It all began with a love for macarons and certain dissatisfaction with the ‘stale’ desserts served in the typical Sydney café.
Tucked away in a small space behind a Northern suburb cafe like a well-kept secret, the kitchen of Art Plate by Ike Malada is filled with the rich aroma of coffee buttercream and the sounds of patissiers piping, cutting and mixing their way, with methodical precision, into trays upon trays of uniform desserts.
This is the workspace led by head patissier, Ike Malada, who also happens to be the mother of Masterchef Australia Season 7 ‘Dessert King’, Reynold Poernomo. Observing her smiling, easygoing demeanour sharpen into intent, considered efficiency around the kitchen, it comes, really, as little surprise.
Despite decades of experience in the food industry, this is Ike’s first venture into desserts and she is largely self-taught. In the three years since she first began creating desserts in the family home, Art Plate has developed into a busy wholesale business, supplying primarily to Oliver Brown café chains, as well as for smaller cafes, and for private events and functions. Unfortunately, there is no storefront.
Reynold is her youngest son of three. Older brother Arnold has already made a name for himself in Indonesia’s culinary scene, and Ike’s oldest son, Ronald currently serves as Art Plate’s director, though his duties appear to extend from answering emails, to being a regular member of the dessert-making team. Asked where he usually spends time in the Art Plate kitchen, Reynold points wryly to the washing up station.
While Reynold’s Masterchef creations and dessert interests centre around creating his own, largely component-based fine dining dessert, Ike’s food philosophy at Art Plate has revolved around reinterpreting the sophisticated presentation and interesting form of fine dining dessert into more accessible, mid-tier ‘food fashion’ desserts, with a hint of gold.
The high demand for Art Plate’s desserts has resulted in a hard, often punishing schedule for its staff, particularly because everything is hand-made.
“She’s quite a perfectionist,” Reynold says. “And I see that tendency in myself at times.”
Hearing about six day work weeks and many all-nighters pulled to keep up with orders, you can understand why Ike had misgivings about her children following in her footsteps, though she smiles widely now when asked about Reynold following her into the dessert world. She was, after all, the person to teach him how to make a pannacotta, which was Reynold’s first foray into the dessert world after watching Adriano Zumbo in the first season of Masterchef. The dish she remembers Reynold making for her most recently, however, is a scallop dish.
It seems fitting to begin with Art Plate’s macarons, Ike’s favourite dessert. The flavour combinations of Art Plate’s macarons don’t quite rock the boat, but the reliable usual suspects are all present and skilfully rendered. The light beige salted caramel is designed to maximise the punch of lightly salted sweetness in the filling, while the light pink strawberry macaron also featured a yoghurt-like tang that cut through the sweetness. I also picked up a green tea-like note in the meringue of the green macaron, which featured a refreshing citrus centre for those who prefer fruity flavours. And of course, you can’t go past the creamy coffee filling in the speckled coffee macaron.
Ike’s love of using fresh flowers as garnish is evident in Art Plate’s take on the Red Velvet Cake; the tiny multicoloured petals bring beautiful pops of colour over a confection of multiple layers of sponge, cream and a concentrated, jam-like raspberry layer that packs the main punch of berry sweetness, all resting on a blink-and-you-miss-it, paper-thin layer of white chocolate. The layers are impressively uniform and firm, so that no layer was out of place when the cake was cut.
Balancing flavour and textural elements while maintaining an overall ‘lightness’ is the overarching priority of Art Plate’s dessert lineup. This is evident in their popular Oreo Cheesecake, which has a light, springy cheesecake body – though more cream than cheese – that’s grounded by the dark chocolate ganache and biscuit base. The bold colours of the Mousse with Orange Glaze matches the tangy, passionfruit-like note in smooth, creamy mousse and the hint of orange in its glaze. The biscuit base of this dessert is more granular than the cheesecake base, which complements the texture of the mousse particularly well.
With a strong flavour of coffee permeating the layers, the Opera Cake is ideal for those who love their lattes and tiramisu. It’s another precisely constructed dessert with knife-sharp layers, holds together through multiple chops, and is perfect for outdoor events. If we’re talking coffee-based dessert, I prefer the Opera Cake to the Coffee Roll Cake, which was a standard roll cake, covered with surprisingly soft crumbs instead of crunchy biscuit like I was expecting.
The Mini Black Forest Cake doesn’t quite hold up as well to the chop, given its soft cream and sponge centre but is a study in distilling the flavours of black forest’s dark chocolate, cherry and cream flavours in a series of rich, smooth layers.
The frontrunner of the lot, however, is the Chocolate Lava Cake, which is the ultimate guilty pleasure cake, whether you’re celebrating a job promotion, birthday or getting over a breakup. The dense texture of the cake was perfect for holding and absorbing the oozing, melted dark chocolate filling. The quality of the dark chocolate ganache gives this lava cake a rich, fine flavour that is surprisingly not as sweet or overwhelming as the dessert’s appearance might suggest.
Spend a little time with the Poernomo brothers and their mother and it becomes apparent that the humble, quiet achiever quality that so endeared Reynold to many Masterchef fans is a bit of a family trait, as is an exacting eye for detail and creative flair.
There are also exciting hints for exciting future plans across the board. Reynold and his older brother are hard at work fulfilling his dessert bar vision, which they aim to open later this year. In the lead up to the opening, Reynold is also working on a series of pop-up dessert projects (as well as finishing his university degree, his mother is quick to add). Look out for natural, native Australian ingredients and maybe even a hint of sugar-blowing. And, yes, Reynold really wanted to make that Botrytis Cinerea, and rest assured that the desserts are “definitely going to be a lot better than what people have seen”.
Ike’s next plans for Art Plate are grounded in keeping it focused on its current course. She’s also looking into rustic desserts and continuing to make Art Plate more accessible for more of the populace, which is certainly good news. Such calibre of dessert needs to be shared with Australia, en masse.
For more information on Art Plate by Ike Malada, go to artplate.com.au