Bake Sum, a purveyor of expertly crafted pastries inspired by popular Asian dishes like okonomiyaki, halo halo and Spam musubi, has landed a permanent home in Oakland.
It's a rapid rise for the nearly year-old pop-up, which began last summer after owner Joyce Tang left Deuki Hong's Sunday Group and stopped selling wholesale pastries to local cafes like Boba Guys amid the pandemic. Lately, she's been selling twice a week out of the Bread Project, a shared commercial kitchen in Berkeley, with assorted pastry boxes also for sale at cafes in San Francisco and Redwood City.
The new takeout-only bakery at 3249 Grand Ave., formerly Wild Rabbit Bakery, should open sometime this summer, following light renovations.
With a team made up entirely of Asian American Bay Area natives, Tang hopes to create a space that feels engrained in Oakland's community spirit. A big part of that is building a more employee-centered culture, where workers are encouraged to create — and get credit for their inventions, from Jay Foronda's Hawaiian-inspired loco moco danish to Morgan Davis and Rangsiwan Fasudhani's halo halo croissant, filled with ube pastry cream and classic Filipino toppings like jackfruit, red bean and leche flan. A vegan char siu bao and other vegan treats by Ari Daoheuang are in the works.
"I'm trying to take a fresh new take on bakeries, where it's much more family oriented… investing in the folks who have chosen to put their time and energy toward our baby which is Bake Sum," Tang said.
Among the programs Tang hopes to grow is a stipend — $250 each quarter for every employee — that can go toward anything educational, from cookbooks to a coffee roasting class. As a group, the whole staff recently went to Los Gatos' famed Manresa Bread to learn how to shape loaves. Now, Bake Sum sells naturally leavened, country-style bread in classic tangy sourdough as well as a spicy gochujang version, imbued with roasted garlic.
In addition to bread, expect to see a rotating selection of French pastries highlighting Asian flavors alongside espresso drinks. Two of Bake Sum's most popular items include the okonomiyaki danish, filled with a rich mornay sauce, Japanese mayo, nori and bonito flakes, and the Croissubi, a Spam-stuffed croissant with crispy Parmesan on top. Other savory creations include a corn cheese danish, inspired by the Korean drinking snack, and a green onion croissant, reminscient of feathery Chinese scallion pancakes.
Of course, there will also be sweets. Bake Sum's fluffy milk buns come with a crackly, concha-inspired topping and pastry cream filling in flavors such as Vietnamese coffee and cereal milk. Squishy, mini mochi muffins and cookies like black sesame snickerdoodles are in the regular rotation as well, and Tang hopes to offer more tarts, cakes and entremets (small, layered French mousse cakes) instead of just on special occasions, as has typically been the case with the pop-up. Past desserts include a yuzu meringue tart and tiramisu that swapped out coffee for matcha.
While pastry boxes — an assembled mix of treats only available for pre-order — may seem like a pandemic fad, Tang wants to continue offering Bake Sum's boxes even after the new location opens, particularly for those who pick up in other parts of the Bay Area. She may also grow her wholesale operation, which was the basis for her first business, La Chinoiserie, a pioneer in the Bay Area's booming Asian American pastry scene . But she doesn't want to do too much, too fast.
"I feel like in previous ventures, I gave a little too much of myself for not a lot in return. I gave up a lot of my health for what could be potentially profitable," Tang said. "This time around, I have a lot more experience and I need to pace for a marathon."
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