A scroll through Kek & Co’s Instagram is a mouthwatering experience. Each delectable cake is colourful, adorned with intricate decorations, promising an an explosion of flavours.
The two Malaysians who started the company – Satira Diana Borhannuddin, 35, and Farah Melissa Aniah, 30 – are as polished and impeccably made-up as their creations. For our photo session, they are dressed in Thavia, a local fashion brand by Tengku Chanela Jamidah.
Satira and Farah have been in the baking business for over eight years. Once, they were rivals – Satira was the founder of Pearl Cakes Events, Farah was the owner of Raindough. But they also helped each other by sharing customers.
“We knew each other through the industry. It’s was a small scene and we had mutual friends,” Satira says. “We would push orders to each other, discuss problems we faced as bakers… Back then, it was new for people our age to dominate the cake industry.”
“At the time, there wasn’t a cake scene and awareness about cake artistry wasn’t great. So, I approached Farah to partner up,” she adds. “I knew our skills were different. Her focus is on baking, mine is on decorating. Farah agreed, and now it’s been three years.”
Since the women formed Kek & Co, they have seen a steady growth in popularity. With a new base and a team of permanent and part-time staff, they have expanded their collection of cakes, dessert tables and gift boxes. Their Instagram posts have over 100,000 followers.
“We get celebrities, politicians, corporate orders… Everything is custom decorated. Our brand is spread through word of mouth and social media, so if we have a certain client from high society, we tend to get others too as they talk about it,” Satira says.
With a few pictures and some keywords, these two ladies say they can create a cake for any occasion. “It comes with experience, putting things together,” Satira says. “People who appreciate custom designs will appreciate the time and effort we go through to make a cake.”
Kek & Co has a notably higher price tag compared to other bakers – their cakes cost up to RM6,000. It’s a criticism they’re aware, but have chosen to stick to their guns. “We are very firm with where we stand,” Satira says.
She adds, “We are on the higher side, but that comes with us having experience because we started at the beginning of the artisinal cake scene in KL. Apart from our artistry, it’s also having eight years of experience in being solution providers.
“For example, you deliver a cake and something happens. We make sure the cake is fixed. We are equipped with the experience to fix it compared to newer bakers. So, you are also paying for that service, the expertise, the insurance…”
From flowers to Game Of Thrones inspired characters to figurines based on real people, Kek & Co’s decorations are top notch. But the fan favourite is their Unicorn cake.
When the unicorn trend exploded in 2017, the women decided to cash in and conduct workshops for it. They held classes locally and travelled to Bangkok, Sydney and Singapore to give demonstrations as well. In the workshops, Farah does the baking and frosting, Satira does the decorating.
“Our brand is not just known in Malaysia, it’s known worldwide,” Satira says. “The majority of our fans are in Malaysia, but we are also followed by many in Australia, Britain and Russia. We’ve been invited to many countries and there’s almost always a unicorn class.”
“Being overseas opened our minds to what it’s like to have a business in other countries,” Farah adds. “We realised how lucky we are. We have access to a lot more materials and supplies, things you can get at a supermarket.”
Away from the oven, the women also collaborate with local fashion brands on festive gift boxes. Kek & Co has worked with designers like Yadotsa, Alia Bastamam and My Apparel Zoo to use their prints on their cake packaging.
“For example, before Hari Raya, they will share a peek of their prints, we’ll ask about their collection, and figure out whether it’s something workable for us, to translate to our cakes and packaging,” Satira says. “We help to promote each other.”
Kek & Co seems to work best on the merging of skills and personalities, especially between its two founders. Farah studied accounting but quit after three months of bookkeeping when she finally realised it wasn’t for her.
Satira studied architecture, mass communications and had a stint in arts school – she dropped out of all three and never graduated. “Can I say that I’m a three-time college dropout?” she laughs. “My mum is a lecturer and she’s proud of me, so I have nothing to hide.”
In Kek & Co, Farah manages the operations and accounting, deals with suppliers and deliveries, and goes through the emails, while Satira takes care of the marketing, social media, publicity and designs.
Each member of the company has a specific responsibility but everyone has a hand in all aspects of the business, they say. It’s to ensure that all of them are able to cope in an emergency.
“Sometimes there’s not enough time or manpower, or when one of us is not well, it’s important for the whole team to be versatile and know how to do everything. You have to be an all-rounder,” Farah explains.
“That gives us satisfaction, and every time we get to be a part of someone’s celebration and they’re happy and they give us amazing feedback about how we made their day, it’s a priceless gift back to us knowing that we made people happy,” she says.