How an Ad Exec Created Instagram's Trendiest Dessert and Became a Pastry Rock Star
By now, you've probably heard about it, seen it, or tasted it—the illusive, gelatinous Raindrop Cake. The dessert, which is made of agar and spring water, became an overnight success when it launched at Smorgasburg in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, April 2 and sold through all 700 plates. (Haven't seen it? Just check out #raindropcake.) It looks and tastes as you might expect: like an oversize drop of water. And although this dish appears to be the work of a Dominique Ansel-type dessert genius, it is actually being made not by a chef, but by an advertising exec named Darren Wong.
Wong, a strategist at digital marketing company 360i in N.Y.C., made a New Year's resolution to try new things, and first on his list was to try to replicate a Japanese dessert he had read about called "summer mochi." "I started Raindrop Cakes as a side hobby project," he says. "I like trying things and making things and this project started that way." He went ahead and ordered supplies online and started playing around in his kitchen at home with gelatins to try to reconstruct the surreal-looking sweet. After a few weeks and some taste-testing sessions with his very lucky roommates, he landed on the right texture and pairings (black sugar syrup and roasted soy flour).
It tasted so good he thought he should try and sell it—which turned out to be a brilliant, if not super-challenging, idea. He applied (by Googling the form, mind you) and got into Smorgasburg, "I created a website on Squarespace to house photos and that allowed me to apply," he says. He then began creating his first samples with the help of his cousin. He took over his tight Williamsburg apartment kitchen (sorry roommates!), and used living room shelves as holding racks. "The first week was complete madness," he laughs. "This is one giant learn-as-you-go experience." It was his first time as a vendor anywhere and he scrambled to get friends and family to pitch in. Since then, he's upgraded to a commercial food co-op with employees, which allows him to churn out thousands of cakes each week.
It's now a bona fide foodie obsession, but Wong maintains he's not a chef, and won't be rolling out a chain of snap-worthy desserts as people might expect. "I see myself as more of a food curator," he says "I would love if this came to be a brand introducing people to new food experiences." The Raindrop Cake was so popular in New York that it will launch at Smorgasburg in Los Angeles in a few months. If you're planning on grabbing one this weekend, you might want to get on line now...