99 THE BAKESHOP @99thebakeshop
Islamabad is so lucky to have 99 The Bakeshop, a home business by Humaira Rao. Her Caramel Crunch Brownies and S’mores Brownies are world class, which isn’t a surprise as the city is full of citizens from around the world. “A ‘wow’ brownie shouldn’t be overly sweet and should be fudgy on the inside but crisp on the top. It should also be super rich with a good amount of dark chocolate to balance out the sweetness. If there are toppings involved, then they should complement it rather than overwhelm it,” shares Humaira. “When I started experimenting with brownie recipes, my aim wasn’t just to please my customers but also to find the perfect brownie that even I couldn’t resist. I hadn’t found it yet in any Islamabad eateries, so I thought, why not come up with one myself and fulfil the brownie needs of my fellow Islamabadis as well. My Caramel Crunch Brownies are a particular customer favourite, with the different textures of crunch, fudge and gooeyness. My S’mores Brownies have a toasty marshmallow top (using home-made marshmallows, if available).”
So what drove Humaira to become a dessertpreneur? “I set up 99 the Bakeshop during a period of much uncertainty. I had recently lost my husband, and through baking I could switch-off completely. Seeing people enjoy my bakes brought me joy and I found myself in the kitchen every day, trying out new ideas to keep me busy.” A story of triumph and turnaround indeed.
SAM BAKES @sambakes_official
The Lotus Cheesecake is a big favourite in Pakistan and Sam Bakes makes one that is top notch. It has just the right amount of sweetness, creaminess and that special, magical Lotus Biscoff cookie flavour. Saima Abdul Qadir, the woman behind the brand, shares her tips on how to select a wow dessert, stating, “Dessert should be visually appealing, rich, tasty with surprising flavours and its aroma should take over your senses.”
She says her biggest challenge is price regulation, stating, “The price fluctuation and sometimes shortage of some products that are key ingredients in my running items become the biggest challenge for me.” She does, however, enjoy working from home, adding, “Working from home helps me to manage my work and family life in a better way. Since I can work any time I want and this flexibility helps me work stress free and more productively.” Sam Bakes also has a signature Bounty Delight, a creamy alchemic mix of coconut and chocolate heaven, as well as a selection of incredibly soft brownies.
A SUGAR AFFAIR BY HUDEBIA @asugaraffair
One cannot help but appreciate the freshness, perfect crust and gorgeous packaging of A Sugar Affair. Their Mango Cream Puffs, mixed fruit tarts are stunning to look at and come in very impressive packaging. Without a doubt, the best thing to serve at tea time or when going over to a close friend’s place for an intimate tea catch-up or taking to your in-laws.
“The dessert is often the guests’ most anticipated meal of any event. Choosing the dessert that is the most visually appealing to you and one that will tie in with theme of your event is also very important,” elucidates Hudebia Ali, Founder, A Sugar Affair. She also adds, “Working from home makes it easier for me at the moment. I am a mom to two amazing teenagers 16 and 13 so I like to keep myself free when they are around. However, taste is the key ingredient without these two things one cannot achieve a wow dessert.”
DESSERT WORKS @dessertworks
Every schoolgirl who grew up having canteen milk toffee will not only enjoy it at any age, but will be flooded with happy memories with every bite. Dessert Works is one brand that milks this idea to perfection. Their Milk Toffee is a perfect match to that in canteens with absolute consistently. We fell in love with their Almond Toffee which was insatiably delicious. Not just because of the lightly coarse texture and depth to the flavour, but because surprisingly it almost tastes like it has bitter almond oil in it because there’s a little extra special kick in the end, that magically lingers.
“The constant and erratic increase in cost of produce makes it difficult to maintain the price of the goods without compromising on the quality of the product,” says Amber Rizvi of Dessert Works. Working from home, on the other hand, she feels is an asset. “It gives me the advantage to do things at my own pace. Since I have not hired staff to bake and cook my goods and every single thing is done only by me. The hours are flexible. Everything is made on order.”
AK PÂTISSERIE @akpatisserie_
Every once in a while you come across a dessert that just feels like home and there is no other way to describe the Hazelnut Babka Bread by AK PÂtisserie. It’s a cross between a pain au chocolat and traditional hazelnut bread and believed to be of Polish or Ukrainian origin. “In family parties, you have every age group - teenagers, couples, old age people, so the dessert should be something that every age group can eat and enjoy without any second thought,” explains Asfia Khan, the founder of Ak Patisserie. The dessert is very subtle with just a hint of sweetness, but delicious at the same time. It’s also attractive to look at and serve, especially at tea time. “My biggest challenge is when people try to be so negative (haters); they never help you grow instead they demotivate you,” laments Asfia. “You always have to have some good positive people around that motivate you. Now, I don’t care what people say.”
BUTTER BAR @butterbar_pk
Butter Bar is a treasure trove for decadent cinnamon rolls. Their signature classic Original (the one with the white cream cheese icing) is mouth-watering and simply perfect warmed. Chocolate Therapy (the dark brown chocolate) is meant for chocolate lovers, but their Going Banana (the one topped with banana), which is a scrumptious banofee pie inspired cinnamon roll, is a must try. The pictures do not do them justice; in real life, these cinnamon rolls really make an impact.
“When choosing a dessert, look for simplicity,” advises Ealaf Junejo, founder, Butter Bar. “When a dessert has too much going on, at times the base of the dessert loses its charm. Look for desserts that highlight the actual product rather than the toppings.”
“Due to COVID, working outside of home and risking the lives of my loved ones gave me no other choice but to work from home. I did not want to wait till COVID ended to start my passion project,” shares Ealaf.
CONFECTIONATELY YOURS @confectionatelyyourspk
Ayesha Ismail very cleverly and thoughtfully created Confectionately Yours’ DIY cookie decorating kits during the lockdown and they continue to be a popular favourite way for parents to bake and enjoy time with children. Each kit contains 4 plain l, shaped, shortbread cookies, 2 icing colours, and sprinkles. It’s such a cute idea, very basic and easy to use, ideal for families with young kids.
T. U. Dawood is CEO of 786 Investments Ltd., President of Dawood Global Foundation, and sits on the boards of Pakistan State Oil and Pakistan Refinery Ltd. She is well known for entertaining at her beautiful home.