“[Tiger lilies] are orange with spots. So, I don’t know why they are called tiger lilies because spots are more leopard, right? Tigers have stripes”, Chef Maxine Ngooi of Tigerlily Patisserie giggles as she explains to me how she came up with the name of one of the most talked-about patisseries along the streets of Joo Chiat.
We’re sitting in plush wooden chairs in front of marble-y terrazzo tables set with pale sage-green plates (commissioned from a ceramist from Bali, of course), amongst the cacophony of hopeful customers trying to get their hands on some Tigerlily’s pastries. Behind me, bright mango-coloured arches adorned with lush monstera leaves, making Tigerlily Patisserie all the more scrumptious.
Well, before we were in one of the highly coveted seats of Tigerlily Patisserie, we found ourselves at the back in the chilly chocolate room. A room where the magic happens, here we watch Chef Maxine at work, carefully whipping the cinnamon ganache for the cream for the Sun-choc, which was a creation specially designed for Sopexa’s pastry show. There, we chat about how Maxine became a chef and the perils of Singapore weather on delicate French pastries.
It turns out that Chef Maxine, like many, had a passion for baking in the kitchen. After completing her studies, she got a job at Les Amis, where she trained as a pastry chef. A few impressive job-hops with the likes of Jöel Robuchon Restaurant and Vianney Massot, and here we are at Tigerlily Patisserie. I know, an impressive resume indeed.
With each meticulous swirl of cinnamon ganache, I ask Chef Maxine about the role ingredients play and how important that is to making pastries. “The quality of ingredients is very important. It is one of the most important things”, Chef Maxine answers quickly and rightly so. This is especially pertinent in the bakes that only feature a couple of ingredients like their Peach Danish.
“It’s so simple; there are only a few ingredients where you have the dough and the peaches. In these cases, the kind of butter and peaches would matter more”. The peaches in the Danish are from Corsica, not from Georgia if you were wondering. Just like her peaches, the cream she uses is French too.
There is something about using French creams that adds richness and creaminess that is so important in creating French pastries. While French creams are the preferred choice, not all creams are created equal.
As Chef Maxine pipes the petals of the Mama-san—another show-exclusive creation—she tells me that some creams are more stable than others. French Dairy Board, for example, doesn’t split as easily and provides that lightness and decadence that cream needs to have.
What I tried
As Chef Maxine wraps the prep work for these dainty numbers, we were ushered back out, and it was time to try these highly coveted pastries.
The Mama-san is delicate and pretty, and like her namesake, pulls focus from the other pastries around her. A salted sakura flower lay suspended in sake jelly that sits on top of light-as-air miso caramel sake lees mousse.
Using miso in a cake is unconventional, but it’s something that pays off in spades. Who knew caramel and miso would be best friends? The little salty, umami-laden bursts mingle with cloud-like mousse while the Sansho pepper ties everything together. It might look like a strait-laced and almost conventional number, but the flavour combinations are one to be remembered.
I’m never one to shy away from chocolate, and the Sun-choc is the truly unforgettable one. Sure, chocolate is a flavour that we are all familiar with but what Chef Maxine does here is make something that we know very well, taste new again.
An elegant tube of walnut caramel dark chocolate ganache that’s welcomed anywhere and filled with—wait for it—a Jerusalem artichoke mousse and cinnamon crumble. Chef Maxine recounts, “When I presented this to my team, they were like, what? A vegetable cake?”. Indeed, Jerusalem artichoke is not something every day in a pastry. It turns out that Jerusalem artichoke is not related to artichokes at all. It is, in fact, a root vegetable.
For those turning your nose at the combination, just know that chocolate is an extremely versatile ingredient that has been used in savoury food, so why not artichoke and chocolate?
A forkful of the Sun-choc gets you that sweet, rich chocolate ganache, cinnamon-whipped ganache, and a hefty serving of the Jerusalem artichoke mousse. It’s sweet, rich and earthy. While one would associate cinnamon with more Christmassy flavours, the ganache serves as the bow to tie everything neatly together.
Of course, if you find yourself in the queue at Tigerlily Patisserie, I urge you to get one of their signatures, which is Chocolate Hazelnut Tart (S$15). A thing of beauty, you have whipped Valrhona milk chocolate piped on top of a pool of Valrhona dark chocolate ganache. Inside, crunchy hazelnut praline with hazelnuts from Piedmont and crowned with a cocoa nib tuile.
The chocolate is unapologetically rich, which reminds you why chocolate, when done right, is everything. Now, I had an Editor that turned his nose up at every chocolate dessert, but I know a slice of this, and you’ve got a convert. This tart might cost a pretty penny, but those Piedmontese hazelnuts do make a difference.
If there is something savoury you have to try, then get your hands on the Tomato and Artichoke Tart (S$7). It’s a simple tomato concasse that’s topped with beautiful grilled heirloom tomatoes and wedges interspersed with pickled artichoke hearts. The tomatoes are tangy, sweet, and slightly acidic—perfect for the buttery crust and vinegary artichoke hearts.
It’s only 2.30pm; the sign that all the pastries are sold out goes up. The frenzy that had taken over Tigerlily eases off and quietens down. Along the streets of Katong and Joo Chiat, there is no shortage of bakeries and patisseries, but Tigerlily Patisserie truly takes the cake.
Plus, keep your eyes peeled for a giveaway too. After all, we can all appreciate a win right now.
Expected damage: S$7 – S$15 per pax
*This post is brought to you in partnership with Sopexa.
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Our Rating: 4 / 5
350 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 427598
350 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 427598