Tarek Malouf: the king of cake baking in waiting

Earl Grey Tea Pie. See PA Feature FOOD Mothers Day. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Handout. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FOOD Mothers Day.

Earl Grey Tea Pie. See PA Feature FOOD Mothers Day. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Handout. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FOOD Mothers Day.

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If Mary Berry is the reigning queen of baking, then Tarek Malouf is surely next in line to the throne.

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, 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 here in the UK,” he says.

“Because American bakery is not too familiar to British people, it’s the equivalent of me writing a book on Indian cookery or Thai cookery - you’re teaching a new audience about something that’s already in existence that’s amazing, and you want them to experience it yourself.”

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, and those looking to wow their mums this Mother’s Day 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.

“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.

“They appeal because they’re smaller, you’re eating it yourself, so you can be picky.”