Last updated April 4th 2017
In China, baking at home has never really been common practice. In fact, most Chinese homes don’t even have an oven. While American culture gave us Betty Crocker and Martha Stewart, the Chinese are not so much into baking.
Israeli entrepreneur Ronen Mechanik teamed up with his Chinese friend Piu Piu to provide the Chinese with easy-to-make cakes. Mechanik, a former sous-chef in Tel Aviv, can make a pretty good cake. A few years ago, he sent a photo of one he made for his son’s birthday to Piu Piu, who instantly wanted to try and recreate it.
She soon realized that baking was no simple task in China. A lot of the necessary ingredients weren’t even available. And how do you even make a cake without an oven? Mechanik took up this challenge and after some experimenting, offered Piu Piu a revolutionary idea: make a cake in a rice cooker.
Though some have tried this in the past, Uga Uga has actually come up with a Betty Crocker-style instant cake mix especially for rice cookers, with the potential to reach over 1.3 billion Chinese people.
Calling their joint business endeavor “Uga Uga,” which literally means “Cake Cake” in Hebrew – but is also a popular Israeli children’s song – Mechanik and Piu designed a simple do-it-yourself cake kit for steaming in a rice cooker.
No oven? No problem. The concept is very simple and seems to have taken off with a bang in China, where ovens may be lacking but rice cookers are a kitchen staple. Over 4,000 kits have been sold already, just from word of mouth and social media – no marketing campaign; the startup launched its website just a couple of months ago.
The Uga Uga basic kit includes cake powder, icing squeeze bags, toppings and a handy heart-shaped tin foil cake pan to keep the mixture separated from the rice cooker. All you need to add are eggs, oil, and water to make the mixture, which then only takes about 20 minutes in the rice cooker to come out a full, moist cake. Uga Uga provides three flavors: Chocolate & Nuts Brownie Crush, the Classic Chocolate Must Have, and the Vanilla Berry Scandal.
The cakes have been designed to appeal to the Chinese taste buds, which are said to prefer less sweet desserts. The kits are sold through the hugely popular Chinese social media app WeChat and the online shopping site Taobao.
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Uga Uga has met with great popularity already, with happy buyers posting photo after photo on social media of their own individualized Uga Uga creations.
One cake, including the mix and ingredients, will cost about $7, a very pricey purchase compared to what Betty Crocker offers. Still, it’s relatively more affordable for a Chinese family than ordering a cake from a pastry chef or seeking out expensive non-local ingredients to make a cake from scratch.
Uga Uga intends to penetrate other Asian markets where rice cookers are commonly used, and even market to students in the US and Europe, where ovens are typically not allowed in dorm rooms, but rice cookers are.
With no baking experience needed, anybody with a rice cooker can make an Uga Uga cake. Doesn’t that take the cake?
Photos and video: Uga Uga, Philips