Chef Charins Chang is smiling behind a kitchen counter.

Charins Chang, The Explorer of Textures

Charins Chang’s passion for science and baking brought her to Indonesia after many years living abroad. In no time, she has captured the hearts of many through her well-crafted cakes and desserts. What are her hopes and struggles living the dream in Jakarta? Here, Charins shared the story for everyone.  

What got you into baking in the first place?

I started baking since high school and that’s because Betty Crocker’s brownie mix. I was amazed even with the process of just mixing the powder with water and then it becomes a cake. But the reason why I love baking is because it is so closely related with science and all about the chemical reactions! You don’t really see it with your eyes but it’s happening.

Did you study at a cooking school after that?

Interestingly, I went to Australia not to learn more about baking, but I was studying Biotechnology for five years there. After graduation, I moved back to Singapore and started working in the petroleum bioengineering industry. However, I never lose my love for baking. I did it almost every night and shared the cakes with my friends, to the point that my family became so sick of my baking! (she laughs)

That’s why I started my cake business online on charins.com and then after a year, I finally decided to study more properly about pastry. I did a bit of school in France and an internship with a champion pastry chef there. I was immersing myself with the language and the countryside, steering away from Paris. After that, it’s time to move to Jakarta.

What made you move to Jakarta instead of Singapore?

My parents have always been very supportive with my plans and when I told them that I want to move back here, everyone came along! We all still visit Singapore from time to time though.

Why Jakarta? I think it’s because the people are more chilled and fun here. There’s also something charming about the city, despite of course – the traffic. I saw also a high demand for quality desserts and pastries in Jakarta, but you could only find a handful of good pastry shops here a few years ago when I came. That’s the opportunity that I had been looking for.

What happens next?

Originally, the reason why I moved back was to open my own dessert shop here. After a few years though, it’s easier said than done. I don’t want to just jump in recklessly and struggling unnecessarily just because I needed more experience in the industry. So, I decided to just take my time exploring the city and looking for opportunities. I keep my Instagram active and the online cake shop helps me get by.

From there, turns out that I received a lot of opportunities for consulting, creating menu, and for supplying. There’s even this café from Myanmar which was asking to collaborate. Benedict and Heavenly Sweet found me also on Instagram.

Care to share us a bit about your dessert creations?

When I first joined Benedict, I revamped the whole dessert menu. That time, there was this hype for the Thai mango desserts, and I decided to jump in by creating my own interpretations. Surprisingly, the Mango Sticky Rice Tart was a huge success and people started posting about it.

I also created a sister dessert for it called Tart Ketan Item – with coconut and black sticky rice. It’s basically a twist of our traditional dessert of bubur ketan hitam. There’s also Marie Regal Cake because yes, everyone loves Marie Regal!

I also started making bite-sized desserts like bonbons since people are not always wanting to eat a whole cake. In each bonbon, I created a whole dessert that can consists of elements found in cakes, crunch, cookies, and ganache. I put also many things like potato chips, wajik, nastaar, and talam. For my creations, I just love doing my own formulations instead of copying recipes.

Why bonbons by the way?

I’m more interested in chocolate because it’s very science-y and no one’s making bonbons seriously yet as far as I know. I suppose it’s because the high level of difficulty to mass produce it. Bonbons must be made carefully because it won’t be good otherwise. You need to temper chocolate to a certain degree, or the fat crystals won’t crystallize properly so it won’t get the good snap. It’ll be pasty, thick, and won’t have good texture.

But I think the challenge is that most people may find it hard to understand why it costs the same as buying a whole chocolate bar instead. That’s why I’m trying to find the middle ground here to still maintain the quality but also creating time efficiency.

Lastly, what are you plans next?

Opening my own shop, that’s for sure! But for now, I enjoy teaching at Heavenly Sweet every month. I have own classes and I also create my own syllabus based on science! We do one-on-one series about sponge cake, butter cake, pound cake, or only egg whites. We explore why each recipe is made different, why adding this and that yield different results, or how to decrease the sugar content without compromising texture. It’s not about the usual recipe sharing class and for you to bake at home. It’s about how to make the student think more about the process and how to remake recipe in their own version. Other than that, I am also sharing my expertise about baking with less fortunate kids. We are creating these baking classes for them and showing that everyone can bake. We want to let them know that they have options in this industry for their future.


Featured on Passion Magazine

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