Instagram star baker Clifford Luu on the best desserts to try at The GREAT Food Festival

Instagram star baker Clifford Luu on the best desserts to try at The GREAT Food Festival

Cakes galore

Text: Amelia Chia

Part 1 of 3: All things sweet

Foodies, rejoice — The GREAT Food Festival (TGFF) lands on our shores at the end of the month, a collaboration between Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), known as the single dining destination in Singapore with the most number of Michelin stars, and international gourmet festival curators, Savour Events. This brand-new partnership brings the strengths and expertise of both companies to create Singapore's most ambitious and wide-ranging food festival to date.

Held over four days from 21 to 24 September at RWS, the festival will feature five segments — 'Star Chef Arena', 'Heritage Lane', Rollin' Sweet Times', 'Feast of Kings' and 'Connoisseur Collection'. Taste delightful dishes at a gourmet arena, take in Asia's most breath-taking spread of desserts and pastries, indulge in four-hands dinners, and learn cooking techniques from live sessions. You'll likely come face to face with one of your chef idols, as TGFF is bringing in the biggest collection of international culinary stars from around the world. Expect the likes of Cat Cora, the first and only female Iron Chef on Food Network's Iron Chef America, Scott Webster of Michelin-starred Osia Steak and Seafood Grill at RWS, Ben Spalding, an alumnus of The Fat Duck, and Instagram star baker Clifford Luu.

In the first of our three-part chef interview series for TGFF, we speak to Sydney-based Chef Luu about his culinary career, his arena, 'Rollin' Sweet Times', and the most memorable cake he's ever made.

Clifford luu, cakes by cliff

What kind of dessert creations can we expect to see at TGFF?
TGFF is going to be a great place for people to see, try, make, and create all sorts of desserts. At Cakes By Cliff, I'll be making three distinct cakes which embody my style and were created specifically for TGFF. First of all, I'll be making a berry cake inspired by the exotic fruits and vibrancy of Singaporean food. I love using fresh fruit on my cakes — there is something very special about using local, fresh produce.

My second dessert is a chocolate cake for the chocoholics! Expect it to come suitably dressed with chocolate shards and a glossy chocolate drip. Last but not least, there'll be a cake celebrating all things pink. Pink isomalts will adorn the cake and it'll definitely stand out from the crowd. Besides my three cakes, I'll also be running mini cake decorating workshops during the festival — looking forward to meeting everyone and showcasing some tips and tricks.

Clifford luu, cakes by cliff, berry cake

How should we plan our day around TGFF? Any advice on which to tackle first, and which to head to last?
I would book my Cakes By Cliff Class first — do make sure that it's locked in! Then my advice is to do a quick wander around and take down some notes, before going back to the places that strike me for a more thorough visit. If anything strikes your fancy or if you decide you love it, do try or buy it. This is the hottest ticket in Singapore this year; you don't want to miss out!

Are there any particular chefs whom you're most looking forward to mingling with at TGFF?
I can't possibly share my favourites! Having said that, it'll be nice to finally meet people that you connect with on social media. It's always nice putting a face to a name. But I'm also excited about seeing all you Singapore locals and talking to different people — it's often these instances which inspire me the most.

"Baking was an outlet for me to be creative and share that with my friends and family. I'm a self-taught baker, and it's incredibly rewarding to be able to create cakes for people and their special occasions, and be a part of their celebration."

How did you get into baking? Was there a turning point when you knew you wanted to turn it into a business venture?
At the start, baking was something I did to fill my time on weekends, and was an escape from everyday life. It was an outlet for me to be creative and share that with my friends and family. I'm a self-taught baker, and it's incredibly rewarding to be able to create cakes for people and their special occasions, and be a part of their celebration.

What are your creations usually inspired by?
I don't have one particular place where I get my inspiration from. It can come from flipping through a magazine, to walking through the local shops, or having a chat with my friends.

cakes by cliff, Clifford luu, cake

Tell us about the most memorable cake that you've ever made.
It would have to be a cake I made for my dad. I had just started making cakes and desserts and it was layered with jam and jelly — it was such a mess! I learnt a lot from that cake — you make mistakes, you learn to fix them, and your creations get better and better with practice.

What's the most challenging part of being a pastry chef?
Being able to juggle life, friends, and family all at the same time. I love bringing my client's vision to life, but it's something that takes a fair bit of time. While I love it, I wish there were more hours in the day.

Clifford luu, cakes by cliff

What does dessert mean to you, and what's your all-time favourite dessert?
Desserts are a beautiful end to a meal. There's nothing more outstanding than sharing a meal with friends and finishing with a stunning dessert. To me, having dessert is also a gathering of people, as most people love sweets. My favourite dessert is a warm chocolate brownie with a huge helping of vanilla ice cream.

Any tips for home bakers looking to start their own business?
Do it for the right reasons. There's a reason I kept my full-time job (as a project administrator) as I never want this to be chore. I still want to be inspired and be able to create special cakes. My cakes are bespoke creations for all my clients and I derive so much joy from that.

A Rollin' Sweet Times Pass is $22, while a 90-minute Cake Atelier Masterclass with Clifford Luu and Julián Ángel is $98. Alternatively, a TGFF Full Experience Pack is $78. Purchase your tickets online here.

Look out for the second part of our chef interview series for TGFF next Thursday, 14 September.