Third Culture Bakery has become a rising star in the Bay Area baking community in the past year for its innovative use of flavors and textures. The culinary brains behind this bakery are Sam Butarbutar and Wenter Shyu, two bakers who combined their separate businesses to create Third Culture Bakery. Both Sam and Wenter grew up in a culture different from that of their parents, and they wanted to combine cuisine from their Asian background with Sam's extensive knowledge of French baking techniques to produce a hybrid “third culture” baking style.

Thus was the inspiration behind the name and pastries at Third Culture Bakery. The Spoon University at Berkeley team was recently treated to an in-depth tasting tour of the brand new bakery, and its creations did not disappoint. 

Mochi Muffin

Sarah Fung

Naturally, we had to start our tasting experience with Third Culture's signature pastry. The Mochi Muffin is an enticing deep caramel color, and is topped with a sprinkling of black and white Japanese sesame seeds. Biting into the muffin is a unique but exciting experience. The texture from the mochi flour, a fine textured rice flour, is unlike that of a traditional muffin. While the outside is crisp, the inside is soft and chewy. The rich, buttery, and caramelized flavor of the muffin juxtaposes perfectly with the nuttiness of the sesame topping, and the use of coconut sugar added a complex sweetness. This acclaimed pastry definitely lives up to its hype.

Matcha Custard Cake

Alina Yu

This custard cake has a delicate and floral flavor that envelops the palate, thanks to the high-quality matcha powder used in its creation. The flavor is rounded out with a slight dusting of powdered sugar, which adds a dimension of sweetness that lingers alongside the matcha flavor. The texture is delightfully spongey and the color is a dark forest green. The signature dimple, also found in the Mochi Muffin, makes this miniature dessert look oh-so-charming.

Churro Custard Cake

Alina Yu

Third Culture’s Churro Custard Cake takes the best elements of this deep-fried Spanish treat, combining the light and spongy texture of custard with the sweet and aromatic flavors of canela cinnamon. The entire cake is covered with cinnamon sugar, a perfect homage to the original churro. What I personally found interesting was how moist this cake is, similar in texture to a Tres Leche cake. My mom used to make a similar cake, so it was naturally my favorite dessert from the experience. 

Thai Tea Custard Cake

Alina Yu

This burnt umber colored cake packs a flavor punch. The Thai tea flavor comes through in just one bite, an impressive feat for any baker to achieve. The white chocolate drizzle topping the cake adds a bit of creaminess, tricking my mind into thinking that I just drank one of my favorite beverages.  

Japanese Curry Scone

Sarah Fung

Third Culture's take on a savory scone is intensely delicious. The Japanese yellow curry not only gives the scone a beautiful golden yellow color, but it also adds a complex spice upon which the other ingredients intermingle. The texture of the corn kernels, the subtle heat of the scallions, and the 3-cheese combination of English cheddar, pepper jack and Comté make for a well-rounded savory pastry. I would have happily eaten many more of these little scones.

White Chocolate Matcha Scone

Sarah Fung

Matcha, white chocolate, and scones seem like a strange combination, but every ingredient works effortlessly together. While scones are traditionally dry, crumbly pastries meant to be eaten with a hot beverage, these buttery little guys stand on their own. The same floral flavor of the matcha used in the Matcha Custard Cake is heightened with hidden bits of sweetness and creaminess from the white chocolate that melted in the pastry during the baking process. The result is a flaky texture that outshines any traditional scone at a tea party.

Sam and Wenter's attention to the quality of their ingredients is what makes their bakery impressive. The bakers strive for the very best ingredients: from locally sourced Petaluma butter to Japanese certified high-grade matcha powder. These ingredients, combined with a focused intention for each pastry, is what makes Third Culture what it is—spectacular.

It may be a wholesale bakery with no retail space—yet— but its attention to detail and vision for its pastries makes Third Culture's baked goods stand out in any café that serves its  creations. If you want to try some of Third Culture Bakery's confections, check out 1951 Coffee Company, Yali's, and Boba Guys. In the mean time, keep an eye out for its next big endeavor: serving brunch.