Cheese tarts are selling better than hotcakes now, but which brand is the yummiest of them all?
In 2 years, Japanese bakery BAKE has opened 20 outlets in major Asian cities and sold more than 20 million of its wildly popular cheese tarts. Its only store in Singapore at ION Orchard, which opened 2 months ago, has been drawing snaking queues of admirers, with many willing to wait in line for 2 hours just to walk home with a handful of the tempting treat.
Although BAKE has a good run, its competitors are also fast cashing in on the cheese tart craze in Singapore. Homegrown brands such as PrimaDéli and Flor Pâtisserie have launched their own cheese tarts – some jazzed up with ingredients such as salted egg yolk and chocolate. UrbanWire puts the 3 brands to the taste test and here’s our verdict.
BAKE: The bestseller
Nestled in BAKE’s sweet, crumbly, twice-baked pastry crusts is the rich, creamy mix of Hakodate cheese, Betsukai cheese and French cheese. These melt-in-the-mouth delights are air-flown from Hokkaido in northern Japan and freshly baked here just before they fly off the shelves.
“Whether you eat it in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, or Singapore – all of them taste the same,” said Masataka Kanemaki, a vice-president of BAKE who takes care of the brand’s overseas markets.
While rival brands have given their cheese tarts an Earl Grey or salted egg twist, BAKE will stick to selling its 1 and only flavor. “We just concentrate on 1 product,” said Mr Kanemaki, “Of course, this means our product must be very special and we must have confidence.”
BAKE’s cheese tarts are extremely satisfying to the tastebuds. The rich and milky cheese mousse is generous in portion, but it won’t give you a nauseating “cheese hangover”. The tarts make a perfect tea time snack!
“Cheese tarts from other bakeries are not as nice,” said customer Kong Mei Hua, 36. “That’s why I keep coming here.”
To get the best of BAKE’s cheese tart, follow this tip from Mr Kanemaki: Cool your freshly baked cheese tart for 20 minutes for a soft bite, or leave it in the freezer before serving for a richer flavor.
Price: $3.50 for 1 or $19.50 for a box of 6
Our verdict: ★★★★½
- Flor Pâtisserie: The average
Flor Pâtisserie is a Singapore brand which makes Japanese-inspired French pastries that rolled out its ice cheese tarts 6 years ago. Today, the cheese tarts come in 8 flavors, the most popular of which are original, maple and green tea.
We like the maple cheese tart best for the delicate harmony between the sweetness of its maple syrup and the saltiness of its cheese filling. The green tea variation tastes odd to us as the mildly bitter green tea just doesn’t go well with savory cheese. The original flavor also doesn’t make the cut as its cream cheese has a rather thick consistency – too thick for our liking.
At Flor Pâtisserie, the cheese fillings are served on an almond cookie base. “Although the cost is higher on our side, we get a more fragrant cookie base to complement our cheese filling,” said Heidi Tan, chef owner of Flor Pâtisserie.
While the almond cookie base is fragrant, we find it a little too hard as it’s served cold. The base is quite bland on its own, but the plainness does balance out the strong taste of the cheese filling.
Overall, we appreciate Flor Pâtisserie’s impressive varieties of flavours. It’s just a pity that some flavors don’t quite hit the mark.
Price: $3.80 for 1
Our verdict: ★★½☆☆
- PrimaDéli: The ‘shiok’
PrimaDéli offers the most reasonably-priced cheese tarts out of the 3, but we don’t have to expect the least from the homegrown brand.
In fact, it’s giving Singapore customers the best of both worlds when it adds salted egg yolk – another ingredient that has inspired a crazy following here earlier in the year – to its cheese filling.
“I think it’s a clever mixture as they blend well together,” said customer Toh Xin Li, 18.
“More than 7,000 Lava Cheese Tarts are made available across all PrimaDéli outlets daily,” said Lewis Cheng, executive director of Prima Limited, adding that the demand is still increasing. “On most days, the Lava Cheese Tarts are sold out by the afternoon.”
We like how the gooey sweetness of salted egg yolk in the center adds a uniquely tangy flavour to the saltiness of the amazingly smooth, creamy cheese filling. The crust is crumbly, sweet and a little salty, making it a good match to the rich flavors of the filling.
Price: $2.40 for 1 original cheese tart, $2.80 for 1 salted egg lava cheese tart
Our verdict: ★★★★☆
Which brand has the yummiest cheese tarts? Take our poll here.