The UAE's Cupcake Queens

Meet the leading ladies of all things sweet! We bring you the stories of women who turned a love of baking into big business
Tuesday , 19 November 2013
Sweet Stuff
Founder: Farah Gokal-Gazzawi
Farah’s love of cupcakes is as much about artistry and design as it is about taste.    
   Before venturing into the culinary world, this mum of four was making jewellery, designing shawls, and painting.  Designing intricate cupcakes seemed like a natural extension of creativity to her.
“That’s how we differentiate ourselves from the rest of the market – we have good tasting cupcakes, but they are also exquisitely beautiful,” says Farah.
  They once did a large seven tier wedding cake with fresh flowers and seven different flavours – one for each layer.
“Normally, this kind of cake would have some fake layers, but they wanted every single layer cut in front of their guests so everything had to be real and fresh,” she says.  “We were literally baking for 48 hours around the clock!”
    When it comes to cupcakes, signature flavours include salted caramel cupcakes.  Sweet Stuff has definitely hit a sweet spot with their desserts, as they cater to many fashion brands and events, including Christian Louboutin’s anniversary party.  For that event, they made cupcakes with little shoes on them – the entire new collection was represented in cupcakes.
  Before the Louboutin days, Sweet Stuff had a humble beginning, starting in Farah’s home.  She started giving cupcakes to family and friends and the network grew organically from there.  It became a business when they realized there was a market for American-style baked goods, so they developed the brand and a bakery catering to all things sweet.
    “Eventually, my husband got fed up from seeing flour and batter and sprinkles everywhere in our home - and no real food - so he actually went and found a location for a proper bakery in Jumeirah that we use to this day,” she says with a laugh.
Visit www.lovesweetstuff.com for more!
© ITP Images
Sweet Stuff Founder: Farah Gokal-Gazzawi Farah’s love of cupcakes is as much about artistry and design as it is about taste. Before venturing into the culinary world, this mum of four was making jewellery, designing shawls, and painting. Designing intricate cupcakes seemed like a natural extension of creativity to her. “That’s how we differentiate ourselves from the rest of the market – we have good tasting cupcakes, but they are also exquisitely beautiful,” says Farah. They once did a large seven tier wedding cake with fresh flowers and seven different flavours – one for each layer. “Normally, this kind of cake would have some fake layers, but they wanted every single layer cut in front of their guests so everything had to be real and fresh,” she says. “We were literally baking for 48 hours around the clock!” When it comes to cupcakes, signature flavours include salted caramel cupcakes. Sweet Stuff has definitely hit a sweet spot with their desserts, as they cater to many fashion brands and events, including Christian Louboutin’s anniversary party. For that event, they made cupcakes with little shoes on them – the entire new collection was represented in cupcakes. Before the Louboutin days, Sweet Stuff had a humble beginning, starting in Farah’s home. She started giving cupcakes to family and friends and the network grew organically from there. It became a business when they realized there was a market for American-style baked goods, so they developed the brand and a bakery catering to all things sweet. “Eventually, my husband got fed up from seeing flour and batter and sprinkles everywhere in our home - and no real food - so he actually went and found a location for a proper bakery in Jumeirah that we use to this day,” she says with a laugh. Visit www.lovesweetstuff.com for more!
Kitsch Cupcakes
Founder: Dalia Dogmoch Soubra
There is a certain ‘je ne sais quo’ about Kitsch cupcakes and it might have to do with the fact that founder Dalia grew up in Paris and infuses a European flair into her recipes.
“Cupcakes are an American classic, but I’m in love with European products that are a little less sweet and a little more robust in flavour,” she says.  “Many of our ingredients are European.”
    After living in Paris, Dalia moved to New York for college and lived there for nearly a decade.  There, she witnessed what she calls the ‘cupcake phenomenon’ as the infamous Magnolia Bakery launched and the television show Sex and the City made them popular.  When she returned to Beirut with batter on the brain, she decided to launch Kitsch with a close friend and take on the cupcake world   
“We didn’t hire an international baking team or take a franchise, we created our own recipes from scratch,” says Dalia.  “I’m a self-taught baker, so all the recipes are made after lots of hours in my kitchen.”
    After opening in Beirut in 2006, they opened a second branch in Dubai in 2008 in Jumeirah.
“Initially, people thought we were crazy,” she says with a laugh.  “I was meeting with every big mall operator in Dubai and people told me cupcakes will never work here.”
