Nasi lemak, chilli crab and teriyaki chicken are main courses to most people. But Ms Julia Idris, owner of online bakery One Cupcake A Day, uses them as inspiration to create her line of 20 savoury cupcakes.
Whenever she dines out, she looks out for dishes that can be converted into cupcakes and thinks about the combination of cake, filling and frosting.
The 34-year-old says: "I enjoy de-constructing dishes into cupcakes and challenge myself to stay as close as possible to the original flavours."
Her bakery is part of a growing number that include savoury cupcakes and muffins in their line-up. These savoury treats contain ingredients such as potato chips, pickles and even cooked meats.
SundayLife! found at least eight shops selling savoury bakes. They include Cupcake Engineer in Cluny Court, which has chilli-infused chocolate cupcakes, and Maple & Market in Jalan Selaseh, which sells maple bacon cupcakes topped with black pepper and walnuts.
Most businesses introduce them as a way to stand out from the competition.
Ms Julia thinks that selling them sets her apart from the saturated market of sweet confections.
"Youngsters are more adventurous and like novelty so they are more willing to try something different."
Her best-selling cupcakes are the nasi lemak, a pandan- flavoured cupcake with a dollop of sambal chilli that is topped with coconut buttercream and dusted with crushed ikan bilis and peanuts; and the chilli crab (right), which has spicy crabmeat in vanilla cake adorned with sour cream frosting, parsley and a slice of chilli.
She sells about 120 cupcakes a day, a far cry from up to 60 when she started the business 1½ years ago.
Dessert Cup in Raffles City has seen demand for savoury cupcakes grow in the past four years. A spokesman says: "More customers, especially those in their 30s and 40s, prefer not to have overly sweet desserts."
The dessert kiosk has three savoury flavours, including a capsicum-infused chocolate cupcake, which was launched this March. These flavours appear once every two months. She adds that savoury ingredients inject a different dimension to cupcakes.
Gourmet Carousel in Royal Plaza on Scotts offers three savoury flavours in its cupcake collection launched last November. They are corn and scallion, olive polenta and salami, and salted egg yolk.
It sells more than 300 savoury cupcakes in a month. A spokesman says: "These unconventional flavours make great conversational topics at social events and create a memorable gastronomic experience for our customers."
For Ms Nursyazanna Syaira, 28, owner of Fluff Bakery in Jalan Pisang, savoury cupcakes are a way of introducing new flavours. Introduced in late 2013, they contain beef bacon, chocolate-dipped potato chips and cheddar cheese. She says these elements elevate the salty factor, which offsets the sweetness of the cupcakes, and inject crunchiness into them.
However, they are not as popular as local flavours such as teh tarik and onde onde. She says: "Savoury cupcakes are still an acquired taste. Most people still psychologically associate cupcakes with sweet stuff."
Customers are split between liking and hating these new-fangled cupcakes.
Republic Polytechnic student Siti Nurlina, 19, who has her weekly fix at Fluff Bakery, has tried its Chocolate Elvis cupcake topped with potato chips. She says: "The thought of having chips with chocolate was disgusting initially, but it turned out to be unexpectedly good, so I am game to try more unusual flavours."
Hospitality undergraduate Khairunnizam Hashim, 26, who has tried the teriyaki wasabi and tom yum seafood cupcakes from One Cupcake A Day, says: "I like them as I don't have a sweet tooth. It was confusing to the palate initially, but after a few tries, I forgot that I was eating a cupcake as it is not too sweet."
Secretary Shareen Shahri, 25 says: "I still prefer the classic sweet cupcake flavours such as red velvet and salted caramel. It is weird to mix sweet and savoury flavours. Sometimes, these creations just taste odd."
WHERE TO FIND THE TREATS
This four-year-old kiosk launched a capsicum-infused chocolate cupcake ($4.50)in March, adding to two other savoury flavours introduced in 2010. The 'Popped' cupcake is a salty corn-flavoured cupcake crowned with corn buttercream and caramelised popcorn. It is the most popular, with at least 100 sold a week.
The balsamic mushroom cupcake is a tomato-flavoured cupcake studded with mushrooms and sundried tomatoes.
Where: B1-73, Raffles City Shopping Centre
Open: 10.30am to 10pm daily
Info: Call 6468-2838 or go to www.mydessertcup.com
This Muslim-owned cupcake shop has four varieties of savoury cupcakes ($4). They include maple pancake cupcake topped with caramelised beef bacon and a hazelnut praline cupcake with chocolate-dipped potato chips. It sells about 250 savoury cupcakes a day.
Where: 12 Jalan Pisang
Open: Noon to 7.30pm, Tuesday to Saturday. Closed on Monday and Sunday
Info: Go to fluffbakery.sg
One Cupcake A Day
Choose from about 20 savoury muffins ($4) inspired by dishes such as nasi lemak, gado gado laksa, tom yum seafood soup and even fast food such as cheese burger and chilli cheese fries.
This Muslim-owned online bakery offers six savoury flavours at any one time. They are best consumed at room temperature, and are also sold at Flee Away Cafe in Dunlop Street and Wednesday Cafe in Tanjong Katong Road. Info: Go to onecupcakeaday.com or @onecupcakeaday on Instagram
Exclusive to Starbucks outlets here is the chicken floss muffin, launched in March.
This East-meets- West muffin ($4.20) consists of a butter cupcake, glazed with mayonnaise and topped with fluffy chicken floss. It is the only savoury muffin out of the five flavours.
Where: All Starbucks outlets
Open: Various timings
This article was first published on June 14, 2015. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.