Lim Jee Huey
I am not an interesting person, but my life has been filled with interesting twist and turns, that brought me to where I am today. Born and grew up in Brunei, a country rich in natural resources, I used to think Engineering was the future for me. And there I was, more than 10 years ago, on a plane to Singapore to study Chemical Engineering. How I had imagined my life to be more than 10 years later, was completely different from how I am now. I used to think that I would complete my studies, serve my bond, return to Brunei, work, start a family and live a simple life there. However, after 4 years of studying engineering, including a 6-months internship at one of the renowned refinery, I decided that engineering was not something I see myself doing for the rest of my life. I moved on to do stand-up training, facilitation and took a part-time Master’s degree (fun fact: I then took up a part-time PhD course and dropped out a year later!) that inspired me to move on to do “people work”. I landed in a HR job where I persevered for more than 7 years. I grew up much in those 7 years, learnt much about life, got married, have kids and learnt to juggle between work and family.
What I did not realise during those times was that I was also juggling to keep up with my passion, something that I liked to do even in those early days in my old home in Brunei where I had no oven or mixer in the house. My first baking book was “Cookies for dummies” and I love it so much! I would mix cookie/ cake batter by hand, and used a large steel wok to bake by dry heating with fire on the stove, like my dad always said how my mum had done it when she was still around, and how she was still able to produce super delicious food! I improvised with whatever was in the house, and whatever ingredients I could get my hands on. I would bake for hours, sometimes late into the night, as I could only bake 10 cookies each time, checking for doneness time and again, as I did not have a thermometer to check the actual baking temperature. My friends used to ask if it was worth the effort, and my answer would be, yes! I enjoyed having family and friends tasted my bakes, and then asked for more! I also love it that my bakes and food brings people together. When I started to work and earn $$, I had the resources to buy new kitchen tools, buy quality ingredients and try new things. On shopping trips, I realised that I would spend more time and $$ in the kitchen sections more than anywhere else.
When I started dating and then got married, I made it a point to bake for his birthday and gather friends around every year. And then I made it a point to bake for my family on occasions such as Father’s Day, Mother’s Day as long as I’m around in with them on those occasions. After I had my elder girl, I made it a point to bake for her birthdays every year, each time as fancy as it can get, challenging myself to something new; new recipes, new designs, new methods, etc. When she started childcare at 3, I had to make 2 fancy cakes for her every year! In her first few years, I had done jelly cheesecake, rainbow Peppa Pig, princess castle, Frozen Fever, Mickey and friends sprinkles Kit Kat cake, Rarity doll cake, all these using cream to craft and decorate. In my girl’s 5th year, I finally decided to play around with fondant. My first fondant cake was a two-tier Cars-themed cake for a nephew. It wasn’t perfect but it was good enough for me to feel proud of myself. J So I could actually do it! I started to do more fondant cakes, including a two-tier Trolls-theme cake and a Little Pony-themed rainbow cake for my girl’s home and school celebration. Each time, I would plan the steps in advance since I had to report to work in the day, and then return home to burn the midnight oil to complete my baking project, sometimes as late as 4am or 5am. No complaints about the dark circles, after seeing the glee in the eyes and Wows from those in the house upon seeing the cake that morning. Now that I have a second little girl, more midnight oils for me? Well, not so much, as I am now a proud owner of and a full-time baker of a cupcakery (is there such a word? I don’t care! =p).
How I ended where I am now, also came with much struggle. When my husband (say hi to Hon =p) first asked me if I would consider this business, I was very reluctant. I did not see myself to have the disposition for owning, much less running, a business. I was doing relatively well at my workplace, with good development opportunities and bright career prospects. I was also just posted to a new department, with greater responsibilities and a different set of challenges, an opportunity for me to prove myself at work. What will people think if I quit now? Also, I have always seen baking as a passion, not a business opportunity. I was anxious about turning my passion to work and business. What if I become so $$-minded that I lose my resolute for good and quality baked goods? There were myriad other questions I struggled with. Am I prepared to take the risks? Give up a stable job with a stable income? Will I be able to sustain the business?
I thought through it over numerous sleepless nights and debates with closed ones, and finally decided to take the leap of faith. If not now, when? Life is short. When opportunities come, take a calculated risk and approach it with an open mind (something I need to be reminded of constantly too). Even if I do not succeed (touchwood!), at least I try and know what to do then. To my family, friends and colleagues who encouraged me and who cautioned me of the risks, I very much appreciate your care and concern – thank you so much.
After taking this on, I had moments that made me feel what I’m doing now is right. There was a Saturday when I was delivering customised cupcakes for a branded boutique at Marina Bay Sands. My 5 year old girl was with me, and when we entered a lift with the boxes of cupcakes, an uncle saw the cupcakes over the clear window box and said “oh, that’s very nice. Did you make those?” I said “yes…”, and before I could say anything else, my girl looked at the uncle and proclaimed proudly “My mummy is a baker”. A baker is traditionally not a glamorous occupation, as doctors or engineers would, but at that moment, I actually feel proud! ^^
By now, for those who do not know me, you would realise that I am not the first owner of cuppacakes. Bhawna, Vivek, and even Sangeetha – you people have been a great inspiration. I admire your determination and passion for great and fresh bakes, using the best quality ingredients. Just before I took over ownership of cuppacakes, a friend asked me if your cupcakes were good. I replied sheepishly that I have not tasted it before, and the reaction I got was “What??! You bought this business before trying out to see if the cakes are good?!” I realised she was right to be shocked. I had just reference to the good customer reviews over the web. After all, how bad can it be? When I finally tasted the cupcakes, I can understand where those good reviews came from. It tastes so fresh and home-baked! No baking way in advance, no freezing of cupcakes or batter, no preservatives, and all baked on order using simple and quality ingredients that matters – just like how you would bake at home for loved ones. When I was learning about the recipe, I was also surprised by how little sugar was used, compared to the regular recipes that I have seen. I will aspire to do as well, and even better, you’ll see! =)
Growing up, I wanted to be a lot of things. A pilot, an engineer, a baker and even a tattoo artist. I've always been baking all kinds of things as a kid with my mum. I could never get sick of pastries, cupcakes especially. The question I asked myself every week was, what can I add to my cupcakes this time? That idea of endless creations I could do with cupcakes never left as I grew up. I never really knew what to settle on when the time came. I took up engineering in Temasek Polytechnic as it felt the most right at that time. I graduated from Poly and wanted to take time off before I started my degree. I didn't want to jump straight into an engineering job. I wanted to pursue my other passions while waiting for Uni. So I was in between a lot of jobs, trying to see what I liked doing and what best suited me. I was a waitress at a few restaurants, an assistant, a salesperson and for a couple months, I didn't work as I couldn't find somewhere where I would like working at. I'm glad I did cause that's when I chanced upon an ad saying "Assistant Baker Wanted". I clicked on that link so fast and dialled up that number right away. That's where I met Bhawna and Vivek, the owners of Cuppacakes. The interview went well and I was really eager to start working, something I've never felt with the other jobs that I had. And now, here I am, a baker at Cuppacakes, living out one of my dreams and being happy at my job.