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Where I Work: Creamy Rainbow Bakery and Cafe

Why Helen Zhao is on cloud nine making sweets influenced by both Asian and French baking.

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IAN SELIG
  • IAN SELIG

Creamy Rainbow Bakery and Cafe
1526 Dresden Row


WHO SHE IS
Helen Zhao dreams about cakes, breads and desserts as soft as clouds. Raised in China, where bakeries are filled with a combination of savoury, sweet and creamy treats, Zhao couldn't find the equivalent in Halifax. She craved dough mixed with egg milk and stuffed with red bean paste, mochi and taro. Driven to embark on an entrepreneurial journey, she completed the one-year baking program at NSCC, then worked at a large bakery in China. When Zhao returned to Halifax, she catered for family and friends while scheming about how to open a bakery of her own.

WHAT SHE DOES
In March, Zhao opened Creamy Rainbow Bakery and Cafe on Dresden Row. With a personalized approach to both Asian and European baking, Zhao offers a variety of chewy breads with savoury and sweet fillings. There is also a collection of fluffy sponge cakes, like strawberry peach, matcha, chocolate and blueberry jam. She also has a rotation of macaroons, mousse, eclairs, buns and cream puffs. "As long as you can name it, we can make it," Zhao says. One of the more intricate desserts is a brownie with Irish coffee mousse on top, salted caramel mousse on the bottom, a salted caramel insert and Rice Krispies chocolate coating. "It's very time-consuming," Zhao says. "We use Belgian chocolate, so it doesn't just look good—it tastes wonderful as well." Creamy Rainbow also offers a selection of homemade drinks, such as strawberry milk with berries preserved in raw sugar and Earl Grey tea with preserved orange slices.

WHERE SHE DOES IT
The centrepiece of Creamy Rainbow is the cake room tucked behind a pane of glass at the back of the store, which provides an inside look as Zhao assembles and details each dessert. Not only an aesthetic piece, the cake room prevents cross-contamination and keeps the almost-finished desserts safe from the heat of the oven. "In east Asia, cake rooms are very, very common in bakeries," Zhao says. She enjoys allowing visitors the chance to get up close and personal with what might end up on their plate. Creamy Rainbow has a bright sitting area with floor-to-ceiling windows and seating that spans the length of the room. The wall is decorated with a framed line up of Zhao's desserts—each one a pop of colour in the mostly white room.

WHY IT WORKS
Zhao named Creamy Rainbow after the textures and colours of the bakery's offerings. "I thought we needed something that conveys the feeling of a cloud," she says. "It makes you think about the softness and fluffiness that you can expect." So far, Zhao has been working 12-hour days at the cafe, but despite the hectic schedule, she finds herself floating on cloud nine. "I just really love every part of it," she says. "I have really good staff. I love the look of the place. It always feels so nice when I come to work."

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