A Lunar New Year pop-up launched this bakery business in Kansas City. He now has a full schedule | KCUR 89.3

When Yuei Costello baked her first cake, it was out of necessity. It was 2020 and she was living in Chanthaburi, Thailand. Her cousin was getting married, and due to the pandemic, there were no companies to make her wedding cake. With only a week of practice, she made a multi-tiered cake for more than 150 people. She says that after that, baking became her hobby.

“I was helping my aunt manage the resort and at the time, during the pandemic, there was nothing to do,” says Costello. “So I just found something to do and it was fun … but I didn’t think it was going to be a job at all.”

In August 2021, Costello moved to Kansas City from her native Thailand. In October, she married her husband Patrick, whom she met 14 years ago while working as an au pair in the US. Costello baked goods for their wedding as well.

But Costello’s hobby began to turn into a life when Cafe Cà Phê hosted a Lunar New Year celebration in 2022. There, the couple introduced Mooyuei Baker, their new Thai bakery. Mooyuei is a combination of the Thai word for pig and her name – she features a pig on her pop-up tables next to her sign.

“That was my first kick because I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Costello, who returned to Cafe Cà Phê for this year’s celebration, he says. “I made Thai-style cakes: orange cake, chocolate cake and Thai tea cake. After that I try to combine (flavors) more. We have another one we call foi thong, like a pandan cake with sweet egg drizzle. I’m trying to make something more Thai so people can see what it’s like.”

Individual sized bowls of purple ube and orange brownies are lined up on the table next to whoopie pies.  On the shelf above them is a dessert in layers.

Savannah Hawley-Bates


KCUR 89.3

Costello likes to experiment with new flavors. In addition to Ube and Thai Orange Cakes, which are her staples, Costello filled her table with Ube Whoopie Pies, Biscoff Cheesecake, Layered Banoffee Dessert, Black Sesame Cookies and Sugar Cookies.

Mixing Thai and American flavors

Costello says he likes to combine Thai flavors and techniques with mainstream American baked goods. Many of her desserts use chiffon cake as a base to keep them light and airy. He makes them all by hand in his home kitchen without machines. Costello, who dreamed of creating the display cakes, said she works to make each dessert a separate work of art.

Her products are “soft, not too sweet, not too crazy about sugar” — unlike many American pastries — because Costello says she wants people to eat the whole thing in one sitting.

Costella’s staples are her orange and ube cakes, which she brings to the many pop-ups she participates in. But Patrick also has a specialty — cookies with black sesame.

“From the beginning, she always stayed up much, much later than I did,” says Patrick. “And since she started doing this, I’ve also been staying up a lot later and just helping put things in bags and printing signs and some design stuff. But I make black sesame cookies — that’s my contribution.”

Costello is constantly coming up with new flavors and desserts to add to her rotation. She recently added a banoffee Oreo dessert (bananas, chocolate, caramel, Oreos and whipped cream stacked in a personal dish), Biscoff cheesecake and ube whoopie pies.

The self-taught baker is also working on mastering sugar cookies.

“I always say, ‘I hate it, but I do it,'” says Costello. “I just love drawing (designers) and it’s fun. But they take a lot of time, because if you do everything by hand, you have to wait to draw another layer on top.”

Costello made rabbit and paper fan decorated sugar cookies for this year’s Lunar New Year events. The baker is participating in two pop-ups this weekend and has made hundreds of desserts for each. At Saturday’s event, her sugar cookies sold out in less than two hours.

Costello’s return to this year’s Cafe Cà Phê event was more than a Lunar New Year celebration — it also marked a year in business.

To celebrate, she handed out hóngbāo – red envelopes traditionally filled with money and given for the Lunar New Year – with discount cards inside.

Costello’s Following on Instagram, where she does most of her business, has grown exponentially in the year since her first appearance. He hopes to eventually open his own storefront.

For now, though, she’s happy to keep busy with a full pop-up schedule, selling at cafes like Cafe Cà Phê and Gocha, and filling custom orders.

“I never say no to pop-ups,” she said. “I feel like it’s fun to challenge myself to try and get more menus at the same time and I love seeing people and saying hello. Because I think people here are always kind.”

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