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Behind the #gram: Ng Li Tying of The Spatula and The Pen

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Meet the home-baker and Insta influencer who posts as many heartfelt stories as she does pictures of her cakes.

One would expect a baker with 12,900 followers on Instagram to be working from her own spacious and professional kitchen, with a team at her beck and call. It is thus of some surprise that part-time home-baker Ng Li Tying, owner of The Spatula and The Pen (TSP), still has to stagger timings with her family to use the shared kitchen.

"Using the kitchen during meal-times is a big no," the 25-year-old home-baker added with a laugh.

As a Singapore Management University (SMU) double degree graduate, her parents were naturally not thrilled when she first started out her online baking business in 2013.

Li Tying said: "I guess millennials can be greedier – we just want to pursue what we like, but it was hard for my parents to understand this notion at first.

"However, the change in mind came when they started following me on Instagram, a platform in which I am usually very vocal about my passion for baking on."

LI TYING IS A SELF-TAUGHT BAKER WHO STARTED BAKING IN JUNIOR COLLEGE AS A HOBBY. 
PHOTO CREDIT: @NGLITYING'S INSTAGRAM

Click on TSP's website and you'll find no "fixed menu" to choose from. Rather, Li Tying spins one-of-a-kind creations based on the stories shared by her customers.

However, living up to the reputation of being "the baker of your stories" is no easy task.

Li Tying shared: "I once baked for a girl who had a long list of things she can't eat due to health reasons – gluten, dairy, chocolate…I spent a very long time trying to design something that would avoid all these ingredients.


LI TYING EVENTUALLY CAME UP WITH SOMETHING RAW AND VEGAN, DECORATED WITH EDIBLE FLOWERS. 
PHOTO CREDIT: @NGLITYING'S INSTAGRAM

"It was definitely memorable – I remember her thanking me in an email afterwards, and how accomplished I felt."

However, Li Tying's dedication to customised orders also meant profitability is out of the question. The part-time partnerships and buying manager at Naiise typically spends one whole day on execution work for one order - sometimes more - depending on the complexity of the design. 


LI TYING ALSO ENJOYS BEING PART OF SPECIAL BAKING EVENTS. AT A RECENT BEN&JERRY'S
EVENT, SHE TAUGHT PARTICIPANTS TO RECREATE TIRAMISU WITH B&J'S ICE CREAM.

Other than the creative cake designs she puts up online, the young entrepreneur credits her popularity on Instagram to the heartfelt stories she shares on her platform. Beyond the personal stories, Li Tying often uses her social media influence to support social causes. 

Her latest collaboration was with Hygge, a passion project started out by two youths hoping to nurture a more inclusive society by kick-starting conversations about prevalent issues like mental illnesses.


ON THE TOPIC OF MENTAL ILLNESS, LI TYING CREATED A DESSERT THAT
SYMBOLISES THE STRUGGLES OF THOSE WITH EATING DISORDERS.
PHOTO CREDIT: @NGLITYING INSTAGRAM

Despite Li Tying's initial struggle with conceptualising desserts based on the emotions behind eating disorders, the final product was well received.

"The comments I got were surprising and heartening – more people could relate to it than I expected, which was what I wanted to prove as well [that more people go through these issues than we realise]."


LI TYING EXPLAINED HOW SHE CAME UP WITH A DESSERT THAT CHRONICLES AN EATING DISORDER.

Evidently, Li Tying's sincere and personal approach has touched many people since the start of TSP. Strangers would often drop her emails to encourage her, or to share with her their stories. Some even leave her messages using fake emails, so there is no way she can respond to them.

Li Tying said: "I guess they just needed a listening ear, but I would like them to know that I will always be here if they need anyone.

"These stories are a constant reminder to me as well – for me to appreciate what I have."

For more of such inspiring stories, check out @Nglitying’s Instagram!

This is part one of a three-part series on Instagram influencers. Stay tuned for the next part!