Alden Boon

Superbloom Founder Sylvia Ramlal on Making Dreamy Jelly Cakes, Handling Burnout and Finding Satisfaction


An unexpected job loss turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Sylvia Ramlal. During her downtime, she discovered an interest in making jelly cakes, and that interest would eventually become a viable business idea. Despite having no experience in the food and beverage industry, she went on to set up Superbloom, where she doles out gorgeous jelly cakes. In the cakes are encased hyper-realistic and three-dimensional flowers — such as peonies, sunflowers, roses, dahlias and daisies — and koi fish. Sylvia shares more about inspiration, fatigue and satisfaction in this story.

Sylvia, before Superbloom, what did you work as?

For about four cumulative years, I took on an account management role in a large company and later at a small media production agency. My primary job scope included the planning and running of media advertisements. My team and I worked with the clients to plan strategies and activations throughout all the phases of the campaigns.

Did you enjoy your job?

I loved it. There was a sense of accomplishment after every campaign — I was part of the crew that helped brands bring their activations to life. We worked hard for months just to make a one-night event happen, and when the public’s feedback is positive, it’s a tremendous feeling. Our efforts also helped our clients to increase their sales. I challenged myself to consistently hit my target and beyond. I also enjoyed the problem-solving aspect of the job.

Stress is of course part and parcel of any job, and it does take a mental toll. Even when we were on holidays, we brought along our laptops and worked, because we felt a responsibility to ensure that the campaigns would run smoothly. Because of the hectic nature of the job, there were times when I forgot to eat. I didn’t sleep well: work was constantly on my mind. Almost every weeknight, before sleep, I could be nicely tucked in my bed and I would suddenly jerk because I thought I had forgotten to complete a task. I’d then run and flip open my file to check. Or I’d get paranoid that an important email was stuck in the outbox. As a result of the stress, sleep deficiency and poor lifestyle choices, my health deteriorated. I developed an autoimmune disorder that still affects me today.

How debilitating is this disorder?

Because my immunity system is down, if I’m near someone who’s sick, I’ll catch the illness very quickly. And my cells don’t regenerate as quickly, so I take a longer time to recover and I need to be on medications. Now, I take extremely good care of myself. In the past, I would get frequent bouts of fever. There were random attacks of kidney and liver inflammations. My eczema flare-ups and rashes didn’t heal properly. One Monday during a highly stressful sales meeting, I had a nosebleed. Everyone was shocked. Acting on the advice of my doctor, I quit my job at the large firm as my body just couldn’t keep up with the stressful work environment anymore.

Sylvia Superbloom Jelly Cake Singapore Home-based Business-1174

What happened after that?

For a year, I worked at the smaller media production agency, and had a smaller workload. Circa January 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was laid off as the firm said it couldn’t afford to have me onboard. Industry wide, there was a hiring freeze. The few companies that were hiring wanted me to take on the title of an account manager. I would have been fine with the demotion, but I had to take a huge pay cut. It’s not so much a pride thing. You see, the culture in Singapore is such that hiring managers only look at your last paid salary when deciding your pay package — they don’t always consider your skills or experience or what you can bring to the table. So, had I agreed to this pay cut just to tide over, it would be difficult for me to eventually climb back to my previous income. I couldn’t find a job; I wallowed in self-pity for about a month or so. Everything changed in a heartbeat, everything except my bills. And I was quite the spendthrift back then, so I didn’t have any savings to fall back on (laughs).

At which point did Superbloom begin to take shape?

I wanted to surprise my grandmother, who is an avid baker, with a cake for her birthday. I chanced upon a jelly cake online and I was wowed by its aesthetics. I started with cheap and low-quality syringes and needles. Being naturally good with handicrafts, I picked up the skill of manoeuvring rather quickly. The first one turned out pretty well, except for the overpowering coconutty flavour. All told, before launching my business, I made at least fifty cakes in one month. I’m a Virgoan, hence I’m a perfectionist, and I’m also a designer by training. Jelly cakes are all about the detail, so I tend to nit-pick my creations a lot. My family, my friends and their friends stepped up as taste testers — they have eaten so many that now they can no longer eat one. Their compliments and constant asking about my official launch date gave me the assurance that the jelly cakes were up to standard. And since I had no job offer, I thought: ‘Why not just take this leap of faith and see what happens?’ I’ve not looked back ever since.

Read: SGBrisketKitchen Founder Jayce Ho on the Joys and Pains of Smoking Meats and Entrepreneurship

Pages: 1 2 3


Alden Boon
Alden Boon is a Quarter-finalist in PAGE International Screenwriting Awards. When he's not busy writing, he pretends he is Gandalf.