LIFE IN KOREA: Baking from the Seoul

by Geraldine Chew , 28/08/2010

A couple of years ago, I gave up my 3 inch heels, pencil skirts and the stresses (and joys) of owning my own business to move to Seoul to join my husband and to prepare for motherhood. This gave me an opportunity to rediscover my passion for baking.  It really was something to channel that extra bit of energy generated from a packed daily schedule and intense pressure from the last 10 or so years in the industry.

So I found myself trying out new recipes and decided to take it to another level for my daughter’s first birthday. My husband suggested that I bake cupcakes as favours for the party. Hmmmm, not a small undertaking as I knew I would get no help from him but I decided that it was time to push myself with a little challenge.  I decided to make Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting.  This cupcake flavour is practically a cult hit and is yummy to boot.

Finding the right kind of flour, leavening agents etc. is not too difficult in the supermarket which was the only source for baking supplies that I knew of.  Out of the few E-Marts and Lotte Marts around Seoul, I found the Lotte Mart at Seoul Station carried the best range for small baking projects.  However, my first hurdle was getting good quality food colouring for the Red Velvet batter as you need heaps! 

I tried a local brand of gel colouring but it was really lacking in intensity and it was expensive as you had to buy the entire box which comes with 5 colours.  I only needed one!  In the end I had my husband buy the Queen’s brand of food colouring back from Australia.  Not entirely practical for the long term so thankfully, I have since discovered Bangsan Market (방산시장) which is your one-stop for baking supplies in Seoul.

I started decorating and found myself really enjoying it! I felt so peaceful and got a sense of achievement when I completed each cupcake. After that, I started baking more cupcakes, cakes and learnt more ways to decorate from books and the internet.

I began uploading photos of my designs on Facebook and friends started noticing.  Some friends were willing to give an amateur a chance and got me to cater for them. I first baked for a friend who wanted Frog cupcakes for her son and it was exciting but I must admit I was a little nervous. Its one thing decorating and baking for yourself but it’s quite another when you’re doing it for someone else!  I've since had the fun job of making a few different themes including Soccer & Jersey cupcakes, Bridal Shower and Vegetable Garden Party cupcakes.

I wanted to make sure the ingredients were the best that I could find and found several resources besides Bangsan Market which really is the mecca for baking supplies here in Seoul.  Most of the stores have their own online websites too but might require some basic understanding of Korean to maneuver and purchase.  (For more see the Where To Find Food Products on

So, my “baking from the Seoul” journey has just begun, and already it’s proven to be immensely exciting and rewarding. 

Originally from Malaysia, Gerry Chew came to Korea from Singapore in 2008

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