‘Simply Scrumptious’ Cupcakes by Ayesha

B&B spoke with Annandale based baker  Ayesha Ahmad.  She is the owner of Simply Scrumptious an cupcake catering business. Ahmad has a flair for baking and has unique flavors such as the Kashmiri Chai Cupcake and lemon blueberry with cream cheese. College student by day and baking extrodinare at other times, we asked Ayesha about her business and her passion for baking.

BB: How and when did you get into baking?

Kashmiri Chai Cupcake

AA: I used to watch Barefoot Contessa and Paula’s Home Cooking on the Food Network every single day in middle and high school. I loved how simple they made everything look! Their desserts were really the start and I began experimenting in my kitchen. I guess I was the less studious child so whenever I was “sick” I used to stay home and bake cakes. Initially, I just used boxed mixes and played around with colored frostings. Now I love to bake pretty much anything but cupcakes have just become my signature.

BB: How did your family feel about it?

AA: I don’t think I could have asked for a more supportive family! My parents are so encouraging about everything – they try all my new flavors, buy me every supply on a cake bakers wishlist, give me tips on what I could do better and so on. I remember randomly talking to my dad one day about how KitchenAid mixers are the quintessential tool for any baker. The following week, I came home to a huge box and inside was a baby pink mixer, complete with every nifty attachment. Alhamdulillah for such loving parents. My older sister on the other hand is my toughest critic! I guess It’s better to hear all the negative things from her than a client though! Oh and I can’t forget about my friends. They were and still are some of the most helpful people. Sometimes I consider adding them to the company name.BB: Are you studying culinary arts in college? Would this be a career or long term goal?

AA: Far from! I started out in college as an undeclared student but took all the Biology classes because I knew I wanted to do something in the health field. I recently changed my major to Community Health and I want to become a dental hygienist in the future insha’Allah. Everyone finds it amusing that I want to clean teeth and bake cupcakes – oh the irony! I could see myself opening a Cakery in the distant future but catering for special orders is fine by me too.

BB: You have become a successful entrepreneur at such a young age masha’Allah!! How has that been coming along? What has been your biggest order?

AA: It’s more of a hobby-turned-business and I enjoy it very much. It can be a little stressful since I’m still in school, especially if the order falls sometime during the semester but it just takes some planning and time management. My last order was one of my biggest with a little over 200 cupcakes for a wedding reception. A hundred each of red velvet with cream cheese frosting and chocolate espresso with espresso buttercream. Before Simply Scrumptious began, I used to bake a lot for MSA events at school Qabeelat Nurayn bakesales (DMV chapter of AlMaghrib Institute) so they really helped with advertising my business.

Cupcake tower

BB: What is your favorite type of cake?

AA: I actually like any type of cake…except tres leche. I can’t taste the difference between the three milks and it seems a bit too wet for my liking. But by far, my favorite cake is regular ol pound cake. No icing, nothing. Its literally the best thing ever…I mean whats not to like? A pound of butter, eggs, sugar and flour 🙂

BB: A Recipe you have yet to try?

AA: Tons! I always bookmark any good recipes I come across and save them for a rainy day. I love to experiment with cake flavors and frosting’s so it’s nice to have some inspirations. I have four massive cupcake books with so many things I have yet to try. The first on my list is an Apple pie cupcake – I’m just waiting for apple picking season to make it’s way over.

BB: How do you feel about Georgetown Cupcakes?

AA: I think that’s the question I get asked most often. I never figured out if it’s because they are my competition? I like to think of it as the other way around, though  I’ve actually never tried Georgetown Cupcakes but they look so yummy. Maybe one day when I feel like waiting in line for an hour, I’ll go. If I were to try one, I’d get either the coconut or chocolate hazelnut cupcake.

 

Chocolate espresso cupcakes

BB: Any beginners advice to aspiring bakers?

AA: Just make sure you always have a fresh supply of eggs and butter and friends who don’t mind being volunteer tasters (hey, if they love you, a few pounds won’t matter) also don’t get discouraged! I still have so many instances when something gets burned or things are overly sweet etc – that’s the stuff I don’t post pictures of. Always remember that there are usually plenty of failures leading up to success and that’s when everything tastes the sweetest (pun intended). Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala put in each of us something that makes us unique. I always remember something Shaykh Waleed Basyouni said during an AlMaghrib seminar. He said, “Allah gave you a gift. What you do with it is your gift back to Allah.” Know that you can serve the Ummah in a way that no one else can. It’s your duty to find what Allah gave you and hone those skills.