    After many sleepless nights, Dalia followed her instinct and kept up with her work.  
    Her favourite moment was when her father, who was initially against the crazy idea of cupcakes after having invested in a great education for his daughter, came to visit the Kitsch bakery.  After seeing the queues and how smoothly Dalia was running her own business, he couldn’t help but be impressed.
“That day, I saw that he finally understood, and it meant the world to me,” she says.      
      Today, she’s opened four more locations across the Gulf region, including one in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and a trendy one in the DIFC, with plans for more soon.
Her favourite flavours rotate depending on the season, but she loves peanut butter chocolate and French vanilla.  Orders for her tasty sweets range from a Burj Khalifa tower for Kim Kardashian to cupcakes spelling out ‘Will You Marry Me’ for a marriage proposal. 
Visit: http://www.kitschconcept.com/
© ITP Images
Kitsch Cupcakes Founder: Dalia Dogmoch Soubra There is a certain ‘je ne sais quo’ about Kitsch cupcakes and it might have to do with the fact that founder Dalia grew up in Paris and infuses a European flair into her recipes. “Cupcakes are an American classic, but I’m in love with European products that are a little less sweet and a little more robust in flavour,” she says. “Many of our ingredients are European.” After living in Paris, Dalia moved to New York for college and lived there for nearly a decade. There, she witnessed what she calls the ‘cupcake phenomenon’ as the infamous Magnolia Bakery launched and the television show Sex and the City made them popular. When she returned to Beirut with batter on the brain, she decided to launch Kitsch with a close friend and take on the cupcake world “We didn’t hire an international baking team or take a franchise, we created our own recipes from scratch,” says Dalia. “I’m a self-taught baker, so all the recipes are made after lots of hours in my kitchen.” After opening in Beirut in 2006, they opened a second branch in Dubai in 2008 in Jumeirah. “Initially, people thought we were crazy,” she says with a laugh. “I was meeting with every big mall operator in Dubai and people told me cupcakes will never work here.” After many sleepless nights, Dalia followed her instinct and kept up with her work. Her favourite moment was when her father, who was initially against the crazy idea of cupcakes after having invested in a great education for his daughter, came to visit the Kitsch bakery. After seeing the queues and how smoothly Dalia was running her own business, he couldn’t help but be impressed. “That day, I saw that he finally understood, and it meant the world to me,” she says. Today, she’s opened four more locations across the Gulf region, including one in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and a trendy one in the DIFC, with plans for more soon. Her favourite flavours rotate depending on the season, but she loves peanut butter chocolate and French vanilla. Orders for her tasty sweets range from a Burj Khalifa tower for Kim Kardashian to cupcakes spelling out ‘Will You Marry Me’ for a marriage proposal. Visit: http://www.kitschconcept.com/
Blossom Sweets
Managing Partner: 
Amna Alhashly
Amna and her sister are two Emirati girls who are taking Abu Dhabi’s cupcake scene to the next level.  Amna used to work at The Khalifa Fund, an entity which supports small businesses by providing financial and advisory support.  So in terms of managing a startup, Amna had her bases covered.  
      Her sister, Lamia, who has a creative flair and a love of baking, began tinkering with recipes at home and has developed yummy ones like nutella and marshmallow cupcakes.  This new flavour is currently Amna’s favourite.
“Our skills and characters complement one another,” says Amna. “She does the creative side and I manage the business.  And we never fight!”
With a team of 17 people, they make about 150 cupcakes a day, with most sold by 10 pm.  
Their top sellers are red velvet cupcakes, dates and toffee cupcakes, and knafeh – inspired by the traditional cheesy, syrupy Lebanese dessert.
They also make designer customized cupcakes, including French pastries, and introduce new flavours every season.  They also make Italian gelato ice cream.
   “We get inspiration from travelling,” she says.  “There’s a dessert called cronut, a combination of a donut and a croissant, that’s huge in New York right now and we want to bring it here.”
They also have Emirati-inspired flavours that they introduce during Ramadan and National Day.  They use spices like cardamom and saffron, and ingredients like Arabic coffee beans and pistachios, in their cupcakes during that time.
Their craziest order to date has actually been for a customized cake big enough for a person to stand inside.  It ended up being a 2 meter cake made of Styrofoam on the inside and sugar on the outside.
