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When I was growing up in Korea, I became enamored with the cafe culture there and found myself especially drawn to the cute, intricate desserts in the glass display cases. Later, after living in Texas for some time, I found myself missing those afternoons spent in cafes with friends, and that inspired me to try my own hand at dessert-making.
I was interested in macarons and Korean buttercream flowers inspired by bakers like GGcakraft, Benny Cake and Honey & Butter. What began as an experiment and a hobby that I worked on in my spare time while I was a student at the University of the Incarnate Word quickly grew into a side gig and eventually a full-time business called Ooyoo Pan. Ooyoo Pan is a pop-up-based micro bakery specializing in a fusion of Korean and Mexican treats.
My business partner, Aldo Cortes, and I decided to merge our Korean and Mexican backgrounds for a concept that used Korean pastry techniques and a blend of Korean and Mexican flavors. I’ve always had trouble coming up with names and finding something that would stick, but Ooyoo Pan actually came very naturally to us. Ooyoo means “milk” in Korean, and Pan means “bread” in Spanish.
We originally intended to simply document treats that we made on Instagram for fun. We would have friends try out our treats, then more friends started ordering, and then Aldo and I turned this into a side gig while we were in college. Amanda Spencer, known as S.A.Foodie, did a couple of shoutouts to home businesses, and we were one of them. This helped our page grow more than we had ever imagined and get the ball rolling for us.
I’ve since graduated from UIW with a degree in 3D animation and game design which definitely helps in conceptualizing new designs in my baking. I never stopped watching cartoons, so that appreciation for the cute and whimsical comes through in my work. Some of our most popular treats have been Animal Crossing character macarons and lunchbox cakes.
Because of my design background, I’m more focused on ideas for designs, while Aldo helps with the realization of these ideas. He’s also had more of a hand in developing flavor combinations that are interesting and unique. In testing new flavors, we’ve found that matcha and guava pair surprisingly well, and that cheddar not only works in a macaron, but people really love it. More classic Asian flavors like black sesame and red bean have also been embraced by our customers, even if they were skeptical at first.
Until recently, we baked from a home kitchen. Due to the limited space — and limited time while we were students — we were unable to meet demand. Now that we’ve moved into a commercial kitchen, we can work more comfortably and bake more treats for our customers.
We frequently do pop-ups with The Pop-Up SATX and Plant Shoppe, and wine and macaron pairing classes with our friends at Re:Rooted 210. We’re so thankful that these wonderful businesses allow us to pop up with them regularly. I absolutely admire the support that small businesses get in San Antonio — and how these businesses support one another. We wouldn’t be where we are today without all the support that we’ve received, and I am so thankful I’ve been able to turn this passion into a full-time job.
When I’m baking, I like to have all ingredients ready and all the sketches planned out the night prior to ensure a smooth workflow for the following day. Macaron shells take the most time and store amazingly in the freezer, so we always make sure we prioritize the creation of the macaron shells. When making character macarons, I make my macaron batter, set up different bowls and piping bags for different colors, and start piping.
The key to creating character macarons is layers. I let one layer dry for a couple of minutes, then pipe on more details, let that dry, and continue adding more details until the design is complete. I can make 120 character macarons in a workday, but how quickly I can make the shells depends on the environment. The warmer or more humid it is, the slower the shells will dry, sometimes taking up to four hours. While everything is drying, I’ll start on the next batch or start wrapping up. It usually takes an hour or two to clean, organize, and prepare for the next day.
It can be challenging working alone for the most part. I can make more inventory now that we have a bigger kitchen with more space, but it’s still just me trying to meet a big demand. I’m thankful to have friends who are happy to make the time to help occasionally, and I know that when things don’t go according to plan, Aldo is always there to help when I need it. We always adapt and make the most of any situation we may come across.
There are so many parts that I love about my job, but one of the best parts is making people happy. I know food makes people happy, and I love being able to create cute foods that can bring people joy.
We’re still testing what works for our business, but we’d love to wholesale in the future when we’re ready, and to eventually grow into a storefront with cute pastries and drinks on our menu. The cafe culture is so huge in Korea, and it’s a dream to have a Korean-inspired cafe. People are so often on-the-go that they’ll just pick up their coffee and pastry and get going onto whatever’s next on the schedule. We want to offer a place where people can just breathe and enjoy the now.