This Oakland bakery’s one-of-a-kind butter mochi desserts are prepared for the massive time
Big Boi soaks Earl Gray tea in milk and bakes it in her butter mochi desserts. Photo credit: Big Boi Mochi / Instagram
Buttermochi would be at the top of any list of calming desserts. Its mushy texture combined with a sweet (but not too sweet) taste makes it a favorite for many. And in the Bay Area, where Asian-inspired desserts and bakeries line long lines, sweet rice flour baked goods have developed their own cult. Big Boi Mochi in Oakland recognized this need and grabbed hold of it and built a business that only serves delicious, individually wrapped and strangely flavored squares of butter mochi to dozens of customers.
Big Boi Mochi was born in February, a collaboration between Xinyue Wang, Tina Lee, and Irene Pan. Wang oversees operations and finances, while Lee is the baker and the “mastermind behind the product.” Pan is knowledgeable about reach and social media, an extremely important role as much of Big Boi’s sales are online. The three are childhood friends and grow up together in the East Bay; Wang was born in China, while Lee and Pan are second generation Chinese Americans. The original Big Boi recipe, whose origins can be traced back to Hawaii, comes from Lee’s family. “Tina’s mother did it for us, for parties and potlucks, and we asked for more each time,” Wang told Nosh.
The pandemic-related boredom and longing for the cake as well as the local trend towards independent, Instagram-based desserts with an Asian flair prompted the friends to start making and selling the beloved cake at the beginning of the year. “We decided to tweak the recipe and play with Asian and American flavors,” said Wang.
Big Boi’s black sesame mochi is said to be a reminder of New Years treats and Sunday dim sum. Photo credit: Big Boi Mochi / Instagram
Previously, the monthly changing flavors included pumpkin spice and black sesame, biscuits and cream and melon, earl gray and salted egg, and the original – a subtly sweet, coconut-scented affair. Customers are welcome to pre-order the product – sold in lovingly labeled boxes – and have it delivered personally by the team. Alternatively, pick-up is available from the Sweetheart Cafe & Tea location at 315 Ninth Street in Oakland’s Chinatown.
“It was daunting starting our business, but the responses have been amazing,” said Wang. Not that the beginning was easy. “To be honest, butter mochi isn’t the most marketable product,” she said. “On Instagram you see beautiful pictures of cupcakes, pretty desserts and butter mochi is like a brick.”
But while it is visually inconspicuous, as soon as they try the tough squares, newbies will be enchanted. Many people are already familiar with mochi desserts thanks to the bouncy and iridescent mochi muffins and waffles at Berkeley’s Third Culture Bakery. Big Boi’s offerings are their own thing. Much silky, smooth, and springy than other mochi desserts, Big Boi’s squares are both dense and incredibly light to the touch, but aren’t rubbery.
According to Wang, the instantly lovable quality of Big Boi comes from a combination of Lee’s painstaking texture control and the unique flavors that also translate into a sweet, irresistible fragrance. The end result – a mix of sweet, sticky rice flour, coconut milk, and butter, plus eggs and ingredients that infuse the milk – is more than the sum of its parts. (How much butter are we talking about in a product that has “butter” in its name? “Not as much as you think,” said Wang with a laugh.)
“We keep a good balance and use our friends as testers,” said Wang. So their melon mochi is somehow more melon-like than the fruit itself, and their sesame seeds are tender and not too nutty.
Big Boi Mochi, it seems, is destined for bigger things in 2022. While some pandemic-era initiatives have opted for an underground, illicit start, Big Boi has operated under an LLC and food handler certification from the start, with an eye for growth opportunities. The team has worked hard to spread the joy of butter mochi locally – whether through personal pop-ups or vaccination campaigns in the Asian communities around the bay, where medical staff and patients are given free samples. Next year, Big Boi is planning more pop-ups and community events, catering for businesses and organizations, and hopes – no small detail – to get an established delivery platform to reach a larger customer base.
“In order to expand our business, we would like our product to be sold elsewhere, and we felt limited by home baking,” said Wang. “We wanted to be ready for greater opportunities.”
The next Big Boi Mochi pre-order window is December 19th and will be announced on Instagram. Original mochi: $ 10 for six. All other flavored mochi: $ 12 for six. Mochi Sampler Box: $ 24 for 12 pieces (three pieces of each flavor).
Big Bois passion fruit butter mochi. Courtesy: Big Boi Mochi