Meet the cup­cake king

Friday - - Great Reads -

Tarek Malouf, the founder of the ex­ceed­ingly good Hum­ming­bird Bak­ery, brought cup­cakes back into fash­ion when he opened the first of his six bak­eries back in 2004 in Lon­don, UK, and is just about to pub­lish his fourth – and very ea­gerly-awaited – cook­book, Life Is Sweet .

It’s the re­sult of a three-week road trip in Oc­to­ber 2013, around his spir­i­tual bak­ing home, Amer­ica, which took him from New York to At­lanta, New Or­leans and Dal­las. He stayed with friends and rel­a­tives, and de­manded one thing: that they show him the best desserts in town.

“Many of the recipes are re­gional or known in an area in the US, but not known else­where in the world,” he says.

They all fea­ture names that defy your mouth not to wa­ter; Gooey But­ter Cake, Mo­lasses Pecan Crumb Cake, Red Vel­vet Ice Cream and Alabama Lit­tle Layer Cake. Those look­ing to wow din­ner party guests with some amaz­ing desserts would do well to seek in­spi­ra­tion among the book’s brightly coloured pages.

“The rise in home bak­ing is re­ally nice to see,” adds Le­banese-born Malouf, who moved to Lon­don when he was two years old.

“Peo­ple are re­dis­cov­er­ing the fun you can have mak­ing things your­self, and you get more adu­la­tion from friends and fam­ily when you bring in cook­ies or a big cake, rather than savoury food. There’s more of a wow fac­tor, and peo­ple are al­ways ex­cited.”

For Malouf, the roots of Amer­i­can bak­ing are steeped in tra­di­tional Bri­tish recipes, but with added in­gre­di­ents over the years, from the coun­try’s rich melt­ing pot of na­tives and im­mi­grants. By his own ad­mis­sion, he and his sis­ter grew up in “an Amer­i­can bub­ble”, both at­tend­ing an Amer­i­can school in Cen­tral Lon­don.

“Amer­i­can bak­ing is fas­ci­nat­ing to me, I love it,” he says. “We used to visit the US once a year, and I have a cou­ple of aunts and cousins who live there, so we used to stay with them.

“And I have a very sweet tooth, so be­tween school and friends’ houses, and vis­it­ing and bak­ing with my rel­a­tives, I de­vel­oped a real taste for Amer­i­can desserts and cakes.”

Malouf has been asked count­less times since launch­ing Hum­ming­bird Bak­ery, whether the cup­cake trend is go­ing to last – and 11 years on, he’s still con­vinced it’s not a fad. “They ap­peal be­cause they’re smaller, you’re eat­ing it your­self, so you can be picky with the flavour. It’s just a bet­ter ver­sion of a fairy cake, and hope­fully not as dry!”

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