Alden Boon

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



Take us through the process of making a jelly cake.

The first step is cooking the jelly, or what I call the clear canvas. This is in fact the most important step. If it is not on point, then all the piped artworks will turn out distorted and the final product will not resemble a glass ornament. It involves mixing the gelatin powder in a pot of water, and then letting it bloom. After ten minutes, turn up the heat and boil the mixture. Remove the foam on the surface to reveal a very clear liquid. Next, add in the sugar and flavouring essence and continue cooking over low heat. Flavouring essence tends to leave a bitter aftertaste, so it is important to let it evaporate fully. After which, pour the mixture through a sieve and into a food-grade clear container and let cool. The purpose of using a clear container is so that you can check your work as you go along.

Next is the piping stage: you’re actually doing it upside down. I usually get my students to reference my artworks. Flowers are also the easiest motif for beginners. First, you insert the needle straight down to form the style of the flower. This serves as the middle marker. Then, insert the needle at a slanting angle and go around it in a clockwise direction to form the petals.

As somebody who isn’t that dexterous, the piping step is stress inducing to me.

Many students during my live classes are fearful of this step because they feel they are not artistically inclined or do not have a creative mind. But what I teach them is to approach it from a technical way. ‘Don’t overthink it; just go’ is my motto. It’s what I always say: the jelly will reflect your fear. It’s all about being confident and taking decisive strokes. If your hands tremble, you will make many cuts in the jelly. The flower will become ragged.

While this is your own business, doing the same thing day in day out can get repetitive. How do you keep things fresh for yourself?

I come up with themed creations for different occasions. I’m constantly looking to improve myself, and I take inspiration from different things such as flowers and even cream cakes: I look at their colours and designs to see how I can incorporate them into a jelly cake. I’d also experimented with different flavours, such as popcorn and chocolate – those did not taste good. There were instances where customers requested certain colour combinations that in my mind would not work. But when I started working on the cake, I was surprised by how well the colours complemented one another. And this colour palette became inspiration for my next design. Such discoveries keep things exciting for me — otherwise, like you said, there is no joy in doing the same thing every day.

What keeps you happy?

The satisfaction comes when customers send me ‘thank you’ messages. ‘Oh, my grandmother didn’t dare to cut into the cake because the fish looked so realistic, and she didn’t want to chop off its head!’ ‘The flowers were not hollow, and they’re cross sectional!’ ‘My loved one was smiling the whole day; it was the best birthday ever.’ Comments like these make my day.  Sometimes they go over my head — that a creation of mine can bring so much joy to someone. Nevertheless, I’m grateful when customers appreciate my works. Being able to be a small part of their celebrations gives me immense satisfaction. This is why I feel a sense of responsibility to give every cake my best effort, and to put love into it. Also, one of my greatest joys is seeing my students acquire skills that empower them to create their own side hustles. Some of them in fact have set up their own businesses, and are able to earn money and help out with their families’ finances.

You bring beauty to the world with your jelly cakes. How has Superbloom beautified your life?

When I was in the sales line, I was a very impatient person. Everything was fast paced. I wanted things at the snap of my fingers. Growing up, I was a cool-headed person, but those years working in the media industry I lost my temper easily. I’d just shout and shout whenever things didn’t go my way. I didn’t like that side of me. Superbloom has changed me. The most important thing a jelly cake requires is patience. As it is said, art cannot be rushed, and you cannot rush a jelly cake. I’ve become more patient. I’m also a homebody now: I feel Zen and more at peace. And I like that.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Make sure you have some savings that you can fall back on if your business ultimately fails. I just stepped into the burning fire with no savings (laughs). Profit is one key performance indicator, but it is not the only one you should use to measure your success. Look at exposure — how many followers do you have? How many of your products have you sold? Year on year, your numbers should get better. When you’re no longer a new company, your media exposure will ebb, but if you can still maintain your sales, that’s an indication that you are doing well, that you’re not just surviving on hype.

And remember to rest: don’t let an autoimmune disorder or other health problems ruin your life. Take care of yourself. If you are unwell, you cannot take care of others.

Finally, what is your goal?

An ambition of mine is to open a small shop where customers can enjoy sliced jelly cakes along with coffee and other sweets. At the back of the shop is where I can conduct classes for aspiring bakers. This will take time and a whole lot of capital.

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