The Cupcake Craze

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent


The demand for sugary caloric treats in the Middle East has created the perfect niche market for home-based businesses in the region to get pretty comfortable in. The absence of stringent governmental food administrations and a wholesale deficiency of licensing requirements to sell food makes it possible for anyone with an oven to go into business.

With all due respect to cookies and doughnuts it is the humble cupcake, in all of its’ fluffy iced glory, that reigns supreme in the Middle East. Now the region may be the last place that one would expect to find a craze for the miniature candy-topped cakes. However, popular western sitcoms and even children’s show streamed via satellite feeds across the region has opened the whimsical world of cupcakes to the desert dwellers of the Gulf.

Despite the cupcake craze, there are only a spattering of bona fide brick-and-mortar businesses that sell cupcakes in the Middle East, such as the popular Sprinklez bakery in Dubai which is consistently bombarded with a line of customers waiting to “get their cupcake on.” Digital cupcake boutiques, that exist exclusively online, are sweeping the Middle East by storm. In Dubai, Libi’s Cupcakes serves up fanciful cupcakes decorated to the gills for the tiny sheikdom’s populace. The site does not even have a legitimate website to call home but rather a Facebook fan page where cupcake cravers can place an order.

Contrastingly, Nat Bakes is a Kuwait based cupcake website that is as sleek as it is delectable. The website opens to a welcome message from the site owner whose mission is clearly stated, “My love affair with food started as a child growing up in a household where cooking and baking was self-taught & appreciated. Now the time has come to share my passion, but why not create your own memories of home, family, joy & happiness.” The website features two menus. The first features classical recipes like “Vanilla Cupcake with Butter Cream Frosting” and “Carrot Cupcake with Cream Cheese frosting”. The second menu features creative concoctions that only a die-hard cupcake connoisseur could dream up, such as “Pomegranate Green Tea” and “Marshmallow Chocolate Mint”. Both cupcake vendors sell by the dozen much to the delight of their clients.

While the cupcake craze shows no end in the foreseeable future, some clever cooks are taking the saltier road that is less traveled. In Kuwait, a recent home-based culinary business became an overnight sensation during the Holy Month of Ramadan and it only sells one main dish. The Ola Al Refai cookery is a home-based business that does not even have an online presence. It has become a hit simply by word of mouth. What has put it on the map is its one and only signature pasta dish that is made up of layers of pasta, meat, sauce, cheese and oregano. It may sound like lasagna, but everyone in Kuwait just calls it “Da Bomb.” Move over cupcakes, there’s a new sheriff in town.


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