We know you love their cupcakes, we've seen a couple of you pop by their bakeries in London on your way to the airport to stash a couple of dozens of their infamous red velvet cupcakes for your flight back to the homeland, and we know it's a must try on any Khaleejis London visit; so we got you an exclusive interview with the founder behind London's delectable Hummingbird Bakery!
Tarek Malouf, creator of the most fluffy, gorgeous and delicious cakes around took a few minutes out from his busy schedule to chat with our Khaleejesque staff writer Olivia Parker about his fabulous bakeries and their future.
What was your background before you started the Hummingbird Bakery?
I used to work in television news; I did that for about 4 or 5 years, so I didn’t have a baking or cooking background at all.
What was it about cupcakes that inspired you to set up the whole company?
I was looking for another career when I decided I didn’t really want to continue in television news, and I really wanted to start my own business. I had been mulling around a few ideas and one of them was to open an American bakery that specialized in very high quality American desserts, something that didn’t exist in London. That idea was something I spoke about a lot with my sister; she was the one that encouraged me to do it, and it came from there really.
Was it a challenge initially to get people interested, because cupcakes were originally such an American craze?
It wasn’t a huge challenge. Chocolate cakes and vanilla sponge are familiar to people here anyway. Obviously for any new business the challenge is getting customers to know that you are there and you are something different, but people took to it quite naturally, luckily for us!
Did you go through a lot of processes before you arrived at the perfect cupcake with huge icing piled on top?
Not really. It took about a year from my first idea to when I opened the shop, and I was always quite steady in what I wanted it to sell. Obviously we have made a few changes here and there, but if you look at the picture of the cupcakes we sold on day 1 compared to how they are now, they are more or less the same. There are a few additional flavors that we have added for our customers now; but really the basic ideas haven’t changed.
So what would be the perfect Hummingbird bakery cupcake?
My favorite is Black Bottom, but I also really like Red Velvet; that is the most popular with our customers. We strive to have all our cupcakes freshly baked and decorated on site in each place. A perfect cupcake needs to have generous sponge with a lot of icing, we don’t skimp on the icing much!
I’ve heard that The Hummingbird Bakery does lots for charity, could you tell me some more about that?
Every day we have requests from people who work for various charities asking if they can take our leftovers for selling. So then we check up on them and see what charity they are with, and book them in for a day. Whatever we have left over, whether it’d be one cupcake or 50, we give to them and they sell it on. Although obviously it is never guaranteed that we will have stuff leftover. Then we also help the Terence Higgins trust by having special World Aids Day cupcakes; a certain percentage of each one sold goes to the charity. Intermittently we’ll donate 200 cupcakes or so for a big fundraiser; generally we help the Terence Huggins trust and other charities ad hoc.
What are your plans for the future?
We have opened a new shop in Frying Pan Alley near London’s Spitalfields Market, which is the 4th branch in London. We also had a new book with 103 recipes which came out in March, called ‘Cake Days’ and that was very exciting, it sold really well. We also have ideas for a third book, which will probably be the last one; I don’t know exactly when it will come out but probably the Christmas after next.
And will you be opening in the Gulf? Khaleejesque has some very faithful Hummingbird Bakery fans…
Yes we are opening in the Gulf; probably by the very end of this year or the very beginning of 2012. We can’t say where and when exactly as we are on the verge of signing a franchise deal, but we will be opening all around the Gulf. Going global slowly but surely!
Here's a sneak peak into the latest Hummingbird Bakery book, 'Cake Days' (Collins, 2011), 5 Top tips for cupcake making:
➢ Sounds simple, but please do follow the recipes exactly as written! Baking is a chemical reaction, and so any experimentation with the recipe amounts can potentially cause a recipe to fail.
➢ Don’t rush when measuring out ingredients and following the cooking method. In haste, we can all forget to measure out or add a certain ingredient!
➢ Don’t worry if a batter looks runnier or thicker than you’re used to… trust it, it will bake as it’s supposed to!
➢ When creaming butter and sugar together, always make sure you do this until the mixture is light and ﬂuffy, usually at least a good 5 minutes. Otherwise your cakes will NOT rise nicely!
➢ Finally: if your outcomes don’t look exactly like the pictures in the book, don’t worry! These were professionally styled. As long as your goodies taste good and your friends and family enjoy them, then you’ve succeeded!
To download more tips, visit www.hummingbirdbakery.com
– Olivia Parker
Images courtesy of Hummingbird Bakery