In sunny Singapore, where we clock one of the world’s longest average working hours, the stress can get a little hard to handle.
That’s why Michelle Tan, 45, and her husband Jeffrey Tan, 49, decided to inject a bit of fun into their cake business. A bit of R21 fun.
This arm of their business, which they aptly named Naughtycakes, focuses on cakes with, well, naughty designs.
Among their risque repertoire of cakes are those showcasing the male anatomy and of a couple getting frisky in bed with the help of some ‘props’, which look like they came right out of Fifty Shades of Grey.
“We joke around a lot when we create our naughty cakes and we have to work our brains hard to come up with creative designs,” said Michelle.
And yet, the couple did not start out creating raunchy confection.
How the journey began
In 2011, they set up Mei Yu Cakes, a shop along Bendemeer Road which sells only cakes with conventional 3D designs, such as those of cars, dinosaurs and castles. They were ahead of the game even then, as 3D cakes were not the norm yet.
But one day they received an unusual request – a cake with a cheeky design.
“I am a very open person, so I was okay with it. But it was an absolute no for my husband,” said Michelle.
While baking might be in her husband’s blood, having been born into a family of bakers, being cheeky is not.
Michelle, who is in charge of the sales and marketing aspects of the business, claims to be the more daring of the two.
“Convincing him to accept orders for adult cake designs was the most difficult part of the journey,” she shared.
Each time such a request came in, she would take the opportunity to convince her husband to give it a shot.
“I kept telling him that his mindset needed to change, that the market was changing and that we needed to adapt to grow our sales. If we didn’t take these orders on, other cake shops might,” she said.
“Personally, I feel that Singapore is quite a stressful place to live in, and since customers are coming to us for help in creating such designs to add a bit of fun to their parties, why shouldn’t we?”
After a year of convincing her husband, he finally relented and they added a “naughty cake” tab on their main Mei Yu Cakes website. They now receive up to five “naughty cake” requests a month, ever since they turned down the first request two years ago.
Making it official
Earlier this year, they decided to separate their naughty line of cakes from the conventional ones they sell, setting up the website Naughtycakes.
As many of Mei Yu Cakes’ customers are corporates and families, the couple was worried that some might be offended by the cheeky designs. It also limited the type of designs they could showcase on their main website to the less provocative ones.
She used the Shoptiq platform to set up the website, which is less costly as compared to creating a customised website from scratch.
“The Shoptiq customer service team was very helpful in advising me on how to set up the website. The whole process was fuss-free, and took me about one to two months. This is half the time it took me to set up my main Mei Yu Cakes website,” she said.
These days, Naughtycakes receives about five to eight orders a week. Her customers are in their 20s to 40s, and are usually buying the cake for a birthday celebration.
The most requested naughty cake design is of the male anatomy, though a cake in the shape of a woman’s voluptuous chest is also popular.
While business is good, challenges remain.
The couple faces competition from home bakers who are able to charge lower prices as they have less overheads. Getting the word out about their website has also been difficult as they are not active social media users.
Happy customers – the icing on the cake
But venturing into creating naughty designs for their cakes has been fun.
“These days I even try to put myself in my customers’ shoes and think about how the design can be made more interesting,” said Michelle.
She often receives photos and messages of thanks from satisfied customers who tell her how surprised their friends were when they saw the cakes and what a good laugh they had together.
“Seeing them so happy makes me feel happy as well,” she said.
When asked if she would create a naughty cake for her son – who is now six years old and the couple’s only child – when he turns 21, Michelle said yes without hesitation.
“I rather do it than have someone else do it, she said. “I want him to know his parents are open-minded, that he can talk to us about anything.”
For Michelle, being open-minded is the key to success – both in family life and business.