked the recipe slightly a few years ago. It’s such an integral part of our identity and the thought of taking it out of our collection never even crossed our minds.
What grade saxophonist are you and what has playing that instrument taught you?
I played the saxophone for close to seven years after picking it up in the symphonic band when I was in school. Music still remains a source of peace and positivity for me. It helps me to calm down and be more focused.
Also, how has going to engineering school affected your work?
I believe my background in engineering has helped me to develop a sense of aesthetic and trained me to be more precise and detail-oriented in how I create my desserts. It has also been extremely useful when it is time for me to construct my chocolate showpieces for Christmas or Easter.
You said you watched your mom make more traditional cakes when you were younger, does she still make them now and what does she think of your more avant-garde cakes?
She tends to cook more instead of baking cakes since I’m now the professional in the family. Whenever she wants to eat a sweet treat, I’ll always try my best to satisfy her dessert cravings. I’ve been fortunate that both my parents have been very supportive of my career throughout the years despite the long hours, and are continuously giving me ideas and feedback. They were almost as excited about the new collection as I was!
With Mid-Autumn Festival coming up, tell us: Do you prefer traditional-flavoured mooncakes or more modern renditions?
I love looking at the designs of modern mooncakes and trying out the various interesting flavour combinations, but traditional mooncakes will always have a special place in my heart. They remind me of the time spent with my grandparents and of the feeling of family and togetherness that is so representative of the festival.
What off-the-beaten-track activity would you recommend to do at Paris and Tokyo?
When visiting a new place, the first thing I would definitely check out would be the various pastry and dessert places as opposed to the usual tourist attractions. I love to learn about the different pastry techniques used as well as to try all the beautiful desserts – by Pâtisserie Michalak and Café Pouchkine in Paris as well as Un Grain in Tokyo to name a few. I also like to wander around exploring a new city without having any fixed itinerary in mind as you never know when something interesting is around the corner.
Give us three tips on how to live “a sweet life”.
1. Love what you do, do what you love
2. Live with no regrets
3. Stay positive!