Jane Lee takes the cake

Lee+with+desserts+that+she+sells.

Photo used with permission from Jane Lee

Lee with desserts that she sells.

Emily Pedroza

Curled up next to a dimly-lit laptop, Jane Lee uploads a new recipe to her Asian-fusion dessert blog, Cake Barn. An alumnus of Lynbrook, Lee spends her days working in tech and cultivates her passion for food at night. Her blog displays an assortment of sun-lit bakery items, from pandan jelly to sesame cream puffs, connecting communities one recipe at a time.  

Working full-time as a Senior Associate at Doordash and formerly a part-time Barista at Sue’s Gallery Café, she has maintained her roots in the Bay Area. Her time at Lynbrook in the Class of 2015 was a mix of positives and negatives — while she acknowledges the overwhelming achievement-oriented culture, she reminisces about high school memories of being a part of a French horn quartet and conducting bake sale fundraisers for charity.

“Classes and homework — things you do in the moment eventually pass, but the connections and friends that you make will stick,” Lee said. 

Summer after high school, she started her first job at Main Street’s 85 Degrees, where she packaged bread. Despite her passion for food businesses, time constraints and academic pressure led her to set aside baking until she finished undergrad. Besides being a part of University of Pennsylvania’s cuisine magazine, Penn Appetit, Lee believed that UPenn’s creative opportunities were limited. Although being a part of such a large organization was inspiring, she craved more control in recipe development. 

“Study what you’re interested in and things will work out,” Lee said. “Once I started working, everything I needed to know was learned on the job, so ultimately it didn’t really matter what major I chose.”

After graduating from college in 2019, she worked part-time at Paris Baguette, her first time hired officially as a baker. Looking back, she’s grateful for her first experience operating a commercial kitchen — operating the oven, donning an apron and earning the shop’s keys. Since graduating, she’s maintained part-time jobs to supplement her full-time jobs. 

“I love learning about other people, how they live and experiencing it next to them through working all these different jobs,” Lee said. “There’s a lot of value in immersing yourself in different kinds of work, next to a diverse set of people.”

Born in Hong Kong, Lee moved to the U.S. when she was five, though frequently visiting her homeland. Food united her family members: strung around a dinner table, sharing chopsticks, or people swarming to the cake, chanting ‘happy birthday!’ before blowing out candles. In middle school, she dreamed of being a chef, allured by the creative aspects of developing recipes and the unity it sparks.  Lee takes Asian flavors that she grew up eating and incorporates them into recipes online.

“It’s a strange experience being in between cultures, but I imagine a lot of Asian Americans can probably agree that their cultural ties have a lot to do with the flavors and foods that they grew up with,” said Lee. “Baking, to me, is putting a piece of myself into a tangible product that I can share with people and bring them together.” 

Lee started her baking blog, Cake Barn, to document her tweaked recipes, while her baking business started with friends requesting desserts through Instagram. Despite the stress of catering orders, Lee is moved by the trust of her customers. Her most popular item is the strawberry citrus shortcake: a Korean yuzu-jam infused vanilla chiffon cake, lemon-curd whipped cream layers, and topped with yuzu glazed strawberries. 

“It’s a very basic Asian bakery-style cake but I’ve nailed every part of it to the tee, people always ask for it,” Lee said. 

Balancing time continues to be a challenge she struggles with, as her resources are constrained. Although she wants to do all she can to continue and grow the business, her limited time is a barrier to some of her goals.

Her ultimate goal is to eventually open her own cafe, drawing from her past experiences in the food industry. She wishes to create a welcoming space, where anyone would feel comfortable and connected with the community.

“I think somehow things just fall into place the way they’re meant to be. The best thing you could do for yourself is just to stay true to yourself and do what feels natural,” Lee said.