Colourful pastel flowers, a pair of cute bunnies and the name of some lucky person whose birthday is being celebrated in big and bold lettering – all perched on a wobbly square – looking both festive and delicious.
The texture of this cake might look like that of a sugar-coated buttercream cake, but the KBSH bakery’s cakes are all made entirely of jelly.
Once considered just a retro dessert, now instragramable jelly cakes are making a comeback for birthday celebrations in the Kingdom. This traditional and universal dessert never fades in popularity and only keeps improving in presentation.
These cakes come courtesy of Kok Sothyra, who quit her job in the tourism industry, turned herself into a pastry chef and started teaching people how to make eye-pleasing desserts including jelly cakes.
“By the end of 2014, I quit my job and at first I opened a modern laundry. At the time I had a lot of people working for me so that gave me more free time and I came across jelly cakes while scrolling on my phone,” Sothyra tells The Post.
“I saw a jelly cake in a display case with a cute little duck on it. I was impressed and I searched for more information on how I could learn to make them myself and I found someone in Thailand who gave lessons and I went straight to their house for a one day lesson, one-on-one.”
She continued to learn online from her teacher in Thailand until she mastered the jelly arts. Now that she’s opened her bakery she specialises in jelly creations and so far customers have been enthusiastic about the concept.
Most Cambodians are more familiar with cakes made from flour with cream frosting and find her jelly cakes to be a nice change of pace. They are also popular among those who don’t have a sweet tooth but would still like a dessert option, just one with less sugar.
“Customers tell me the taste is delicious and one said that their granny loves it so much they are ordering it for her every week now. We are getting a lot of repeat business,” Sothyra says.
She founded KBSH bakery (Kiri Baitong Bakery Supply House) in 2015, at first only selling jelly cakes but later also offering affordable courses on making jelly cakes to people who are interested in learning the skills.
Sothyra had a lot of people contacting her and telling her that they wanted to learn, but some of them were abroad and some were in the provinces or just too busy with work and household chores to travel to her bakery.
Sothyra decided to go online with her jelly cake courses, especially now in light of Covid-19, but she actually began offering them in 2018. Her students don’t have to travel and it also allows her to charge lower fees.
“I just created a private group chat and I send videos of the lessons to the group. This gives people all of the detailed lessons I’ve prepared and allows them to learn at their own pace whenever they have spare time. I cover everything from ingredients to recipes to basic and advanced techniques,” Sothyra says.
She also sells supplies and ingredients that her students might not be able to easily source for themselves elsewhere.
“The students try things out on their own and then I will be there to help them with any mistakes until they can confidently do it all on their own. Right now I have ten different groups with different lessons,” she says.
Sothyra believes that Cambodians haven’t quite gotten the hang of online studying yet and are still adapting to this new method of learning. Some students chat to her before trying the lessons and express their doubts about being able to learn effectively this way.
She says she typically responds by sending them sample videos and a trailer that highlights some of the things that her students have created by following her lessons, reminding them that unlike YouTube they can be sure that she’ll cover every piece of information they need to know and furthermore they’ll have access to her to ask questions and get help any time they need it.
“If you are still wondering about anything or want to ask questions you can message me anytime. I will personally answer every message that is sent to me,” she says.
The jelly cake courses are $100 per session. If patrons want access to all three jelly cake courses, the price is only $150. Other courses cost $50, such as the banana cupcakes course and more
“I teach because I want Cambodians to have delicious food that is affordable. I also want to share these skills with women who are considering running their own businesses. They don’t need to own a shop – all they need to do is make delicious food and then sell it online,” she says.
Out of the ten courses currently available, three of them are for charitable purposes with all proceeds donated to Kantha Bopha children’s hospital.
As for the cakes she’s selling online, the price of jelly cakes starts from $20. Other cakes range from $1 to $5 depending on the type and the packaging.
“I want to tell anyone reading this – and especially housewives – don’t limit yourselves because each person’s ability is unlimited as long as you work hard. Anyone can do this to earn extra money to support their family. You need to be patient, though, because food-related businesses are all about retaining customers over time. Always keep trying – if you try once and fail, then try again,” Sothyra says.
For more information go to KBSH bakery’s Facebook page @kbshbakery.