Stephen Goh opens the fridge and points to stacks of tubs of creamy Philadelphia cheese.
Four have slipped and landed on oranges and lemons. Alongside is a bottle of Innocent juice and a branch of fresh pandan, a Southeast Asian plant that Stephen and his wife use in their cakes and rolls.
“Look here, we use Philadelphia cheese,” says Stephen proudly, pointing to the tubs.
At Traditional Asian Cake, based on the ground floor of St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre, Stephen and his business partner and wife Vivian sell wobbly Japanese cheesecakes.
Theirs don’t stick to the more traditional recipes, though.
To make the treat their own, they tried out different ingredients, testing different kinds of butter and flours and cheeses.
They settled, for the cheese, on creamy Philadelphia.
And the price isn’t high, says Stephen. “It’s €5.80 for a mini, which is two and a half inches.”
Meanwhile, €14 gets you a larger wobbly cheesecake. “Which is six inches,” says Stephen.
If you buy five cakes, rolls or tarts, you get one for free, he says, pointing to a red bubble that says: “BUY 5 FREE 1” in white on a tall menu.
“Yes, it wobbles. Let me show you,” says Stephen, reaching for his phone.
He pulls up a video shared on the bakery’s Facebook page in December 2018. It shows four Japanese cheesecakes bobbing on their plates. They are shaped like classic sponge cakes. But they jiggle.
“Especially when they first come out of the oven, they wobble,” says Stephen.
Back in the kitchen, Vivian watches a big bubbling bowl of cheese for the tarts on a tiny black stove and wrestles with dough for the rolls.
Stephen drops a long matcha-infused roll of dough on the counter.
The matcha powder they use is imported from Japan, says Vivian, who is now stirring the cheese.
“Belgian chocolate,” says Stephen, a few minutes later, showing a pack of Callebaut chocolate he has brought from the back of the kitchen.
Stephen and Vivian want people to know that they use quality ingredients because they want to bake things at Traditional Asian Cake that they can be proud of.
The couple opened it in August 2018, just eight months after settling in Ireland together.
“Two zero one eight,” says Stephen, sitting on a high chair at the table near the kitchen. “We decided to bring our products back because my wife, she’s an Irish citizen.”
On their menu, wobbly Japanese cheesecake is a showstopper, says Stephen.
“Our customers always compare it to the cheesecake from Japan. The feedback is that they think this is much better,” says Stephen.
“It’s love at first bite,” he says, chuckling.
To Be Proud Of
While Stephen shows off the cheesecake, one of his workers, a young woman sporting a ponytail, opens the freezer and fills the oven tray with colourful Japanese cheese tarts.
They freeze the tarts before baking them because the fresh sagging dough doesn’t work well with tarts. “Everything else we put [straight] in the oven,” says Stephen.
They use a three-decker oven too. “You can’t find it here. It’s imported from Germany,” he says, pointing to the spacious empty top deck.
The Japanese cheese tarts come in 15 flavours, not counting the classic: from pandan to Baileys to pineapple and even sweet potato.
They’re all €3.20, but the classic cheese tart is 50 cents cheaper.
At the bakery, there are only two tables with a few high chairs dotted around them. The small space isn’t supposed to be a café, says Stephen, who has an annual lease.
“These are for show,” he says, laughing and pointing at the table near the entrance.
In three weeks, they plan to set up a bubble tea stand where the second table is. That will mean even less seating.
But Stephen isn’t worried, he says. The bakery is supposed to be a takeaway mostly.
They do coffee and tea for €2 if someone sits down and asks for one with their cakes. “But it’s just regular coffee,” says Stephen.
He plucks examples of how well they have done despite the small space.
He pulls up a Reddit page where someone had inquired if their cakes would be allowed on a flight from Dublin.
Then, a smattering of five-star reviews. Google “Dublin best Asian cake” and see whose bakery pops up at the top, he says.
Their cakes are popular among doctors and nurses working at city hospitals who put in a lot of orders, he says.
“I do not know why. Maybe they feel that the medicine that can cure them is our cakes and tarts,” he says, smiling.
[CORRECTION: This article was updated at 8.20pm on 10 May 2023. Stephen and Vivian’s surname is Goh, not Gob. Apologies for the error.]