Sweet Troops

Let’s admit, cake decorating style can sometimes gets very personal, thus, it’s kinda difficult to find a baking studio that teaches style that you really want. However, that was years ago, thanks to the Internet (and Instagram, to be specific), finding a baking studio that suits your liking has never been easier. When we found a baking studio with style that we love like Sweet Troops, knowing that the business is run by two pretty girls is definitely a welcomed bonus. Nina Bertha Chrestela and Livianca Venaessa tells us the story of how they bumped into each other, running a baking studio business, and their visions in baking and decorating industry.

Nina, before discussing about Sweet Troops, I heard you were a model?

Nina Bertha (NB): Yes, do I look like one? I was like a bad girl who refused to go to college back then, so I ran away by doing modeling to get permission from my parents. After 3 years, I wanted something more stable for future, so I took English Literature dan graduated as Bachelor of Arts. After that, I joined Master Chef Season 2 because of my friends’ encouragements. I didn’t win actually, but I managed to get into top 30 from 5 cities, not too bad, isn’t it?

How did you two bumped into each other?

NB: We met in a birthday cake competition held by a magazine to celebrate their 42nd birthday in 2014. At first I saw Via (Livianca), I didn’t like her because I thought, “this girl enters a competition with that ridiculous make up!” But, my make up was done by the make up artist, actually I looked terrible as well (laugh)!

How about you  background, Livianca?

Livianca Venaessa (LV): I took Law Study in Universitas Pelita Harapan, but after doing an internship in a law firm, I thought, “it’s not for me”. Later on, I took Pastry class in TAFE Perth, Australia. After returning to Indonesia, I have no clue what to do. Finaly I decided to start my own baking studio, because I happened to have an acquaintance who has similar business, I’m quite familiar with the business. However, I was reluctant if I have to open it myself, until I saw Nina’s profile in Instagram, we contacted each other and decided to have a meeting.

NB: After the birthday cake competition, actually we lost contact, merely friend on Facebook. But when Instagram was trending, we started to stalk and “liked” each other Even our meeting is like an engagement, we brought along our parents. We got to know each other better as we run the business, we held Sweet Troops’s first class in February 2017.

Why chose baking studio business?

NB: In the beginning, we’re thinking of starting a pastry production company and acted as supplier to cafes, but I told Livia that kind of business is not fun, it’s complicated and more to nightmare. If we were to be a pastry supplier, we need many staffs, in all of the businesses, it’s where the devil usually is. Not to mention keeping  the quality standard, delivery issues, then the product development. Cafes
don’t want to have similar products with other cafes, if we have 10 clients, each one requested 3 products, we need to make 30 products already. The variants require lot of equipments, and then the packaging. I’ve worked in similar company, when you got into kitchen, it was like….hell! There’s so much stuffs. Finally we decided to go with baking courses because the maintenance is not as complicated as pastry kitchen.

How do you guys distribute the tasks?

LV: Nina is more to teaching baking classes, while I’m more focused into cake decorating, we cover each other’s back. In Sweet Troops, separated these two. In baking, we make the cake from scratch, meanwhile, decorating class involves no baking at all.

Please explain a bit about your cake.

NB: It’s called Geode Cake. We already have this trend abroad, but in Indonesia, I think Sweet Troops was the first one to introduce the concept. However, if there are other people who claim the otherwise, we absolutely have no problem with that. After we taught it in class, perhaps some of our students made the cakes and posted them in social media, then people started to follow the trend.

LV: We won’t deny the fact that we saw the trend on the Internet, but we’re not sure who’s responsible for it, the information was unclear, but there’s a good chance that Geode Cake came from either Australia or America. Actually, the process to make the product is quite simple, but it took quite a while. Geode Cake is often made for birthday, but actually it’s fit to be a wedding cake for its luxury.

Since you started until now, please tell us about the trend shifting.

NB: There are lot of changes, for baking, we’re back to old school cakes..

LV: …like chocolate rice ball, nougat sponge cake. We used to have the trending Red Velvet Cake, Nutella Cake, but now we return to traditional concept.

NB: However, products such as glazing, entremets, pralines and mousse cake are beyond of what Sweet Troops is all about, we’re more to something artisan.

LV: We target home and professional baker, they’re here for unique decoration inspiration

What are the biggest challenges for Sweet Troops?

LV: Everyone has his own expecations and skill levels, we try to cater their expectations and demands.

NB: It’s impossible to make everyone happy, but we always to strive in giving our best. We want our customers to have the best learning experience in cozy atmosphere. The other challenge is to find “good” tutors…

LV: … technically they might be good, but not everyone has the passion to teach.Some tutors are busy with themselves, great people don’t mean great teachers, sometimes, verbally, what they’re trying to say doesn’t reach the audience.

NB: The last one is to continuously creating material and new classes that won’t bore you and will become a future trend, it’s about creativity.

What’s your most popular class?

LV: It depends on the trend, now everyone prefer simple classes…

NB: …like the one for small enterprises, not too intimidating, not too sophisticated, using ingredients that can be had anywhere, without the need of using expensive equipments, such as dough sheeter. Like sponge cake, you can sell the product right away. I can say that in the past few months, Indonesians’ nationalism is burning. It’s no wonder you can find old school cakes reinterpreted in modern ways, like Klepon Cake, Es Teler Cake, and this (pointing to Passion’s July Issue), Cendol Cake. One of the pioneers of the trend is Karen Carlotta, who doesn’t know her? It’s actually very easy to transfer anything into pastry, but Karen managed to play with people’s curiosity. We won’t miss the trend, we also made classes to make similar products.

Is ingredients such as fondant and buttercream still trending?

NB: Yes, even though they’re often replaced by other trends.

LV: No matter what you say, for kid’s birthday cake, fondant is still the first choice, because it’s firmer and can be mold into various shapes. For certain age, more to the mature side, people prefer buttercream, let say for Mother’s Day.

NB: The level of difficulty of decoration may vary, it depends on the budget…

LV: ..it depends on how similar you’d like your characters, as close or as far as possible (laugh)! If you want really good ones, it will obviously take longer time.

You guys also sell roll cake with the name Gulung-Gulung, how come?

NB: In the beginning, I made roll cakes for class, then Livia had some, she really love all pastry products, cakes, and sugar, then she proposed that we should sell them because they taste really good. Finally, we decided to sell them online, through Instagram, because opening an outlet is not a walk in the park, it’s another challenge. We want to do business in pastry, we want to maximize the time when Sweet Troops doesn’t have any activities. More to optimizing our current business.

Do you have any ideas of what Sweet Troops will be in the next 3 years?

LV: Internally, we want to grow as a team. Now, there’s only two of us, we want to have a system so when we have classes, we didn’t have to be too involved from morning to finish. We want to have more time to think about ways to expand our business.

NB: We also want to go retail. If the Sweet Troops here can already run, why don’t we build another in malls? For example, Sweet Troops and Gulung-Gulung are having their own outlets in a location. First, we need a team, it’s not easy for start ups to build a solid team, we have to take these baby steps.

Sweet Troops Artisan Baking Studio
Jl. Teuku Nyak Arief No.3, Grogol Sel., Kby. Lama, Jakarta 12220 

Phone: +62 859 4591 2722, sweettroops.com