Visit: www.blossomsweets.com
© ITP Images
Blossom Sweets Managing Partner: Amna Alhashly Amna and her sister are two Emirati girls who are taking Abu Dhabi’s cupcake scene to the next level. Amna used to work at The Khalifa Fund, an entity which supports small businesses by providing financial and advisory support. So in terms of managing a startup, Amna had her bases covered. Her sister, Lamia, who has a creative flair and a love of baking, began tinkering with recipes at home and has developed yummy ones like nutella and marshmallow cupcakes. This new flavour is currently Amna’s favourite. “Our skills and characters complement one another,” says Amna. “She does the creative side and I manage the business. And we never fight!” With a team of 17 people, they make about 150 cupcakes a day, with most sold by 10 pm. Their top sellers are red velvet cupcakes, dates and toffee cupcakes, and knafeh – inspired by the traditional cheesy, syrupy Lebanese dessert. They also make designer customized cupcakes, including French pastries, and introduce new flavours every season. They also make Italian gelato ice cream. “We get inspiration from travelling,” she says. “There’s a dessert called cronut, a combination of a donut and a croissant, that’s huge in New York right now and we want to bring it here.” They also have Emirati-inspired flavours that they introduce during Ramadan and National Day. They use spices like cardamom and saffron, and ingredients like Arabic coffee beans and pistachios, in their cupcakes during that time. Their craziest order to date has actually been for a customized cake big enough for a person to stand inside. It ended up being a 2 meter cake made of Styrofoam on the inside and sugar on the outside. Visit: www.blossomsweets.com
Cup N’Cakes
Founder: Nicole Mrad El-Arif
What started off as a bit of fun baking in the kitchen for Nicole led to a serious passion for all things sweet – and six culinary degrees!  
      It’s no wonder that Nicole, who was back at her cafe two weeks after giving birth to her second child, has secured loyal clients – including the likes of Emirates NBD – as fans of her cupcakes.  
Her cupcake themes have ranged from corporate logos (made with special printers) to Tinkerbell for little girls.
“One time, we made a cake with an aquarium in the centre with fake fish for a party with an underwater theme,” she says with a smile.  
Cup N’ Cakes is located in Town Centre along Beach Road in Jumeirah.  
It is a cosy cafe that promotes healthy eating, offering cupcakes like banana and dark chocolate, made with brown sugar, as a healthy alternative to powders and preservatives.
“Healthy eating is hard, so we try to have healthy options, especially when baking for small children,” reveals Nicole, who has two children and bakes regularly for schools.  
Nicole worked in the hospitality industry for 14 years before she began to take her love of baking to a professional level.  
     Her background in hospitality, which provided her with management and culinary experience, was the perfect mix for her to launch her concept four years ago.
“I still bake myself and love the smell that spreads through the house when there’s something yummy in the oven,” says Nicole.  “It’s a nice way for the family to wake up.”
Her favourite flavour?  Always and forever, the red velvet cupcake, which is a light chocolate cupcake with intense red food colouring and creamy cheese frosting.  
Are you salivating yet? 
For details, visit: www.cupncakesdubai.com
© ITP Images
Cup N’Cakes Founder: Nicole Mrad El-Arif What started off as a bit of fun baking in the kitchen for Nicole led to a serious passion for all things sweet – and six culinary degrees! It’s no wonder that Nicole, who was back at her cafe two weeks after giving birth to her second child, has secured loyal clients – including the likes of Emirates NBD – as fans of her cupcakes. Her cupcake themes have ranged from corporate logos (made with special printers) to Tinkerbell for little girls. “One time, we made a cake with an aquarium in the centre with fake fish for a party with an underwater theme,” she says with a smile. Cup N’ Cakes is located in Town Centre along Beach Road in Jumeirah. It is a cosy cafe that promotes healthy eating, offering cupcakes like banana and dark chocolate, made with brown sugar, as a healthy alternative to powders and preservatives. “Healthy eating is hard, so we try to have healthy options, especially when baking for small children,” reveals Nicole, who has two children and bakes regularly for schools. Nicole worked in the hospitality industry for 14 years before she began to take her love of baking to a professional level. Her background in hospitality, which provided her with management and culinary experience, was the perfect mix for her to launch her concept four years ago. “I still bake myself and love the smell that spreads through the house when there’s something yummy in the oven,” says Nicole. “It’s a nice way for the family to wake up.” Her favourite flavour? Always and forever, the red velvet cupcake, which is a light chocolate cupcake with intense red food colouring and creamy cheese frosting. Are you salivating yet? For details, visit: www.cupncakesdubai.com

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