It was a dreary Saturday morning, as ominous gray clouds shrouded New York City. At 9AM, there was already a light drizzle coming down, which was ironic because Raindrop Cake was opening for business that day at the popular outdoor food market Smorgasburg in Brooklyn. My friend Kyle, whose cousin created Raindrop Cake, had invited me out to the launch, but I wondered if the dismal weather would ruin the premiere of the new dessert whose popularity is spreading like wildfire online.
Kyle had told me a few weeks ago that his cousin Darren was launching a stand a Smorgaburg, which is already impressive, as getting into the food market involves a highly selective process. He also shared a picture of the Raindrop Cake, whose aesthetics immediately caught my attention. It looks exactly like what its name implies: a raindrop. Taking inspiration from traditional mizu shingen mochi in Japan, it’s made of natural spring water and agar, and is molded into a transparent little wobbly bubble. In a day when people value the superficial look of food as much as its taste, having a unique presentation is a smart strategy for Raindrop Cake. Call it kitschy, but the main goal when marketing a new product is to make people aware, and with its distinct look alone, Raindrop Cake will garner attention. I have never seen anything like it and I was intrigue in how it might taste. That’s coming from someone who’s the furthest thing from a food connoisseur, so imagine what an overzealous Instagrammer who loves #foodporn pictures would do just to get their hands on a Raindrop Cake. The dessert is practically made for social media.
I honestly forgot about the launch, but was eventually reminded a few days before the event when I saw a Facebook post by the Huffington Post proclaiming that Raindrop Cake as the next food craze in NYC (that post is currently at 3 million views). Then I saw Hypebeast, Complex, Buzzfeed, and other media outlets post about it, and that’s when I knew something big was in the works. Kyle had sent me a Facebook Events invite to the launch and initially there were only 30 people attending. As the event neared, that number grew to over 1,300. This was going to be a spectacle.
I met up with the cousins at the Raindrop Cake tent at Smorgsaburg an hour before opening, and there was an anticipated excitement in the air. I admire entrepreneurs, so it was interesting to hear Darren’s motivation for pursuing this food endeavor outside his full-time gig at an ad agency. Like most who go into business for themselves, Darren wanted to create something that he could pridefully say he enjoyed doing, in addition to being his own boss. He worked three to four months to finalize the recipe, while balancing the responsibilities of his day job, which was a difficult challenge. However, Darren was extremely inspired and eventually got Raindrop Cake off the ground.
Even with the rain, a couple customers came early to try to get their hands on Raindrop Cake before everyone else. The raindrop itself doesn’t have much flavor, but once combined with accompanying sugar syrup and roasted soybean flour, it’s a solid dessert that’s not too sweet, plus it’s also vegan. Once Smorgsaburg opened at 11AM, a crowd formed around the tent and within the first 20 minutes, a number of orders were placed. Raindrop Cake wasn’t operationally prepared to handle such volume with its four person team, so seeing this, I offered my services and jumped on the production line to help out.
With the immense PR coverage, hundreds upon hundreds of curious people wanted to try to Raindrop Cake, demonstrating the marketing power of internet virality. Darren only did one press interview with Huffington Post, and that content was re-purposed ten fold by different outlets and people sharing it online. That drop of edible water became an internet sensation overnight, which positively led to sales (and dollars) at Smorgsaburg. The awareness for Raindrop Cake only amplified on Saturday, as everyone was posting photos onto social media, adding to the snowball of hype. Will this become an increasingly popular trend in food, where outward appearance is just as critical to its success as its taste….maybe even more important?
The day was a total success, as we sold out of Raindrop Cakes after four hours. It was a really fun and rewarding experience to contribute to the launch of a new business. Your business only has one launch, so it’s critical to establish a successful foundation. Staring your own company is extremely difficult and requires you to roll up your sleeves and get dirty, but seeing the end results makes it all worthwhile. It was gratifying to see the amount of impact produced with just a small group of people.
Check out some photos and video I caught during my rare downtime during the day. Raindrop Cake will be at Smorsgaburg every weekend, so go check them out. I would like to see my friends build from this immense attention and take Raindrop Cake to another level. Food can be trendy and the novelty of the raindrop could eventually wear off, so it’s the upcoming decisions that will define the business. But for now, congrats!