Although Dang Wen LI may not have enjoyed the same level of popularity with Hongkongers that Hoover Bakery and Happy Cake Shop did, the news of its closure in January was met with disappointment.
A spin-off from Dominique Ansel’s eponymous New York bakery, Dang Wen Li (the name is derived from the Mandarin pronunciation of Ansel’sof first name) launched with much fanfare in December 2019 with a large store cafe in Tsimshatsui’s Harbour City. Ansel flew in to celebrate the launch.
The first line-up was a collection of Viennoiserie and cakes that paid homage to Hong Kong icons. It quickly became famous for its Milk Tea Cookie Shots, Lemon Mousse, and Bergamot Cream Cake, which looked like a lemon tea juice box.
Ansel, who is a 2019 Ansel, told the Post before the bakery opened he did not want to bring only his most famous creations in the bakery (including the Cronut pastries he was known for) but wanted to create “pastries inspired by the culture of Hong Kong.”
Dominique Ansel was the creator of the Cronut in New York in 2019 before opening Dang Wen Li Hong Kong. Photo: Xiaomei Chen
The Bear Cookie Cake is Dang Wen Li’s version of Koala March biscuits. It features layers of hazelnut sponge, vanilla sable, and milk chocolate ganache, as well as hazelnut mousse. Photo: Dang Wen Li
Hongkongers enjoyed glutinous rice balls filled with peanut ice cream, torched in order to create a crunchy caramelized exterior, and served on a stick that looked like skewer curry fish balls.
A hazelnut, black sesame, and coffee cake was another creation that celebrated the gothic appearance of a century-egg.
He told the Post at the time, “It is challenging to come up with new ideas, adapt menus, learn about the culture of the area, and then translate the essence of your work into something new for the local market.” It’s important to us that we have an emotional connection with people.
Since opening, Dang Wen Li has regularly launched new creations that evoke nostalgia and bring back memories. In one of its most recent collections, childhood snacks like Koala’s March biscuits or Haw Flakes served as inspiration.
The brand has also collaborated with Hong Kong businesses. In 2021, they partnered with siu Mei, a leading roast meats stall, Sun Kwai Heung, to create a special char-siu and egg croissant. They have also teamed up with Kung Lee, a long-standing Kung Lee sorbet shop on Hollywood Road, to produce sugar cane juice.
We have enjoyed making pastries to celebrate a city that we love. From cookie shots that look just like Yakult bottles of our childhood to pineapple bun mousse cake and peanut Mochi chaussons, we have made pastries that celebrate a city that we love.
We are happy and proud to have welcomed you to Hong Kong and to share with you what we do in these difficult times. And to support it by spreading joy through pastries.
Felicity Spector (a British food writer) wrote: “So Sorry to hear!” It was a wonderful experience to be there from the beginning. I still remember every beautiful dessert.”
The Post reminds anyone who has gift vouchers from Dang Wen Li to redeem them by the end of this month at the two remaining stores, Central and Admiralty.
Upper East Holdings did not reply to a comment request. The company brought Lady M, Sugarfina, and Dang Wen Li along to Hong Kong.