Meet Ika Natasha, the Brains Behind 'Beary' Cute Teddy Cakes
Kuala Lumpur/ Delish/ People

Meet Ika Natasha, the Brains Behind ‘Genshin Impact’-inspired Teddy Cakes

Meet Ika Natasha the Brains Behind Beary Cute Teddy Cakes

More than just kneading dough and whisking eggs, baking has evolved from a mere method of cooking and a hobby to, ultimately, a form of art. Nowadays, businesses employ artists to create cakes and pastries with aesthetically pleasing appearances, textures, and flavours.

Ika Natasha Yahya, a Malaysian baker from Kuala Terengganu, is one of the bakers who mastered combining art and baking. She is the owner of the online bakery Minka Cakes, based in Shah Alam, Selangor. 

In an interview with The Beat Asia, Ika spoke about the joys of being a solo baker and the importance of mentoring the next generation of creatives.

A Baker and an Artist

Ika Natasha
Photo credit: Ika Natasha

Making handcrafted arts and crafts was Ika’s first love, which became her greatest motivation to launch her own business – Minka Cakes. 

Since high school, Ika has been baking cupcakes and cheesecakes, and taken several cake decorating classes. She used her skills to launch a baking business in which she sells plain cakes like cheesecakes and chocolate cakes without any decorative art at all.

“I like to learn more about crocheting, crafting, and everything craft by using hand. But then, I think that I actually [don’t] know what I want to major in [and] then I found baking and I know that I can put my art in it.”

Getting Down to Business

Ika worked as an assistant baker at her cousin’s bakery, where they sell cakes. Given her artistic disposition, she has been tasked to come up with imaginative designs for them. From there, she decided to launch her own business where she could sell art-based cakes.

“When I was working with my cousin, I learned a lot from her and that’s [when] I started to like more [cake decorating].”

Through watching creative videos online, she was able to delve into the world of baking and pastry arts, giving her an opportunity to broaden her horizons.

“When I saw [that] there’s a trend on vintage cakes… I was really interested with the design. I tried to use my knowledge and follow all those designs online. I tried to learn from [watching videos on] YouTube and Instagram [and] learned the technique from there.”

Minka Cakes opened its doors in 2021. It was during the second phase of the COVID-19 pandemic in Malaysia. The term "minka" is used in Japan to refer to simple, locally built dwellings made of bamboo, straw, and more.

“If you Google minka, [you can see] images of the house, [it’s] like a very small house, but it's only [in] Japan. I wanted to name [my business] Minka because I wanted to make [everyone] feel at home because I [own] a home-based business,” she explained.

Since Ika exclusively owns Minka Cakes, she handles everything on her own. But during the time when she was living with her family, her sister used to assist her. She hopes to expand into employing others in the future, but for the time being, she's content running her business alone.

Now that Ika has her own place, she became more motivated to work because she has a bigger space dedicated to baking, decorating, and packing.

Minka Cakes
Photo credit: Ika Natasha

“[L]ike I said, I [stayed] with my family [before] and my baking space is only like a very tiny room. That is where I bake, decorate my cakes, and pack. The space is very, very tiny. If I get a very large order, I have to put away everything just to decorate the cakes. That’s why I moved to [a new place with a] bigger space,” she said.

As a solo business owner, Ika also ensures everything she does is according to her timeline.

“In the morning, I usually bake and in the afternoon, I will start decorating the cakes. I keep my orders fresh now, like, if today’s the delivery day, I will [also] decorate it today. But I will bake it [the] night [before]. At night, I start to focus on social media to [reply to] text [messages]…But usually on weekdays, I’m a bit free because people like to celebrate on weekends. So, I will restock [my supplies] and go buy [at] the stores and [clean] everything,” Ika explained.

From making flat layers to adding accents and curls, decorating a cake is undeniably an arduous task. For Ika, she can decorate small vintage cakes for around 30 to 40 minutes, while small teddy cakes take her more than an hour to finish because of its more complicated details. While she specialises in miniature cakes, Ika also accepts bulk orders, like cupcakes, brownies, cheesecake, and cake pops for intimate celebrations.

