Everyday, Rina Rahman sets herself apart from other bakers by making sure her desserts are distinctive. For Hari Raya, however, she goes back to tradition because “old school cookies are always the most trendy”.
“Good homemade cookies are still the most popular,” says Rina, the founder of Cantek Sekali, a cafe and baking studio in Kuala Terengganu. “Everyone’s favourite is our crunchy cornflakes cookies. You can’t get more old school than that!”
This year, the 40-year-old Sabahan has added peanut biscuits and biskut nyior (coconut biscuits) to her Aidilfitri selection.
“We had a few new cookies before, but they were not as popular as the traditional ones. So, apart from the chocoletta which combine chocolate, pecans and sea salt, we are sticking to the classics,” she says. “It’s the same with cakes. The favourites are pandan nisang (gula Melaka) and Victoria Sponge cakes.”
Rina and her team of four certainly have their hands full with Hari Raya orders. She has online orders, cafe sales and pop-up booths at a couple of Kuala Terengganu malls to cater to.
“We have actually closed orders for Raya, bit you know how Malaysians are, always last minute. Every year we have orders coming in just before Raya, and my customers know me well enough to realise I will accommodate them as best as I can,” she says.
Rina had “always liked baking” but starting a dessert company happened by chance. Her husband had to move to Terengganu for work and she was left jobless after they relocated. So, she set up a food blog.
“The blog really filled my days. I was doing something I really enjoyed, and I found a network of bakers whom I shared recipes and food with,” she says.
As her connections grew, she began taking orders from friends and her desserts sold like hot cakes. In 2009, she set up her home-based baking business, Cantek Sekali. Though her husband was hesitant about investing in the company, Rina wasn’t put off one bit.
“I took it as a challenge,” she says. “We had a small oven that he 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.”
Nine years later and Cantek Sekali is thriving. In 2017, Rina moved her work into a proper cafe/studio in Kuala Terengganu where she conducts baking classes for adults and kids. She has students from Singapore, Indonesia and all over Malaysia. Her clientele even includes Terengganu and Pahang royalty.
“I didn’t know how that happened!” Rina shares, laughing at how flustered she was. “When I got the call from the (Terengganu) palace, I panicked. I was in disbelief. I know how to make simple cakes, but how was I going to bake a cake for the Sultan? How should it look like?”
She learnt it was the Sultana who was a fan of her Instagram page. “The power of social media is incredible,” Rina says, grateful for the “miracles” that have come her way.
Although her Aidilfitri schedule is tight, Rina has managed to keep her job and her personal life separate. “I don’t bake when I am home now,” she says. “When I was baking from home, it was 24/7. Now, I have moved the ovens and mixers out of my kitchen. Otherwise I would be tempted to meddle about at midnight.”
Rina believes that as long as she maintains the quality of her bakes, the “sky is the limit” for Cantek Sekali. “I believe the brand is marketable. I love the products we create and I would love to expand the business in terms of offerings and opening another cafe,” she says.