Duke Dessert: Owner uses grandma’s recipes for comforting traditional desserts

By Evan Mua May 24, 2024
Duke Dessert: Owner uses grandma’s recipes for comforting traditional desserts
The owner of Duke’s Dessert hopes to bring the sweet taste of his hometown to Singapore. Photos: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere
  • Duke Dessert is a relatively new traditional dessert spot at Fortune Centre
  • The shop guarantees a full-refund policy if customers are unsatisfied
  • Recipes come from one of the owners’ grandmother and mother
  • The durian cendol and handmade sesame paste are best-sellers
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Singapore has no shortage of sweet treats. The dessert options are endless, ranging from good ol’ ice cream to viral Japanese warabimochi.

But sometimes you just want some comfort and when it comes to comfort, nothing hits quite like traditional desserts — almond paste, mango sago, cendol, and the like.

duke dessert
The newcomer is found at Fortune Centre, a few doors down from another popular dessert shop. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

While there is already a plethora of beloved brands littered throughout Singapore, we found a new one that might be worth the calories: Duke Dessert at Fortune Centre.

Duke Dessert is a relatively new entrant — it opened in Nov 2023 and just a few doors down from Ya Ka Yan, a much-more established traditional dessert brand.

Unfazed by the strong competition, the younger brand attracts its own steady stream of regulars and curious traditional dessert lovers.

So what is it that makes Duke Dessert special?

A taste of home

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Zen (left) and 37-year-old Tan Kian Hui, “Ken”, are two of the brains behind this concept. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

It’s opened by four business partners but the recipes come from 42-year-old Law Jia Liang (more affectionately referred to as “Zen”), who hails from Penang.

He has been in Singapore for over 20 years and used to work in the events industry, prior to his foray into F&B entrepreneurship.

What makes Duke Dessert tick is the source of those recipes: His grandmother and mother. 

“I stayed with my grandmother and I’d always liked watching her prepare desserts in the kitchen, back when I was just a kid,” he recalls.

Eventually, he got around to trying his own hand at making the desserts in his teens, with guidance from his family. 

It wasn’t because he dreamed of being a chef. Simply put, Duke Dessert is born out of his love for the desserts he grew up enjoying.

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Zen learned most of his recipes from grandma and mum. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

At the same time, he thought: “It’d be nice to bring a taste of my hometown to Singapore.”

As someone who has known the recipes intimately since a young age, Zen thinks his desserts offer something different from others on the market — especially since a lot of the components are handmade. 

For example, the black sesame used in Duke’s black sesame paste is toasted and hand-ground to give it the best depth of flavour, while even the coconut milk used in the cendol is blended in-house using different varieties.

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The black bean paste is hand-ground for extra depth of flavour. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

When asked about his choice of location, Zen says it was pure coincidence. 

In fact, he also runs a bubble tea shop named Feng Shui Tang, within the same building on the first floor. 

When the Duke Desserts team was scouting out locations, Fortune Centre happened to have a vacant unit and they decided to take the plunge.

duke dessert
The owners believe desserts are supposed to bring joy. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

Nonetheless, Zen and his partners are confident that the quality of their offerings speaks for itself. Duke Dessert even offers a full refund on its desserts if customers are unhappy and advertises so proudly, judging from the signs right at the entrance.

“To us, eating desserts is something that gives joy, after all!” quips Zen. 

Thankfully, reviews have been good and the shop has earned itself many return customers. 

Also, no one has taken them up on that refund offer yet — so they must be doing something right.

The desserts

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There are plenty of familiar, sweet favourites on the menu here. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

All that said, the proof is in the pudding, so we had to slurp up some tong shui to gauge for ourselves.

One of Duke Dessert’s signatures and best-selling products is the durian cendol (S$6.80) that is served with a generous dollop of fresh durian puree.

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Duke’s cendol, especially the one with durian, is one of the most popular items. Photos: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

This was a very solid bowl of cendol that comprises silky pandan squiggles and fragrant coconut milk, as well as gula melaka that’s nice and toasty, but not so sweet that it overwhelms everything — something that happens regularly at other places.

As for the owners, their personal favourite seems to be the sesame paste (S$4.20). Unlike your usual, Duke Dessert’s take on this classic hot dessert is not at all cloying.

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The owners love the thick and earthy black sesame paste. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

It’s still thick and silky smooth, but the paste doesn’t feel jelak at all. Duke’s recipe calls for less sugar, which allows the robust, earthy richness of the black sesame to come through more articulately. Super comforting.

In the same vein, the almond walnut paste (S$4.20) is another great soul-soothing and warm dessert that tastes natural, comforting and not too sweet.

Besides the familiar traditional desserts that are easily found in Singapore and Malaysia, there are also more Taiwan-inspired tapioca-ball desserts on the menu.

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The Taiwanese-style desserts feature beancurd and grass jelly that’s made in-house. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

Duke’s best-sellers employ either beancurd, grass jelly, or both, as its foundation — both proudly made in-house by Duke Dessert — and range from a simple beancurd with tapioca balls (S$5.90), to a beancurd grass jelly red bean with ice cream and tapioca ball (S$7.50) with everything thrown in.

The beancurd is terrifically creamy and light, while the grass jelly is wonderfully bouncy and carries a nice tinge of herbal notes.

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The mango sago here features shaved ice made from mango juice. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

If we had a personal favourite, it was the mango sago with ice cream (S$6.90). It comes with delicate shaved ice made from mango juice and adorned with chunks of fresh luscious mango.

Fruit lovers would enjoy the sweet, tropical, fruity vibrance of this dessert, which is also accented with a charming, zesty twang that really opened up our appetite, especially after a heavy meal.

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These bottled drinks are supposed to be a good alternative to your usual breakfasts. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

Besides just these staples, Duke Dessert has also rolled out an interesting line of “meal replacement drinks”, which are intended to be breakfast substitutes.

This range of drinks includes everything from almond black sesame (S$5.90) to almond purple rice with lotus seeds (S$5.90). 

These are light, wholesome, packaged in glass bottles, and are meant to be shelf-stable. You can keep them for up to six months and use them whenever you’re up for a more unique breakfast.

This was a hosted tasting.

For more ideas on what to eat, read our stories on Kovan’s Korean hidden gem Myungdong K-Food and the best eats at supper hotspot Bedok 85.

Duke Dessert is on the GrabFood delivery service and offers free delivery (up to S$3 off) with GrabUnlimited. 

Do explore the new GrabFood Dine-in service for awesome deals.

You can also book a ride to Duke Dessert to get a taste of Zen’s hometown.

Duke Dessert 

Fortune Centre 02-06, 190 Middle Road
Nearest MRT: Rochor and Bugis
Open: Tuesday to Sunday (12pm to 4pm, 5pm to 11pm)

Fortune Centre 02-06, 190 Middle Road
Nearest MRT: Rochor and Bugis
Open: Tuesday to Sunday (12pm to 4pm, 5pm to 11pm)

Evan Mua


Evan started off writing about food on Instagram, before joining outlets such as Buro and Confirm Good to pursue his passion. His best work usually comes after his first whisky shot in the morning.

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