Silk Cakes: Sister Duo Re-Imagines Asian American Desserts
The Forest Hills storefront is deceptively serene, but there is a dessert storm brewing behind the kitchen doors at Silk Cakes. A tray of milk buns rises in the oven as a warm batch of ube (purple yam) cupcakes cools on a nearby counter. Head Baker and co-owner Judy Lai spreads her famous chocolate truffle filling over a round chocolate cake next to her sister and business partner Amy, who is pouring cheesecake batter over an almond cookie crust. With their heads down, weighing ingredients and crossing off checklist items, the Silk Cakes team is a well-oiled machine.
Sister duo Amy and Judy Lai opened Silk Cakes in 2014 and hit the ground running. Lifetime New Yorkers, they had access to both incredible Asian and American baked goods growing up in the Lower East Side. Today, Amy and Judy fuse flavors from their childhood, creating Asian American desserts that are crave-worthy and not overly sweet.
Influence of the Chinese and American flavors of Amy and Judy's childhood reflects on Silk Cakes' menu, which highlights ingredients like pandan (screwpine leaf) and matcha. The sisters love seeing people enjoy treats that remind them of home, yet are often new to customers.
New Yorkers flock to Queens to try Silk Cakes' pandan cupcakes with chocolate avocado cream and milk buns filled with yuzu (an Asian citrus fruit) custard. Amy says their flavors should be memorable and if not up to standards, they don't make the cut. Judy is constantly testing recipes, noting, "the milk buns specifically took a lot of trial and error before we were happy with them. We wanted to get the perfect cottony soft bread texture."
In true Silk Cakes fashion, they add an American twist to classic Chinese milk buns, baking s'mores and cookies & cream variations (topped with chocolate cookies made in-house).
Silk Cakes is a family business through and through. "We had to learn to work together on a professional level, so it wan't easy at first," Amy says about working with her sister. Luckily the two learned one another's strengths and work in quiet, organized harmony.