In 1990, Tom Carlos and Mary Anne Cuenca gave birth to Kink Cakes. Nearly two decades later, their business, touted as the bad boy of the Philippine baking industry, continues to draw the patronage of naughty adults who want to give presents that can draw a snicker or guffaw from those receiving them.
Kink Cakes offers variously flavored cakes with handcrafted designs ranging from sexy girls in bikinis to couples in compromising positions. It is a business that began from a more basic but earnest desire: the mutual “I-want-to-be-my-own-boss” longing of Carlos and Cuenca, who at the time were both pursuing postgraduate degrees in medicine at the University of the East in Manila.
The pair decided to discontinue their medical studies to go into the decidedly offbeat business of making sexy-themed cakes—a decision that drew the vehement objections of their parents. But the two pressed on, with Carlos taking charge of the financial side and Cuenca, the baking aspect.
Taking the road less traveled
Carlos recalls that he had a gut feel that his unique vision would work. His reason: “If we were going to just offer merchandise similar to those of the bigger bakeshops, we might as well not go into the business because they can easily drown us with their bigger capital.”
To get started, the partners put up only P200,000 in initial capital because they simply took over a small bakeshop in Quezon City with an available chiller. Carlos says the funds came from his savings and from loans he had obtained from his parents and some friends.
During the first few months of Kink Cakes, the partners were always on the lookout for provocative ideas to draw crowds into their store. Among their early ideas was to draw bits and pieces of the human anatomy on their cakes. Later on, they learned how to mold and shape them as part of the cakes themselves.
To their dismay, however, their bakers often encountered mishaps in making the cakes during the first few months, like the “boobs” of the cake falling off. As Carlos recalls, “We were lucky that since we were the only one in the market making kinky cakes, our customers were extremely tolerant of some of the unfortunate outcomes of our cakes.”
Eventually, though, Kink Cakes was able to develop more stable types of icing, glazing, or sugar coatings for their cakes. Carlos explains: “In the past, the three-dimensional formed cakes would crumble when transported for longer than 30 minutes. We have since developed structural support for our cakes that enable them to withstand long hours of traffic.”
During the second year of Kink Cakes, however, the massive power outages that plagued the country almost killed the business. Carlos recalls: “People became extremely hesitant to buy cakes because they didn’t know where to put them and how to prevent the forms of the cakes from melting. Rather than give up, though, we bought delivery vans, generators, and various other equipment to keep ourselves in business.”
The perseverance of the partners paid off. By its fifth year, Kink Cakes had started to make good money and the partners were able to recover their initial investment in the business. This happened, Carlos recalls, when the media noticed his bakeshop and gave it unexpected public exposure. The result was a deluge of customers. “We were so unprepared for it that we started having a backlog of orders,” Carlos says.
Indulging in success
The Kink Cakes business is now worth several million pesos and employs a total of 40 people. Aside from its main store and commissary on Timog Avenue in Quezon City, the company has established outlets for its cakes in the cities of Parañaque, Manila, San Juan, and Makati. It prices its cakes from P800 to P30,000 depending on size and the complexity of the design requested by the customer.
Kink Cakes currently carries over a thousand cake designs in its product catalog, and the company staff is always on the alert for more adult-oriented themes and figures to add to it. “We always try to tailor-fit our cakes to the demands of the customers,” Carlos says. “For instance, if the customer requires a particularly difficult cake design, we make it a rule to try to execute it the best way we can just so we can please the customer.”
Carlos says that Kink Cakes plans to put up more branches within Metro Manila in the long term. It has also started creating cakes that are not actually naughty, but are especially and creatively designed to please its customers.
Extra: The Eureka! moment
Tom Carlos of Kink Cakes says that he and his partner Mary Ann Cuenca envisioned making anatomically correct cakes simply to create a niche in the adult market. “Such an idea was never done before,” he says. “We were just thinking out of the box. And we really didn’t know if people were going to find the idea as humorous as we saw it or see it as something obscene instead.”