The Best of Beirut
on Mar 25, 2014 By Danielle Issa
The cupcake hype is not over. Nope. Not even close. Who can resist the delicate, moist cake-for-one topped with a dome of sugar-sweet frosting, a shower of sprinkles, and - if you’re lucky - maybe a maraschino cherry?
For some of us, the cupcake transports us back to childhood, when really there were only about two flavors - chocolate and yellow vanilla - for both cake and topping. But today, these little gems come in every shape, size, color, and flavor; from banana-walnut to red velvet and coconut-lime. There are even some Mediterranean-inspired cupcakes that feature Lebanese loukoum and ghazel el banet.
Beirut’s been kind to its cupcake lovers, as there are at least a dozen shops serving up the little bundles of joy. Here are my favorite picks, and contrary to the adage, you can have your (cup)cake and eat it, too!
Photo via Instagram
The Cupcakery in Hamra is credited with being the first dedicated cupcake house in all of Lebanon. They make about a dozen and half flavors (4,000 - 4,500 LL each), including themed specials as exquisite as the Piña Colada, with flakes of coconut swirled in a pineapple and banana base and topped with tropical cream cheese and coconut icing.
But nothing will send you to heaven’s gates quite like The Sultan, which features a traditional Arabic ice cream base, a nutty pistachio buttercream, Lebanese cotton candy (ghazel el banet), and crushed pistachios. For a tasty treat on the go, try Cupcakery’s cupcake pops in five delicious flavors (3,000 LL).
Jeanne D'arc Street
Photo via The Cupcakery
A cupcake list would be amiss if it omitted the institution that arguably catapulted the cupcake to fame and glamor. Magnolia Bakery, the renowned hangout of Carrie and the girls in the show “Sex and the City,” arrived to Lebanon in December 2012, making its first nest at ABC Dbayeh (it has since invaded ABC Achrafieh as well).
The red velvet cupcake (4,500 LL) is iconic at Magnolia Bakery and one you must not overlook: a striking crimson cake, kissed with a hint of chocolate flavor, topped majestically with a luscious vanilla (or cream cheese) icing. They’ve got other winners, like the decadent three-tiered German chocolate cake layered with coconut caramel pecan icing, as well as their famous banana pudding with vanilla wafers, fresh bananas, and creamy vanilla pudding (8,500 LL for 12oz., 10,000 LL for 16oz.).
Photo via wehodaily.com
Cupcake Box is the brainchild of Randa Kabrit, who fused her passion for cupcakes and her love of philanthropy to jumpstart this home business. Every month, proceeds from Cupcake Box go toward a designated charity, either local or international. Cupcake Box offers a variety of enticing cupcakes, cookies, brownies, muffins and scones, and you can call or email Randa to place your order. You’ll probably want to try them all, but I suggest you start with the tarboosh-inspired cupcake.
Picture this: a hemisphere of Italian meringue—a whipped egg white concoction similar to marshmallow but far more delicate—coated in a thin ganache of milk chocolate and resting on a fluffy chocolate cake base. The result will make your taste buds delirious.
Photo via Twitter
Tucked in Hamra’s commercial Gefinor Center is the Beazbee, a cute little tea shop that evokes a candy shop aura with its colorful display of pastries, baked goods, and other sweet things.
You could easily be tempted to buy the whole dessert stand, with its heavenly muffins, sugar-dusted pound cakes, chunky brownies, and more, but I recommend you make a beeline (sorry, I couldn’t resist!) for the lemon sour cream cupcake. These cupcakes are chock full of lemon and zest, as is the buttercream, which makes for a wonderful interplay between sweet and tangy. The top is garnished with candied lemon peel and tiny cubes of congealed lemon curd. Citrus never tasted so good.
Gefinor Center, Block A - Ground Floor
Sugar Daddy’s was inspired by Fadi Jaber, whose joy of giving to other people something scrumptious and homemade pushed him to quit his corporate career, enroll at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, and later return to his hometown of Amman to open the flagship bakery in 2007.
Luckily for Lebanon, two branches sprouted - one in Beirut, the other in Dbayeh - serving these incredible edibles. To me, the only thing quite possibly tastier than an Oreo is an Oreo cupcake, and Sugar Daddy’s is a sure hit: a moist chocolate cake with bits of Oreo baked in, topped off with an intense cookies-and-cream frosting swirled with more Oreo. The proverbial cherry-on-top is a mini Oreo cookie.
Photo via sugardaddysbakery.com
Stray a ways outside Beirut into Mansourieh and you will come across a paradise of splendid treats inside Mimi’s Cupcakery. Mimi’s got it all, from cupcakes, cookies and cakes to cake pops, cheesecakes, and fruit arrangements. The sheer variety of cupcakes will really dizzy your senses, with nearly four dozen flavors on offer and a promise to create any cupcake Mimi’s may have overlooked.
For a more adult cupcake, try the Dark Night, an espresso-flavored base frosted with silky smooth espresso cream and topped with chocolate sprinkles. Pair it with a cup of, naturally, espresso. The Roman Cheesecake cupcake is also exceptionally good, with a mouthwatering blend of honey, mascarpone, and ricotta baked into the sweet lil' affair.
Maydaa Center, Facing Bank Med
Photo via mimis-cupcakery.com
You’ll never be able to forget Cocoa & Co., thanks to its catchy name, bright space, and superb selection of cupcakes. This boutique café in Achrafieh, founded by Hala Beydoun, self-dubbed “caker, baker, & yummy things maker,” is replete with attractive and artistic edibles.
For example, when Jackie Chamoun’s nude ski shots went viral, Beydoun designed cupcakes iced in white frosting and topped with a single pink jelly belly in the center in a tribute to the “Strip for Jackie” and “boobs not bombs” campaigns. Be sure to try Cocoa & Co.’s spiced carrot cake cupcake (4,500 LL), delicate and moist from the juice in its shredded carrots and bursting with cinnamon.
Lebnan Street, Tabaris
Photo via Facebook
Danielle Issa is a food blogger in Lebanon. You can find her on Twitter, and be sure to check out her blog, Beirutista.
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