China’s landmark new architecture may be impressing the rest of the world but its cake delivery companies are still lurching along at bicycle pace. A small price to pay, perhaps in the grand process of modernization. But in China, every office birthday, every promotion, every family homecoming means a cake – often a huge one. But it’s more of a ritual than anything. The cakes look spectacular, but coated as they are in a layer of artificially coloured, thickened and flavoured vegetable oil – what some dub ‘Frankenstein’s Cream’ – the flavour is nothing to write home about.
Fitting then that China’s first luxury cake maker should mirror the sharp modern lines of the new architecture. But if the shape was the only difference 21 Cake offered it wouldn’t justify the 21st century prices. ‘It’s easy to fool the eyes,’ says Yao Yu, co founder and director of marketing. ‘Not so much the tongue. And not the body.’

21 Cakes

see more of what sweet delights are on offer from 21 Cakes
Yao Yu spent several years living and working in London, and was astonished by the care and craftsmanship that went into European cake making. Returning to China, the idea for 21 Cakes was to make cakes that were as much a pleasure to eat as they were to look at. Not merely using fresh ingredients, but the best ones possible. Which means real Belgian chocolate, American hazelnuts and cherries and New Zealand kiwis. All the fruit used is organic. As is the cream and dairy products, which are imported from New Zealand.
The organic ethos was actually an afterthought, inspired by the sudden death from cancer of Yao Yu’s father. Her family blamed the pollution being pumped into local water sources by nearby factories. ‘We decided it was better to inspire than complain,’ says Yao Yu. The name ‘21 Cakes’ refers to the number of grams famously shed by the body on the moment of death. The weight of the soul.
The company believes strongly in creativity and has begun trying to recreate famous flavours in cake such as their Irish coffee cake which includes a layer of jelly made from real Jameson’s whiskey, as well as classics such as Tiramisu and many of their own creation featuring classic Chinese flavours, such as durian fruit cheesecakes.
Yao Yu et al also regularly meet their customers who register with them online to test new flavours on them and look for suggestions. ‘The idea is that if you can imagine it, we can make it into a cake. Or at least we will one day,’ says Yao Yu.