A Marriage of Korean and Mexican Flavors Set This San Antonio Bakery Apart

nari and aldo
Photo Courtesy of Hemisphere

You can’t look at Ooyoo Pan’s adorable Korean macarons and artfully decorated cupcakes and not smile. The San Antonio small batch bakery is the work of Nari Hodges and Aldo Cortes, who met online and went on a coffee date that turned into a full day adventure. Hodges recently graduated with a BFA in 3D animation, and Cortes is finishing up his degree in computer information systems. Their shared love of sweets and passion for their cultural backgrounds led to pop-ups and now a commercial kitchen space for Ooyoo Pan, which combines the Korean word for milk and the Spanish word for bread. We talked with Hodges about the duo’s culinary prowess, artistic ability and plans for the new space.

assorted character macarons

What are your cooking backgrounds?

Growing up, we would observe our families cook and help out from time to time.

I first got into baking when my mom made boxed blueberry muffins for a friend. From that point on, I would always make muffins and bring them to school to share. The process of baking was so fun to me, and I loved how happy my friends were to receive the little treats

Aldo focuses more on the flavors and the technical side of things. I design everything in 2D, and he’s the one that makes it work when we bring it to life.

What was your first pop-up? How did it go?

Our first pop-up was in October 2020 at St. Paul Square, hosted by The Pop-Up SATX. We spent three months preparing: making the treats, ordering supplies, building our display case. We were so surprised to see how long our line was. Even with three months to prepare, nothing could have prepared us for that, so it was definitely a learning experience. We sold out that day and we are so incredibly grateful our first pop-up went so well.

How did you decide to focus on macarons and cupcakes?

Macarons took so much time to “perfect” so I decided to keep going because I was already a year in.

I’ve always been amazed with Korean-style glossy buttercream flowers. They look so realistic and they’re normally put on top of cakes. Cakes are a bit harder to share with a wide audience, which is why I make cupcakes instead and top them off with the flowers.

decorated cupcake

What should people know about Korean macarons?

They are basically double-stuffed macarons, and the complete opposite of traditional macarons. The Korean macarons are not as intimidating and sweet as they look and are served chilled (like ice cream sandwiches) so the filling doesn’t ooze out. They often have pieces of cake, brownies, candies or even fruit in them.

Do you have any artistic background? Your characters are so impressive.

Thank you so much! I’ve been drawing for over 10 years as a hobby, and Aldo does ceramics occasionally. We use my 2D skills for the designing and Aldo’s ceramic skills to bring everything together.

What are some of your favorite Korean/Mexican flavor combinations?

We haven’t tried fusing Korean/Mexican flavors before since we were so limited under the Cottage Food Law, but we’ll have tons of opportunities now that we’re in a commercial kitchen. We once offered Korean style macarons with tamarindo buttercream and homemade chamoy sauce in the middle.

mini cake that says "rooting for you"

What are your best selling items?

I think our character and Korean macarons are our top sellers. Our cacti cupcakes and lunchbox cakes are popular options as well, but we haven’t had the chance to make them as much as we’d like to.

How did you decide to take the business to the next level and get space in a commercial kitchen?

S.A.Foodie really helped get the ball rolling for us. She found our product when she was promoting home businesses in 2020. We went from 250 followers to 2,500 overnight and quickly outgrew our kitchen. We did the best we could as full time students, and now we’ve moved into a commercial space doing this full time.

blue and white cake

How did you decide to implement your Sweets for a Change program?

Our first public sale was actually for Sweets for a Change! We donated 100% of the sales and have been donating from time to time ever since. We have donated to a number of local organizations, which you can learn about here.

What should people expect from Ooyoo Pan in 2022?

New products and merch! Being in a commercial kitchen gives us so much more freedom to create. We can now expand our menu to include more desserts and even drinks. We hope to grow into a storefront someday and provide an awesome teahouse and bakery for everyone.

AUTHOR

Sarah Strong

Beyondish Assistant Editor Sarah Strong is a New York City based writer who holds a master’s degree in food studies and is obsessed with television. You can follow her on Instagram at @feedsstrong to see where she eats, what she cooks and what sneakers she’s wearing.

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