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Homemade baked goods prove too tasty for corporate bakeries to beat

BEIRUT: Despite the convenience of corporate bakeries in Lebanon, passionate bakers are setting up bakeries out of their own kitchens and finding a niche market for their home-baked goods.

Rana Arayssi Tabbarra and Sarah Broumanna run local, home bakeries, baking with love and passion to offer the customer a one-of-a-kind experience. It may cost more, but the goods are worth it.

Tabbarra, coming from a family with a history in making sweets, is the owner of “Toumourana.”

“It all started with something as simple as importing date fruits from Saudi Arabia. Then I started using these dates in cakes I bake, and people loved them, which encouraged me to open a home business,” says Tabbarra.

“People don’t like the use of cream in cakes anymore. Homemade cakes are healthier, and are for all ages” says Tabbarra.

For example, dates are an ingredient that Tabbarra frequently uses with a number of health benefits including natural fibers, which prevent bad cholesterol and suppresses hunger, and minerals such as calcium, sulphur, potassium, magnesium and iron.

Although she bakes many kinds of cakes, the date fruit cake is her speciality with varieties such as the “double date cake,” “first date cake,” “blind sate cake” and “candy date cake” among Tabbarra’s most popular products.

She says that meeting people’s expectations isn’t easy, but she cites two factors in running a successful home business: passion, and public relations.

Broumanna’s love for baking plays a big role in her business as well.

“I’ve had a passion for baking since I was a kid, and after I quit my job six months ago, my friends and family supported me, and that is how Sarah’s Home Bakery officially started,” says Broumanna, who believes it is safer to start with a small business and expand gradually.

Broumanna’s creations vary from brownies dipped in melted chocolate and chocolate ice cream pie topped with marshmallows, to dark chocolate cake with strawberry.

“I don’t see corporate bakeries as a competition, because I bake American-style cakes which are not found in other bakeries,” she says. “It all depends on the baker’s effort and how much passion they put in what they bake.”

There is a strong demand for Broumanna’s cakes, especially during Ramadan, though they are more expensive than those of corporate bakeries.

While a store-brought cake for 10 people may cost around $20 dollars, a homemade cake for around eight people costs double.

“I use premium quality, which is more expensive,” explains Broumanna, adding that she would refuse to use anything less than the best quality just to lower prices, which is what most corporate bakeries do.

For Tabbarra and Broumanna, social media has proven useful for marketing their baked goods. They both have Facebook pages where they post pictures of what they bake and receive orders.

“Most of the clients know about my bakery through Facebook. They check out the photos of what I bake and get encouraged to ordering,” Broumanna says, whose Facebook page has around 1,500 likes.

Home bakeries appear to be popular according to a random survey conducted by The Daily Star. The 100 respondents were asked whether they preferred store-bought or homemade baked goods, and around 70 percent said they preferred to purchase pastries from a home bakery.

The typical customer isn’t necessarily someone who turns to home-baked products at an advanced age, after years of purchasing store products.

As for those who preferred purchasing pastries from corporate bakeries, the time element was a leading factor.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 17, 2012, on page 2.

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