This week, we’re bringing colorful desserts and bakes, a delight to the eyes. We’ve interviewed a home baker: Shereen Hussein, who kindly describes her journey, how it feels to be a home bakery’ owner in Saudi Arabia, what pushed her to start baking in the first place, and much more.
She shared her favorite cake recipe with us, that we’ll share this Friday. It’s an amazing cake that makes a top ten in Arabia, and probably a keeper for all of us!
A&B: how did you start in the world of baking? Who was your inspiration?
After years of suffering from cancer and lung fibrosis, my dad died on April the 8th in 2011, a week after my birthday. His death crushed my heart and shattered my world. For months I could not engage nor be interested in anything! (Apart from going to work).
I locked myself in the house and away from everyone, staring at his chair where he sat after his afternoon nap, every evening, with a book, sipping a cup of coffee, enjoying bites of dessert.
Suddenly, I had an urge to bake, went to the kitchen, pulled out a recipe, and baked! I baked to remember him, to honor his memory, to heal my heart and calm my inner storm. The more I baked the more I healed the aromas, the calculated process, the creativity that flourished, within me while baking, it made me feel alive again.
The more I baked and shared what I made with loved ones and friends the happier I became. Baking became my passion, my heaven, I created a space for myself to happily remember my dad and smiled.
I am inspired by every great Pastry Chef I follow, or when visiting bakeries: I get inspired by colorful cozy bakeries, beautifully designed cafés with fabulous desserts. Among the chefs I admire the most in our time are:
My mom; Executive Pastry Chef Karim Bourgi; Pastry Chef Joakim Prat; Pastry Chef Anna Olson; Chef Yotam Assaf Ottolenghi; and Chef Mayada Badr.
A&B: how is it in Saudi Arabia to own your baking business?
Saudi Arabia has a strong emerging market in the food industry, especially for desserts. We look for everything unique and delicious, in our gatherings, weddings, or when we dine out. We also love modern twists on traditional sweets where we Orientalize a lot of classic desserts to suit our taste buds. Dessert takes a big place on Arabic tables during religious holidays and months, such as Ramadan and Eid. Desserts are served daily with Arabic coffee (light roast coffee infused with cardamom and saffron).
Coming from a hospitable culture we expect to have visitors pass by every day, so we are always prepared to make a delicious dessert, happily anticipating the visitor of the day!
Running a business from home in Saudi Arabia is quite challenging. Many franchises are opening every day, restaurants, bakeries, cake shops, and chocolatiers, you need to create something outstanding to compete in this big market.
My approach was simply delicious classical cakes that you want to snuggle on a couch with, and enjoy worry-free about how much cream or sugar it contains.
Running a business like this from home -in such a competitive market- keeps me challenged and excited to continue creating, learning, growing, and developing unique mouthwatering experiences for our clients, with as little guilt as possible.
A&B: for how long you have your baking business and what is the most wanted bake? Why do you think it is so wanted?
The official launch was in 2017, however 3 years prior to that I baked for a small cafe in one of the many compound residencies in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
When I asked my fellow bakers to name their top four cakes:
Spicy Carrot Cake
Cardamom and Saffron Cake “Qors Oqaili”
Dates Cake “Sticky date toffee pudding”
Came out on top
A&B: what is your favorite dessert and why? Can you share a recipe you like?
My personal favorites are mille-feuille, Croquembouche, Simple Vanilla cake, and cardamom and saffron cake “qors oqaili”: an Arabian perfumed cake, very moist and unique in texture. It is a traditional Kuwaiti cake with strong notes of cardamom, saffron, rose water, and sesame.
The flavor is so rich, it is lovely with a cup of tea, a cold glass of milk or coffee.
A&B: How can your bakes be sugar-free and flour free and look so solid? Is it related to Saudi Arabia’s food culture that you have this knowledge, how is it?
We offer a range of customized cakes to meet clients’ desires (gluten-free, sugar free, nuts free or fully-fledged all in desserts).
Some of the alternative options for sugar include coconut sugar, maple syrup, pure honey, sugar cane or dates molasses, homemade almond, rice or oat flour or store-bought gluten free flour.
When we customize a recipe for a client who is gluten sensitive or is avoiding sugar, we try to test them several times prior to delivery to ensure best flavor, quality, and density of our cakes.
One of our outstanding chocolate cakes consists of only two ingredients using the best type of chocolate we can get our hands on, so we do not need to add sugar or anything else to it and it is one of our biggest hits for gluten free cakes.
A&B: if you could give a tip to someone entering the world of baking what would you say?
Follow your heart, trust your instincts, bake what you crave, and start with the cake you like the least and make it perfect for your own taste.
Once you appreciate a cake that you previously had always overlooked, you realize your engaging with something truly transcendent.
Baking is a precision game, but you have the liberty to create your own signature recipe with minor changes, and that is what I love about baking.
A&B: if you could make your business into “the business of your dreams “what would change? What needs to happen for it?
I would love to create a little haven for people to visit and dump all their worries at Shero’s Bakery door, for people to live in a bubble for a few hours. A one-stop café to unwind, pick up a souvenir, a small bouquet of flowers or indulge in a mini art or baking activity.
A social hub that you look forward to visit after work, at weekends to inspire and relax you.
A&B: Thank you so much!
You can find Shero’s Bakery social links down below!
She shared an amazing Recipe with us for Cardamom and Saffron Cake, “Qors Oqaili”, find it here under Recipes!