Lana Cakes

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Lana Cake Shop's refurbished storefront in 2019.

Lana Cakes is a family-owned and operated cake shop located at 36 Greenwood Avenue, Bukit Timah.[1] The cake shop is known among Singaporeans for its timeless classic chocolate fudge cake. Since its opening on 2 November 1975, the cake has been a crowd favourite for birthday parties and other celebrations.[2][3]

Lana Cakes was founded by Violet Kwan, a former air stewardess at Malaysian Airways.[4] In 2014, Lana Cakes was given the title “Heritage Hero” by Slow Food (Singapore).[5][6]

Origins

The old storefront. Photo from Changmoh.

The early beginnings of Lana Cakes can be traced to 1964. Violet’s sister-in-law, Lani had come over from Hawaii to Singapore for a short visit. During her time in Singapore, she made an impression on friends and family with her homemade cakes. Lani imparted her recipes to Violet as a means for her to earn some extra money.


Violet began baking from her home in Hillcrest Park, Bukit Timah while raising her children. As news of her cakes reached locals, more customers began showing up at her doorstep to collect cake orders.[7]


In 1975 with the help of her husband, Violet Kwan registered the business and opened a store along Greenwood Avenue. The shop was named Lana Cakes as a tribute to her sister-in-law, Lani. Over the years, Lana Cakes has developed a loyal customer base, with an estimated number of over 100 cakes sold daily.[8][9][10]

Succession (2017)

Violet Kwan and her son, Jason Kwan. Photo from The Straits Times.

Since the shop’s opening, Lana Cakes had received countless offers to expand and franchise the business.[11] Violet Kwan rejected the offers due to concerns of quality assurance.[12] In 2016, Violet Kwan who was then 88 years old, announced her retirement intending to sell Lana Cakes and the family recipes to a suitable buyer. The estimated valuation of the shop space amounted to S$4 million.[13]


After rounds of interviews, she was still unable to find a suitable fit.[14] In 2017, Violet’s son Jason Kwan, who was then a Chief Risk Officer at a bank decided to take over the business. Jason mastered various cake recipes and helmed the business operations within a mere 3 months of guidance and tutelage.[15][16]

Changes made under Jason Kwan

Since the transition of ownership from mother to son, Jason Kwan made certain improvements to the business. In January 2019, the shop was renovated to give it a fresh look. Old pieces of equipment were also replaced. Jason made slight tweaks to the cake recipe, altering the consistency of the cakes to a lighter texture and mouthfeel. To ensure better workflow efficiency and consistent products, ingredients are weighed out instead of using cup measurements.[17] As of September 2019, the shop has a Facebook page and a website where customers can place online orders for island-wide delivery.[18]

Cake selection

The famed chocolate fudge cake from Lana Cakes. Photo from Lana Cakes Facebook.

Lana Cakes originally retailed a small selection of 3 cakes — orange chiffon cake, blueberry cake and chocolate fudge. Over the years, Violet Kwan has expanded the store offerings to a total of 12 unique flavours including yuzu chiffon and mocha cream.[19]


On top of the standard menu items, the shop sells butter cakes upon Violet Kwan’s discretion on certain Saturdays. A one-off batch of 4 butter cakes are hand-made by Mrs Kwan and are not made to order.[20]

The Sunday Times Taste Test (2016)

In 2016, The Sunday Times put together a judging panel consisting of Alysia Chan, Executive Sous chef from Meat Smith, Tan Hsueh Tun, The Straits Times food editor and Wong Ah Yoke, a food critic.[21]


The panel conducted a blind taste test to determine the best chocolate fudge cake in Singapore. 10 chocolate fudge cakes were sampled across 10 stores in Singapore. Some of the brands in the selection were established patisserie franchises like Awfully Chocolate, Cedele and The Patissier.[22] The cakes were assessed based on 3 criteria: taste, texture and appearance.[23]


Out of all the samples, Lana Cakes ranked top on the list, beating the other 9 cakes including Vicky’s Cakes — owned by Vicky Tan who is Violet Kwan’s niece and had previously worked at Lana Cakes.[24]