 

For more information about Simply Scrumptious please check out her facebook page

http://www.facebook.com/media/albums/?id=126544294087001#!/pages/Simply-Scrumptious-by-Ayesha/126544294087001

 

A Morning with Modern Mary

 

Abeer and I had the opportunity to visit Seema Sahin’s Boutique in Tysons Corner a few weeks ago, we were excited to talk with Seema to see how she manages her modesty clothing line as well as her family life with two young kids. While we chatted we got a chance to try some of her custom designs. Pictures and interview below:

 

BB: How did the idea of  Modern Mary come about?

SS: Giving women the chance to express themselves while being true to their identity. Finding modest fashionable designs in mainstream clothing stores is not only limited, but can pose a challenge for many women. It can be challenging finding styles that express their cultural heritage, American identity, and at the same time being true to their faith. I wanted to create a hassle free shopping experience for these women, offering them a fashionable alternative that already fits with the guidelines of their faith. What motivates me is trying to reconcile these three forces and translate them into my design.  Creating modest designs is one thing, but there is a certain flair to my designs that makes it stand out and appealing.

 

BB: How did you take the initial leap from an online based business to having a  boutique?

Modern Mary’s Boutique in Tyson’s Corner, VA

SS: I wanted women to have a fun and comfortable shopping experience. The only way was to bring the designs to them. I knew that an online store was not enough, which is why I decided to open up a boutique. The Boutique offers our customers an exclusive shopping experience without compromise to privacy and comfort. Modern Mary’s boutique is a first of its kind, catering to the Muslim market. Modern Mary’s boutique opened its doors to the public December 2010 outside of DC in the Northern Virginia area. Modern Mary’s full collection can be viewed at the boutique by appointment only. Custom evening and bridal wear available. We offer complimentary fittings when creating a custom design.

The designer of Modern Mary, Seema with her model

 

BB: Any advice for Muslim entrepreneurs who are thinking of starting their own business?

SS: When starting a business, it’s more than just pursuing a passion. Yes, you have to be passionate about what you are doing, but you also have to be persistent, willing to learn, and ready to play various roles. I can’t run a business by just designing- I had to learn to be a manager, bookkeeper, marketer, etc. Most importantly put yourself out there. It’s all about networking… network, network, and network! Let everyone know who you are and what you andyour business is about. There are many groups that you can join or attend (both Muslim based professional groups and non-Muslim professional groups). Take advantage of those networking opportunities because you never know what relationships you will create that would benefit your business or company.

 

BB: how do you manage it all, your family, household chores, family obligations? 

Orange layered tunic, $59

SS: It’s an everyday challenge! Being able to balance the role of being a mother, a wife, a designer, and an entrepreneur is not easy, and I’m still working to achieve that balance. Alhamdulillah, my passion for designing is what keeps me going. It’s a combination of time-management, organization, communication, and accommodation. Time management- balancing my time with the family and my business; Organization- otherwise nothing will get done! Communication- scheduling with my husband, or family members to watch the kids when I have an event, or need to be at the boutique; Accommodation- life happens, and need to accept that not everything will go according to plan—I have my Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology, but here I am pursuing a career in fashion design. Thankfully I have a great support network I can turn to when seeking help with taking care of the kids and other family obligations.

 

BB: Can you share your first runway experience with us? How did it feel seeing your clothes on the runway?

SS: My first major runway show was at DC Fashion Week Fall 2011. My designs were featured in their International Couture Collections show. Seeing my designs going down the runway and hearing applauds from the audience, not only was it amazing but a surreal moment. Being able to transform an idea into a vision, it’s truly rewarding. Fashion shows bring your designs to life. I hope to continue to watch my designs going down the runway.

Modern Mary Custom Dress, $128

 Like what you see? Check out Modern Mary’s designs:

www.modernmary.com

www.facebook.com/modernmaryboutique

http://twitter.com/#!/seemasahin