Minka Cakes' prices range from RM40 for a simple decorated cake up to RM1,200 for a lavishly stacked wedding cake. All the ingredients she uses are 100% halal.

minka cakes cake pops
Photo credit: Ika Natasha

Anime and Genshin-Impact Teddy Cakes

Considering Ika’s business’ name was derived from a Japanese term, it’s no surprise that she specialises in making anime-themed and teddy bear cakes. 

This idea started when she made a “Sailor Moon”-themed cake for one of her sister’s friends, who really loved her work and requested that she bake another custom design featuring Noelle from the role-playing game, “Genshin Impact.” 

She transformed the character into a cute little teddy bear, also called Little Kuma.

Genshin-Impact Teddy Cakes
Photo credit: Ika Natasha

“From then, I started to post [online] and a lot of, I think, ‘Genshin Impact’ fans [or gamers] started to follow me. That’s why I’m currently more focused on that kind of design… because it’s fully my own design. Unlike before, I use other bakers’ [design] from around the world, like in Korea and Japan.”

Other “Genshin Impact” characters that she transformed into teddy cakes are Alhaitham, Diluc, Tighnari, and Tartaglia, to name a few. You can also spot Osamu Dazai of “Bungo Stray Dogs,” "Straw Hat" Luffy of “One Piece,” and Amane Misa of “Death Note,” among others.

Ika, however, is proud to say that Little Kuma (Japanese for “bear”) is one of the most unique creations of Minka Cakes.

“I don't think that I saw anyone [who] does that [here], that’s why people came to me.”

Ika admitted that she also enjoys watching anime during her spare time, but right now, she’s more focused on growing her business.

Genshin-Impact Teddy Cakes
Photo credit: Ika Natasha

Lambeth Method and Workshops

When asked about her favourite cake decoration technique, Ika explained about the Lambeth method – a classic cake design that originated in the United Kingdom and was popularised in the 1930s. This method is considered one of the most intricate cake decorating techniques as it involves icing layers in scrolls and garlands, also referred to as overpiping.

Minka Cakes
Photo credit: Ika Natasha

“I use a lot of piping shells and nozzles. [As a baker], you have to know how to use it because even with [one] nozzle, you can create a lot of designs from there.”

Truth be told, not all bakers can master this intricate technique, but Ika manages to use Lambeth for her vintage cakes with unique designs. She also emphasised the importance of colours in her baking techniques.

“The colours [are] very important. Usually I won't mix only one, like if I want to do [a] pink colour, [I will] mix pink, black, and purple [to create my own shade] of [pink]. So, it's quite different because now, everyone can do colour mixing very well.”

Minka Cakes
Photo credit: Ika Natasha
Minka Cakes
Photo credit: Ika Natasha

Apart from baking, she moved into a bigger space to fulfill her dream to teach baking by conducting a series of workshops or classes. Last year, at the age of 28, she conducted her first baking workshop, teaching professional bakers and beginners aged 10 to 50 years old.

“[When] I started my first baking workshop, I had to go to other places and it was actually [time consuming] and the price to book the place was quite expensive. So, I decided to just maybe do it at my own place so I can save up more.”

Ika Natasha
Photo credit: Ika Natasha

First Step to Success

Whether large or small, businesses that have achieved their first step toward success need to have a plan to maintain it over the long term. For Ika, she believes that you just have to keep moving forward and be realistic in your expectations.

“I think you just have to keep on going because not everyday is like sunshine, you know? You will [feel] very, very tired most of the time but [if] you are doing the thing that you love, that’s what keeps you going. That keeps me going because I really love art and making people happy. Every time I create my own art and see those happy faces, that keeps me going.” 

Ika Natasha
Photo credit: Ika Natasha

If you want to check out the “beary” cute cakes of Minka Cakes, you can visit its Instagram and Facebook page.

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