Bake Sum

Asian-Inspired Pastries for a Watershed Decade

By Annie Wang


With its espresso- and marsala-soaked ladyfinger cake layers, mascarpone filling, and dusting of cocoa powder, Bake Sum’s Matchamisu is kin to a traditional Italian tiramisu. The fusion twist is in the mascarpone, which gets its vivid green color and distinctive flavor from the East Asian powered tea leaves called matcha. (Photos courtesy of Bake Sum)


Back in 2020, when Bake Sum bakery founder Joyce Tang first created the Croissubi—her now-wildly-popular fusion of a croissant with a Hawaiian Spam musubi*—not everyone was familiar with the components.

“I would have to explain what Spam was, what a Spam musubi was, and why I was putting it in a croissant,” says Tang. “That’s what I did. All day, every day. Every time I popped up.”

The Croissubi

Fast forward to 2023, inside Bake Sum’s bustling storefront on Grand Avenue in Oakland everyone “gets” the Croissubi. “We don’t even have to sell it,” Tang adds.

Early last decade, as Joyce Tang was working her way up the career ladder at Facebook, ambition began to spark up her baking hobby. She entered amateur ice cream and cupcake competitions, found part-time opportunities at bakeries and restaurants like heavy-hitter Starter Bakery, and even baked in the Facebook kitchen.

Quitting Facebook in 2015, she enrolled at the San Francisco Cooking School to get a classical French pastry education, and by 2018, Tang was selling her baked goods wholesale and at pop-ups as La Chinoiserie, a name that “spoke to her two culinary polestars, France and China,” as Jonathan Kauffman wrote admiringly in 2018 for the Chronicle. But the name proved clunky.

“People couldn’t pronounce it or spell it and so—they couldn’t find me,” Tang says of an obvious problem for a business doing its marketing online. “Bake” would be easy, and adding a layered Cantonese word, “sum,” which can represent both “heart” and a melding of two things, could evoke bringing people together with delicious pastries. “Bake Sum became our pandemic identity that better encapsulated all the flavors that we were infusing into the pastries,” Tang says.

Bake Sum was a success, but Tang realized she needed a storefront. The direct interactions would better convey the complex and unique stories behind pastries that reflect the backgrounds of the bakery’s team, many of whom are Asian American Bay Area natives who share Tang’s nostalgia for treats they enjoyed growing up.


Left to right: Black Sesame Bun with Kumquats, Ube Bun, Yuzu Meringue Bun, Abo Matar Danish


This fall, during September’s Mid-Autumn Festival, customers can enjoy a traditional Chinese mooncake, but innovation abounds in treats like the aforementioned Croissubi and the Loco Moco Danish, another Hawaiian fusion. The Okonomiyaki Danish evokes a favorite street food in Japan, and the halo-halo buns are inspired by a popular dessert in the Philippines. Ube, a Filipino sweet potato, lends its vivid purple color to the shop’s Chinese-style pineapple buns.

Tang’s journey reflects an increase in Asian American representation in popular culture. “We’ve had a watershed decade in terms of the concentration of talent in the Bay Area,” says Tang. “There are a lot of talented Asian chefs working in some of the best restaurants all over the country, but few of them own restaurants. Movies like Crazy Rich Asians and [business development] organizations like Gold House uplift Asian Americans in all industries, and have enabled Asian flavors, brands, and people to have a voice.”



Bake Sum was recently awarded a combined $200,000 in equity investment by Oakland-based small business accelerator ICA Fund and investor Charles Huang. The funders were looking for proven ability to meet social-impact milestones like sustainability and creation of good jobs, and Bake Sum had the right track record. The award will help Tang meet a dream of building out a larger production facility, which will mean more well-paid workers baking more pastries and more open hours for customers to come in and enjoy them. Tang continues to work toward curating a caring workplace for all who spend time within Bake Sum’s vibrant pink walls.

“Bake Sum’s goals center around creating a bakery that takes care of its team, community, and customers through delicious pastries,” is how Tang sums it up. ♦


*Spam musubi is a popular Hawaiian snack composed of a slice of grilled Spam (the canned chopped pork product popularized during World War II) sandwiched inside a block of rice and wrapped with nori in the tradition of Japanese onigiri.


Bake Sum opens at 8am daily at 3249 Grand Avenue in Oakland.

Writer Annie Wang is the founder and baker at Annie’s T Cakes, a popular pop-up bakery based in Oakland.