Janice Wong, Singapore’s Dessert Doyenne, Wants Everyone To Play With Their Food

The restauranteur and maven of all things sweet talks about creativity, tiramisu, and her toughest challenge yet.

Janice Wong, Singapore’s Dessert Doyenne, Wants Everyone To Play With Their Food
Janice Wong

These days, gourmet desserts are hardly out of the ordinary. People have them to round off a satisfying meal (or even in place of one), and casually buying an artisanal box of chocolates has become just another means of #selfcare.

But back in the early aughts, desserts were just another postscript at the end of the menu. Few thought of them as a separate dish worth paying attention to.

And then came 2am:dessertbar. Perched at the end of a long and noisy lane of Holland Village’s food enclave, the intimate space put the humble course at centrestage: accompanied by a generous helping of creative cocktails, of course.

“When we first started, the concept was very new to the public,” says Wong. “People used to just eat desserts as an ending to a meal — but nowadays, they enjoy desserts for what they are on their own.”

The name Janice Wong has since become synonymous not just with fancy, just-one-more-piece desserts — but desserts that are as creative as they are yummy.

For Wong, desserts are a blank and edible canvas for her to flex her artistic muscles. But she isn’t just here to show off what she can do with some marshmallows (make a gorgeous painting of koi fish that wouldn’t look out of place in a zen garden) or marzipan (create a stalactite-like dessert hung from a ceiling that can be lopped off and eaten).

Rather, Wong wants to share her love for creative desserts with everyone else. She’s made edible paints and crayons out of candy, allowing adults and kids alike to create their own sweet artworks — and quite literally savour the fruits of their labour after.

Wong has recently launched her ‘Bake at Home with Janice Wong’ initiative, a new store that sells premix cake packs, baking ingredients, equipment and accessories that are perfectly suited for recreating some of Wong’s classic recipes at home. 

It is as much an activity for bored circuit breaking Singaporeans to do at home as it is a way for aspiring bakers to get their start in the art. 

From dense red velvet cakes to more complex pastries like financiers and madeleines, Wong doesn’t just want to convince people that desserts are more than just an afterthought: she wants them to see it for themselves.

“We change together with Singapore as we grow,” says Wong. “But the core of making edible art is still the same.”

The only downside? “I eat a lot nowadays because we’re creating so many cakes and premixes,” she laughs, estimating that she averages about five treats a day — though you’ll have to bear in mind that a ’treat’ can mean anything from a delicate bonbon to a full-blown cake.

But beyond growing her own brand, Wong is constantly looking to give back as well. Amidst the pandemic, she’s been sending thoughtful little care packages to healthcare workers almost weekly — several weeks ago, Wong personally dropped off several cartons of her cookies and chocolates at the National University Hospital, and last week, some 500 cleaners at the Singapore General Hospital received bags of peanut butter cookies courtesy of the Janice Wong brand.

It’s just one of the ways that Wong wants to give back to the community that encouraged her throughout the years.

“It’s not just about the business — we want to be able to make a difference, and contribute in any way that we can,” she says. “Seeing the community spirit within the industry really helps to keep us going.”

She adds: “Singapore is where I first started, and it was the people here that supported me on my journey.”

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