The Little Baker San Jose: Home-based Korean bakery whips up Asian-inspired flavors4 min read

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A chiffon cake decorated with pinkish-red frosting strawberries and colorful sprinkles. Source: Tina Le

After baking three layers of chiffon cake, Tina Le ices six pinkish-red strawberries onto a light pink cream cheese frosting, using a toothpick to imprint the strawberry seeds.

She lowers the Korean bento cake into a box, sticks on her logo, then prepares to personally deliver it.

Le owns The Little Baker San Jose, an at-home business she began in March by advertising her cookies and Korean bento cakes on Instagram.

“The first week in general, it was so crazy and so stressful,” she said. “But then at the end of the day on Friday, even though my kitchen was absolutely terrible, I just felt so accomplished.”

Le specializes in Korean bento cakes, which are miniature cakes around 4 inches in diameter typically frosted with detailed designs. They rose to popularity in Korea as a cute baking trend and gained traction on Instagram for their delicate designs.

The Little Baker San Jose’s cake designs range from dreamlike pink-tinted clouds against a starry night sky to colorful cartoon characters like Nintendo’s Kirby and Studio Ghibli’s Totoro.

A Korean bento box cake decorated with a Shiba Inu dog cupping its cheeks. Source: Tina Le

Le has also perfected a Tik Tok-inspired frog cake. The cake features a 3D frosting frog holding a white flower against a pastel green background, with red, yellow and blue frosting mushrooms crawling up the side.

She said a childhood love of baking and friends’ encouragement inspired her to start her business.

“I’ve loved baking since I was literally a small child,” Le said. “My passion has always been baking.”

Le offers Asian-inspired flavors which are not usually found in bento cakes, including earl grey tea and ube, a sweet purple yam common in Filipino desserts.

A boba-inspired Korean bento box cake. Source: Tina Le

Le said she started making ube cakes because she never gets sick of the yam. She said she also drew inspiration from her time living in Daly City, where she was surrounded by Filipino flavors.

“People really like the Asian flavors and I’m really excited to come out with more unique ones,” Le said. “I think it’s kind of what sets me apart from other places.”

She also included flavors from her own Vietnamese culture, like pandan, a dessert flavor derived from the pandan plant, which tastes like coconut.

“It also reminds me of pandan waffles, which are like a dessert I used to get when I was a child,” she said. “It just makes me really nostalgic.”

Le begins her work for the week on Sunday and Monday, when she bakes all of the cakes and cookies for her orders. On Tuesday, she prepares the cakes for delivery, which happens the day after on Wednesday.

Tina Le, owner of The Little Baker San Jose, frosts a Korean bento cake in her home. Source: Tina Le

Le bakes around 20 bento cakes per week and receives orders through a Google Form linked to her Instagram.

But Le’s baking process hasn’t always run that smoothly.

“In the beginning, it was very tiring because I would mess up a lot,” Le said. “Or the recipe wouldn’t turn out how I wanted it, like it wasn’t sweet enough or the texture wasn’t just right.”

She said she taught herself how to make bento cakes through trial and error by watching Youtube videos.

“There was this one time that, I don’t know why, I just forgot to close the oven door all the way,” she added. “And then the cake turned out like soup.”

Le said community support pushes her to continue pursuing her passion.

“My favorite part about running the business is that I get to meet a lot of new faces and make a lot of connections,” she said. “I’ve met a lot of great people.”

She said she hopes to have her own shop in Willow Glen one day to sell her treats.

Until then, Le said she will continue to whip up unique flavors.

“I feel super happy,” she said. “I also just feel really accomplished.”

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