The Star Malaysia - Star2

Sweet taste of Raya


TO set herself apart from the competitio­n, baker Rina Rahman has to make sure her cakes look unique and distinctiv­e. But when it comes to Hari Raya, she goes back to traditiona­l flavours because “old school cookies are always the most trendy”.

“Good old homemade cookies are still the most popular. You know which is everyone’s favourite? Our cruncy cornflake cookies. You can’t get any more old school than that!” says Rina, who is the founder of Cantek Sekali, a cafe and baking studio in Kuala Terengganu.

Apart from her corn flakes cookies, Rina has added peanut cookies and biskut nyior (coconut cookies) to her Raya selection this year.

“We had a few new types of cookies before but we discovered they were not as popular as the traditiona­l ones. So, apart from the chocoletta cookies which combine chocolate and pecan nuts and sea salt, we are sticking to the classics.

“It’s the same with cakes – the favourites we are selling are Pandan Nisang (Gula Melaka) Cake and the Victoria Sponge,” says the 40-year-old Sabahan.

At the moment, Rina and her team of four have their hands full with Raya orders. Apart from online orders and sales at her cafe, she also has pop-up booths in a couple of malls in Kuala Terengganu.

“We have actually closed orders for Raya. But you know how Malaysians are ... always last minute and every year we have orders coming in just before Raya and my customers know me well enough to realise that I will accomodate their orders as best as I can,” she says, resigned to a busy few days before Raya.

Although Rina has “always liked baking”, starting a dessert business happened by chance, sort of.

She had to relocate to Terengganu when her husband moved there for his business. Jobless and without much else to do, Rina started a food blog.

“The food blog really filled my days ... I was doing something I really enjoyed. I also found a network of bakers with whom I shared recipes and food with,” Rina recalls.

As she got to know more people, she started accepting orders for cakes from friends on an ad-hoc basis, and they literally sold like hot cakes.

In 2009, she decided to start Cantek Sekali, a home-based baking business. Her husband was hesitant about investing in her business but that didn’t put Rina off one bit.

“I took it as a challenge. We had a small oven which my husband had won in a golf tournament and I bought a hand mixer. With that, I started my business.

“Whatever money I made went into tools and baking wares, and slowly my business grew,” shares Rina.

Nine years on, and Rina now has a thriving business.

Last year, she finally moved her business out of her home into a studio and a cafe in Kuala Terengganu town, where she conducts baking classes for adults and children.

She has students flying in from Indonesia, Singapore and all over Malaysia for her classes and her clientele now includes the Terengganu and Pahang royalty.

“I really didn’t know how that happened. When I first got the call from the (Terengganu) palace, I panicked and was in disbelief. I know how to make simple cakes but how am I going to bake a cake for the Sultan? How should it look like?” Rina shares, laughing as she recalls how flustered she was.

She later learnt that the Sultanah was a fan of her Instagram page.

“The power of social media is incredible,” she says, grateful for the “miracles” that have come her way.

Although her schedule is tight right up to Raya, Rina has learnt to keep her home and work life separate.

“When I was baking from home, it was 24/7. But now I have moved the ovens and mixers out of my kitchen, because otherwise I would be tempted to meddle about in the kitchen at midnight. I don’t bake when I am home now,” she says.

Although competitio­n is stiff – there are literally scores of bakers operating online – Rina believes that as long as she maintains the quality of her bakes, the “sky is the limit” for Cantek Sekali.

“I believe that the brand is really marketable. I love the products we are creating and I would love to expand the business, both in terms of our offerings as well as opening another cafe, hopefully,” she says.

 ??  ?? Rina’s students come from as far as Singapore to attend her baking classes in Terengganu.
Rina’s students come from as far as Singapore to attend her baking classes in Terengganu.

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