Silk Cakes is a modern Asian American cake shop where classic American desserts are elevated with traditional Asian flavors such as matcha, pandan, yuzu and black sesame.
Chef Judy Lai is a first generation Chinese American born on the Lower East Side of New York City. The youngest of four girls, Judy bears a striking resemblance to her father, who worked as a line cook at a local Chinese restaurant. Some of Judy’s first memories include snacking on the special almond cookies her father would make on his day off, when he’d spend his precious down time tending to his four daughters in the family’s one bedroom apartment on Allen Street.
However, pastry was never part of the plan for Judy. After graduating from SUNY Binghamton with a major in Economics and minors in Studio Art and Asian American Studies in 1999, Judy started working as an accountant at Sony Music Publishing. It wasn’t until she whimsically prepared a cake for her niece's first birthday where she received rave reviews that she decided to take a chance and enroll in night classes at the French Culinary institute (now International Culinary Center). After earning her diploma in Classic Pastry in 2006, Judy was offered a job at the school’s distinguished L’École restaurant. She decided to leave the world of accounting and was subsequently promoted to a Cake Decorating Instructor in 2011.
In 2009, Judy decided to open Silk Cakes to offer custom cake designs to friends and a handful of clients. Throughout her upbringing, Judy was subject to the tension of identity that many first generations experience. Fully American and yet markedly Asian, she created Silk Cakes to bridge these two identities and finds inspiration in all things Asian – may it be a traditional cheongsam dress or traditional tea ceremonies.
True to her roots, Judy works to maintain the Asian traditions of the past in the new, modern format of her cake in both design and flavor. Chinese calligraphy transforms into dancing koi on a wedding cake. Black sesame folded into cake batter brings back fond memories of a childhood dessert. In many Asian cultures, affection is not shown verbally but communicated through food. Just as her parents expressed their love through almond cookies on Allen Street, Judy hopes that Silk Cakes customers will appreciate her dedication and passion through her Asian inspired cakes.