Meet the cupcake king
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!”