Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Season's Greetings from the Middle East

(Wendy and my little guy at the Spice Souq in Aswan, Egypt)
Hi friends! As 2008 is coming to a rapid close, I must first wish you Season's Greetings. These wishes from my little guy and I come from where we have spent the past few weeks in Egypt and are currently in Saudi Arabia.

We have had a fantastic time and our eyes have seen such wonders; in the city of Cairo down to Luxor following the Nile River to the city of Aswan! Cupcakes are extremely difficult to find! I went through many back alleys to find small bekeries to the main streets into large Patisseries. No luck! I did, however, find lovely treats and delicious desserts which are famous in this region. Alas, the elusive cupcake was nowhere to be found.

I happened upon El Falero Patisserie, a lovely bakery in the heart of Cairo where I found this wonderful cake. Not quite a cupcake but close enough to eat with a cappucino. The cake was small and round. It was described to me to be the size of a cup - does this count? The "cup sized cake" was coated in a delicious melt in your mouth chocolate, crunchy hazelnuts and drizzled with dark chocolate. Inside it had a thin crispy cookie layer over the cake so there was a slight crunch. It really was tasty.

("Cup of Cake" and cappuccino, El Falero Patisserie in Cairo, Egypt)

We have travelled on to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. This city, inspite of what you might have heard or think you know, is very progressive. Riyadh has an area which I have dubbed "The Sweet Spot" because of the tenants in this location. It is an amazing and impressive section of the city where the bakeries, patisseries, chocolatiers and specialty baked goods are located. With all of the different varieties of shops, there are still many "Coming Soon!" or "Opening Soon!" papers covering the windows. Although I am not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, I find I get a much better perspective being driven around. I am able to see the gorgeous window displays of chocolate or desserts and YES I am talking about sweets! There is a distinctive French and Italian influence, but I am just as taken by the Middle Eastern confections which are available as well. These windows are dressed as well as any Parisian or Milanese boutique and with as much attention to detail given to the displays.

Yesterday, I was at the Four Seasons Hotel at the Kingdom Tower in the Tea Lounge with a very dear friend of mine. The lounge is a small but extremely luxurious area with plush couches adorned with leather pillows, glass tables with the loveliest yellow roses which are also found in the hotel lobby. There is a quiet comfort which makes you want to spend the afternoon sipping turkish coffee, reading the newspaper. My friend and I ate fantastically prepared Arabic food and visited for several hours; we drank raspberry lemonade and organic verbena mint tea, feasted on delicately prepared Greek salad and Shawarma folds, crunchy ginger cookies and date cake which would send you into a spin because of the sweet and spicy combination. I spied the dessert buffet which was lit up with green spotlights and layered with elegant chocolate cakes, French inspired eclairs and fruit tarts with brightly colored combinations, mini layered tiramisu cups, creme brulee and as I perused the dessert behind the roasted figs and almonds, what did my marveled eyes behold, tucked behind the elegantly curved chocolate straws - cupcakes! Yes, yes, yes! Lovely medium sized banana cupcakes stuffed with chocolate cream and a healthy slice of fresh banana with a drizzle of chocolate on top. I have finally arrived at my destination!

As I ponder my delectable travels, I realize my 1 year blogoversary is in a few days. Keep reading as I will be hosting a contest to celebrate! I am most grateful to you, my dear and loyal readers who have continued to give me inspiration and creativity throught out many, many challenges I have faced this year. As we move towards a new year, thank you for coming back to The Cupcakery, I welcome my new readers and look forward to sharing more tasty treats, recipes, cookbooks and travels with you. It is with great anticipation I look ahead to 2009. My wish for you; May every sweet confection you imagine eventually wind up in the palm of your hand!

Wishing you the very best!

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