Singapore meets Spain in Switzerland: this is the inspiring story of Charlotte Wink, a Zurich-based entrepreneur who started a basque burnt cheesecake business during the pandemic.
When Charlotte arrived in Switzerland in 2019, she never expected to be running a home-based small business. Two years and one pandemic later, she is rocking her kitchen (and our taste buds) with some of the finest cheesecakes Switzerland has seen.
It is believed that this delicacy first appeared in San Sebastian, a resort town in Spain’s Basque Country. This type of cheesecake has an iconic burnt surface lending it the name basque burnt cheesecake.
As a frequent customer and avid Instagram follower, curiosity got a hold of me. Who is the person behind the name? And how does she pull it off? I had reached out to Charlotte a while back and we have become friends. Here is what she has shared with me about running her small business.
Charlotte, how did you come up with your business idea?
Charlotte: It has always been my dream to start a small business for sourdough bread. After I was made redundant from my corporate job and got rejected by a Zürich sourdough bakery, I won second place in a sourdough competition for home bakers by Markthalle Im Viadukt. And I thought to myself: “Why not now? Let’s give it a try!”
But instead of competing with all the local bakeries, I wanted to find something that the Zürich food scene has not offered yet. And with a lot of help and encouragement from my family and friends, Baked by Charlotte W. was born in January 2021.
What inspires you to come up with new recipes?
I offer a new flavor of cake every month, so the source of my inspiration varies. But I guess that my inspiration is everything I love that surrounds me.
This February, for instance, I wanted to dedicate our first monthly special to my husband: Mr W. His favorite fruit is strawberry, so that was it! Lemon C. was inspired by my morning routine - hot lemon water:
Salted C with salted caramel flavor was requested by my customers:
And this is Matchaa, the special in November 2021:
What makes your cheesecakes taste so delicious?
All my cheesecakes are homemade with love. It sounds cliché, but it is true! My burnt cheesecake tastes as it does thanks to lots of hard work, as well as a portion of trial and error.
Any challenges in opening and running your own business in Switzerland?
Where to start? There are many challenges in running a business in Switzerland, with the top one being my lack of language skills. Also, the paperwork. Especially at the start of this business, I felt very grateful to have an army of support.
Which resources do you recommend to someone starting their own F&B business in Switzerland?
I mainly googled for answers and asked around. One tip is to knock on doors (both physically and virtually) and ask for help or guidance in a particular area. I have received help from others and given back to people who messaged me on Instagram. I believe that “sharing is caring.”
What's the most rewarding thing about running your own business?
I find the relationships that I have built with my customers and followers on social media the most rewarding. I have met most of my good friends through my business, including you, Jérôme! Baked by Charlotte W. opens doors and hearts.
It surprised me most to see the community’s love and support for small businesses here in Zürich.
What do you wish you had known before starting your business?
I wish I had known more about the sacrifices a business would require. We are talking about the days and nights - and weekends - running around Zürich for sourcing or delivering things. Naturally, this commitment results in a lack of sleep. And not to forget, a business of one’s own takes up mental space, too.
Secondly, I never imagined how much time I would be spending in front of my computer and phone. I am talking about editing photos and videos, writing captions, sharing Instagram Stories, processing order forms, and more.
I believe that a recipe of patience, endurance, and strength is the key to long-term success.
You must be eating cheesecake every day... Are you?
Yes, almost! As a baker, I eat my own cakes in the name of quality assurance. Creating new flavors means that I have to experiment, bake, and test. And finally, there are the cakes I make for photoshoots, like the one below. That slice of Matchaa in the picture was my lunch for that day...
What are the next steps for Baked by Charlotte W.? And where can we buy your basque burnt cheesecakes?
I have many plans. But first and foremost, I want to collaborate with other small businesses in creating new flavors for our burnt cheesecakes.
To get in on my next batch of cheesecakes, simply complete the pre-order form which I have linked on our Instagram profile. You will hear back from me personally.
(All photographs are copyright Baked by Charlotte W.)