Photos by Collin Richie

The eye-catching and surprisingly jiggly Japanese cheesecake creations of baker Michelle Huynh

Michelle Huynh

Hometown: Lafayette
Age: 28
Artistry: Baked goods; Co-owner EM’s Bakery
Online: on Instagram

All the intense techno and hip-hop blaring through her kitchen to keep her awake at all hours as her hands worked batter and bread couldn’t fight back Michelle Huynh’s feeling of being worn-out. At her peak, the Lafayette native was making 16 traditional Japanese cheesecakes a day—and fulfilling bread orders for restaurants on top of that. Even in her mid-20s, she knew that pace couldn’t last.

“When you first start your own business, it’s all you’re going to think about,” says the self-taught baker who has returned from hiatus to re-launch EM’s Bakery with Evan Foster, her partner. “I know I didn’t care about anything else, not even myself. So, make sure you eat well and rest well, and spend time away from your business. That’s step one.”

The curious thing about Japanese cheesecake is that it jiggles. Huynh’s social media blew up because of her videos of the “jiggle,” a story she can’t tell without laughing. 

Smooth and soft, they are a far cry from a dense wedge of New York-style cheesecake. 

Four years ago, Huynh was already a seasoned line cook, having been inspired by devoted ramen chefs at restaurants in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. She would watch their dedication to their broth and dream of designing her own menu and creating food that felt like a personal expression.

“We don’t really have Asian bakeries here, so it seemed like something that we really needed,” she recalls.  

In plain, ube and matcha flavors, her unique dessert slices sell at Teatery near Towne Center. She also offers ube and coconut cream cakes, pork floss bread, jalapeno-crowned sausage bread and Hokkaido milk bread through pop-ups and direct orders. 

Like biting into a cloud, her milk bread is sweet and braided, and she does not cut corners.

“Using my own bread recipe makes it a longer process, but I like how it comes out with those flavors,” she says. “The time is worth it.”

She’s recently added fresh fruit and more intricate icing to her cakes and wants to continue to evolve everything at EM’s.

“For a long time, I was really scared to do that,” Huynh says. “I thought I had this foundation of a traditional Japanese cheesecake, and I should just stick to it, but now I’m really energized by trying new things.”