PETALING JAYA: Decked in her customised Real Sweet Treats apron, 22-year-old pastry chef Renee Soliano Tan Guat Po works deftly at her kitchen counter, adding a touch of sprinkles to the mountain of cupcakes she baked earlier.
Neatly laid out on the smooth wooden countertop is an eye-catching array of other treats she whipped up – cupcakes frosted in dreamy buttercream colours, luscious handcrafted chocolates too beautiful to eat and a batch of freshly baked cookies, its heavenly aroma still lingering in the air.
She slices a Passion Coconut Cupcake in half, revealing a golden, gooey centre of citrus-sweet flavours that will knock you off your feet.
So too the Rose Cupcake secretly hiding a strawberry puree centre ensconced in almond cake and topped with swiss meringue buttercream.
Welcome to Real Sweet Treats, where unique flavours are mixed and matched to produce some of the most mouth-watering and unexpectedly sinful creations.
“My entire family are great cooks. My mother would fill the whole house with the heavenly smell of her freshly baked cookies and my sister is a pastry chef too.
“They were my inspiration to take a diploma in culinary arts, after which I took the leap to specialise in pastry,” Renee told FMT.
Real Sweet Treats began in 2015 as a side gig for Renee when she baked cupcakes for her family, friends and for bake sales.
These days, she balances baking for Real Sweet Treats with her day job as a pastry chef at the upmarket Starhill Gallery in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur.
The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent Movement Control Orders, unfortunately, led to a pay cut and alternate work weeks, but the silver lining for Renee was that she had more time to focus on Real Sweet Treats.
“Before Instagram became the go-to place for home bakers, I depended solely on word-of-mouth for new orders and business opportunities. It eventually paid off because my clientele now includes Malayan Banking Bhd and AIG Malaysia.”
Before her business boomed, Renee was selling one or two cakes a week. Now, she has her own stock list and in July alone, fulfilled orders for 30 mini cakes and 15 boxes of brownies.
Cakes and cookies aside, Renee has started on a new project – creating delicious handcrafted chocolates in her kitchen.
She says many people are unaware of how much time and effort goes into creating handcrafted chocolates. The work is tedious – buffing the moulds, tempering the chocolate and making the filling – but the finished product is heavenly.
She also only uses good quality chocolate such as Valrhona and Callebaut in all her creations.
“It’s not just about the price, using this chocolate gives me the satisfaction of knowing that the cocoa beans are harvested properly. Making these chocolates is a time-consuming process but the end result is so satisfying.”
Her handcrafted chocolates come in four flavours – matcha, raspberry cheesecake, chewy caramel and passion fruit – each one painstakingly painted by hand.
Another crowd pleaser is her strawberry vanilla tarts and dark chocolate hazelnut tarts.
Renee tells FMT a new tart creation will debut next month – calamansi – a refreshing flavour to counter Malaysia’s hot weather.
Renee says there is no shortage of ideas when it comes to developing new flavours for her sweet treats because every member of the Tan household has a different palate that she tries to please.
Her boyfriend loves lemon treats, her mother cannot resist dark chocolate and her brothers clamour for her chocolate.
“My mother is my number one critic and she gives amazingly helpful comments. My brothers are voracious eaters but can be very blunt with their feedback,” she laughs.
Located next to the kitchen is Renee’s storage room, where all her baking supplies are meticulously stored.
Smelling deliciously like chocolate, the shelves are filled with bottles of sprinkles in every colour, chocolate moulds, slabs of imported chocolate and baking supplies of every kind imaginable.
What does the future hold for Renee?
Well, this enterprising young woman dreams of opening up her own baking studio some day, supplying cakes to cafés.
“You may not have noticed, the name Real Sweet Treats comes from my initials,” she says with a cheeky wink.
You can look up Real Sweet Treats on Renee’s Instagram account or you can reach out to her at 0172182860.