Walk with me. I recall being alerted to the existence of Ply Baked Goods earlier this summer. It’s located at Soo Chow Walk, which is technically just behind such names like Auntie Kim and Ritz Apple Strudel, but little to no footfall means that startups like these could open up and close down without the world ever knowing. Although it was a stone’s throw from where I lived – alright, not exactly, it’s a few bus stops away – I also recall not being excited at all by the prospect of a new cafe. We live in a time where cafes, bakeries and pattiseries are opening all the time, and quite frankly, I was exhausted. If there was any consolidation, it was the reality of the consolidation – where one closes, another takes its place.
Not much is known about Ply Baked Goods, except that we know that it’s the brainchild of 3 friends neither of which, has a background in baking. Nevertheless, their passion for baking culminated in a product that is surprisingly diverse and well thought out. There are a wide variety of cakes available, ranging from the regal Earl Grey Tiramisu and the exotic Royal Chempedak, to the favorite Bailey’s Irish Cream.
Pastries haven’t been left out either, with classics like the Lemon Meringue Tart and the one I recognize from BBC’s Great British Bake-Off, Dacquoise. With every cake there must be a cup of good coffee, and the 3 wise individuals have cleverly acknowledged their weakness in the area by compensating the cafe with a stock of trusty Illy’s. It might not be “indie”, but you know you’re gonna get a good cup of jo’ with Illy’s. Darren and I each ordered something we kind of wanted – he got the Earl Grey Tiramisu, and I, the Hazlenut Dacquoise. If you love tiramisu as I do, you might be disappointed. You don’t get a lot of the tiramisu essentials here like finger biscuits, mascarpone cheese, cocoa powder or coffee. No liqueur here either. What does come out is the ubiquitous Earl Grey itself, which is kinda nice.
I must confess not knowing how a dacquoise tastes like, but I kinda liked this too. It was like a chocolatety Kinder Bueno. I’ve read many reviews that haven’t been too kind to this cake, but I have seen Great British Bake-Off and there’s a reason why the dacquoise was set as a “technical challenge” in the show. It’s not easy to make, and the skill here is really befitting of the level across all other bakes available.
My biggest problem however, is that the cakes are too perfect. Well, what do I mean? Everything is too calculated, too precise, and too measured.
It’s almost as if these cakes were baked in the kitchens of the Marina Bay Sands or Goodwood Park Hotel, and somehow made their way here. Now, I’m sure you’ve had hotel buffets. The food’s good, let’s not deny, but there’s something missing. I believe that “missing ingredient” is passion – I believe food is a reflection of passion, and hotels, with their large kitchens serving the sole purpose of serving a function rather than satiating palates, exemplifies this. Ultimately, there’s a sense of cautioned sterility and unfeeling practicality that permeates across the cakes. I don’t know what went so “right” with Ply Baked Goods. We enjoy the “indie” not because they’re doing things “right”, but because we feel the passion, in all its perfections and imperfections.