References / Citations

  1. “Lana Cakes”. Lana Cakes. Accessed on 29 August 2019. Retrieved from. https://www.lanacakes-since1964.com/
  2. Tan, Rebecca Lynne. “Keep Lana Cake artisanal”. The Straits Times. February 28, 2016. Accessed on 29 August 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/keep-lana-cake-artisanal
  3. “Our Story”. Lana Cakes. Accessed on 29 August 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.lanacakes-since1964.com/about
  4. Fong, Karen. “ Interview: Violet Kwan, founder of Lana Cakes, on the brand’s past and its future”. SilverKris. August 9, 2019. Accessed on 29 August 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.silverkris.com/interview-violet-kwan-lana-cakes/
  5. Tan, Hsueh Yun. “Lana Cake’s Violet Kwan, 88, is retiring”. The Straits Times. February 25, 2016. Accessed on 29 August 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/food/lana-cakes-baker-is-retiring
  6. “Lana Cake Shop”. Slow Food Singapore. Accessed on 29 August 2019. Retrieved from: https://slowfood.sg/listing/lana-cake-shop/
  7. “Our Story”. Lana Cakes. Accessed on 29 August 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.lanacakes-since1964.com/about
  8. Fong, Karen. “ Interview: Violet Kwan, founder of Lana Cakes, on the brand’s past and its future”. SilverKris. August 9, 2019. Accessed on 29 August 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.silverkris.com/interview-violet-kwan-lana-cakes/
  9. “Where To Find The Best And Most DELECTABLE Chocolate Cakes In Singapore”. The Finder. June 24, 2019. Accessed on 29 August 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.thefinder.com.sg/eat-drink/where-buy/where-to-find-the-best-and-most-delectable-chocolate-cakes-in-singapore/
  10. Teo, Pau Lin. “Grandma takes the cake”. The Straits Times. August 7, 2005. Accessed on 29 August 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  11. Leow, Annabeth. “Four famous recipes up for sale: Have they found a buyer?”. AsiaOne. September 14, 2016. Accessed on 29 August 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.asiaone.com/food/four-famous-recipes-sale-have-they-found-buyer
  12. Fong, Karen. “Interview: Violet Kwan, founder of Lana Cakes, on the brand’s past and its future”. SilverKris. August 9, 2019. Accessed on 29 August 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.silverkris.com/interview-violet-kwan-lana-cakes/
  13. “After 50 years Lana Cake’s Violet Kwan, 88, is retairing”. ISN Magazine. February 25, 2016. Accessed on 29 August 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.internationalsupermarketnews.com/after-50-years-lana-cakes-violet-kwan-88-is-retairing/
  14. Leow, Annabeth. “Four famous recipes up for sale: Have they found a buyer?”. AsiaOne. September 14, 2016. Accessed on 29 August 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.asiaone.com/food/four-famous-recipes-sale-have-they-found-buyer
  15. "Son of Lana Cake Shop owner takes over the business, saving it from closure". The Straits Times. March 5, 2019. Accessed on 6 September 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/food/son-of-lana-cake-shop-owner-takes-over-the-business-saving-it-from-closure
  16. Tan, Hsueh Yun. “Lana Cake Shop stays in the family”. sgsme.sg. March 6, 2019. Accessed on 29 August 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.sgsme.sg/news/lana-cake-shop-stays-family
  17. "Son of Lana Cake Shop owner takes over the business, saving it from closure". The Straits Times. March 5, 2019. Accessed on 6 September 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/food/son-of-lana-cake-shop-owner-takes-over-the-business-saving-it-from-closure
  18. Tan, Hsueh Yun. “Lana Cake Shop stays in the family”. sgsme.sg. March 6, 2019. Accessed on 29 August 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.sgsme.sg/news/lana-cake-shop-stays-family
  19. “Our Cakes”. Lana Cakes. Accessed on 29 August 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.lanacakes-since1964.com/our-cakes-1
  20. Fong, Karen. “ Interview: Violet Kwan, founder of Lana Cakes, on the brand’s past and its future”. SilverKris. August 9, 2019. Accessed on 29 August 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.silverkris.com/interview-violet-kwan-lana-cakes/
  21. Goh, Kenneth. “Which is Singapore’s best fudge cake?”. The Straits Times. March 6, 2016. Accessed on 29 August 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/food/which-is-singapores-best-fudge-cake
  22. “Taste test: Is Lana Cake’s Fudge Cake Really The Best?”. Men’sHealth. March 7, 2016. Accessed on 29 August 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.menshealth.com.sg/weight-loss-nutrition/taste-test-lana-cakes-fudge-cake-really-best/
  23. Goh, Kenneth. “Which is Singapore’s best fudge cake?”. The Straits Times. March 6, 2016. Accessed on 29 August 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/food/which-is-singapores-best-fudge-cake
  24. Fong, Florence, Tan, Annette and Yip, Jieying. “10 Lana-Style Chocolate Fudge Cakes, Ranked From Worst to Best”. 8 Days. April 4, 2019. Accessed on 29 August 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.8days.sg/eatanddrink/newsandopening/10-lana-style-chocolate-fudge-cakes-ranked-from-worst-to-best-11380836/