Fresh, light and creamy. These are the words Ecem Akdeniz uses to describe San Sebastian cheesecake—the specialty at her new home-based business, Chéché Bakery. “This cheesecake is coming from Spain, this is particularly from the Basque area,” she says. “I’ve been there and I remember how nice it is and the taste is very different.”
Akdeniz migrated to Halifax from Istanbul, Turkey when she was in high school, and is now studying economics at Dalhousie University. She lives with her partner Gael Rakotondrafara, a recent Saint Mary’s University grad who hails from Madagascar. They operate Chéché together.
“Me and my partner love baking. It’s very therapeutic for us,” Akdeniz says. Friends and family were enthusiastic about their cooking, and the business was born. “It was actually very random. We just started baking and we have friends over sometime, and his siblings come over and they really like what we bake.”
What makes San Sebastian cheesecake different is the texture. It’s less dense and less sugary than your typical western-style cheesecake. It’s also usually served naked (without toppings) to showcase the cake's creme brulee-like taste and appearance, which is achieved by baking at a very high temperature.
“We just wanted to bring something different to the table, because we were looking at Halifax to see if they had any type of cheesecake or any European bakeries. But the things that the city offers is very limited,” says Akdeniz. “I don’t think if I stayed in Turkey I could start anything like this. The market here is very available.”
Akdeniz hopes to expand the business to include more items like pastries and other desserts. She hopes to infuse her Turkish heritage as well as her partner's Madagascar heritage into the menu to create unique flavour profiles that Halifax isn’t familiar with.
Although Chéché sold some cakes back in February, the business's full launch plan was delayed by the arrival of COVID-19. But last week, it got rolling again. “After a long time, we are back!” reads Chéché's Instagram post. “If you would like to support International student&Black Owned Businesses with some cold and delicate Cheesecake this is the time!”
At $5 a slice or $32 for a whole eight-slice cake, Akdeniz also says she wanted to start a business that offered decadent baked goods that were affordable to students and lower-income individuals—a luxury often only afforded to those willing to shell out big bucks. “I would like to make something good but at the same time not pricey for students or anyone,” says says, “and they can like it and we build a connection so they’re more than just a customer.”
For now, Akdeniz is happy and excited to be working from home. She says she can’t open a shop unless she gets the full Canadian citizenship required for a business loan. “I don’t have the type of money to start a [storefront] business, but at the same time I think this is a very great opportunity.”