This week in trends

A look at Dubai's thriving confectionary industry


Dubai is the regional hub for local and international gastronomy, with the full spectrum of restaurants, cafes and dining hotspots generously scattered throughout the city. A melting pot of flavours, Dubai’s exciting food scene has evolved over the years, but it still retains influences from its Bedouin past and strong culture of hospitality.

Today, Dubai’s dynamic food and beverage industry has it all – from restaurants run by Michelin-starred chefs to simple street-side eateries, from quirky dishes and innovative concepts to traditional menus from the region and beyond. And then there is the growing number of home-grown bakeries and confectionaries which are, through their fresh take on timeless traditions, raising Dubai’s culinary credentials for the sweetest of reasons. The unique flavours and recipes served up at these businesses tell the story of the talented gourmands who, through their determination and ambition, followed their dreams after finding the right platform for success in Dubai, supported by the emirate’s thriving entrepreneurial culture. The biggest success stories include SugarMoo, Home Bakery, Gossip Cafe and Desserts, and The Candy Bar – and all of which deserve a visit on your next trip to Dubai.

In 2014, SugarMoo CEO and founder Raki Phillips decided to leave the corporate world to pursue her entrepreneurial passion and start the UAE’s first online dessert delivery business. Capitalising on Dubai’s buoyant F&B industry with first-mover advantage, SugarMoo began delivering freshly baked homemade desserts to homes and offices across Dubai.

“Our aim,” says Raki, “is to make people’s lives not only sweeter, but also a lot easier when a sweet craving kicks in or when there’s a celebration to be had. And, to be competitive, we had to offer something new, something the market hadn’t seen before. After extensive market research we found that most dessert establishments in the market were focused on either Arabian sweets or cupcakes, and so we decided on an ‘anti-cupcake’ strategy, launching the concept of unique ‘hybrid’ desserts – a fresh new addition to the Dubai market.”.

Pioneers of the ‘Cupookie’ – a cookie shaped into a cup – SugarMoo also caters to the health-conscious sweet-tooth with its ‘HealthyMoo’ line consisting of vegan desserts and refined sugar-free creations. Driven by the motto, ‘You Crave, We Deliver,’ SugarMoo today enjoys a phenomenal following, having become a household name across the emirates.

For former housewife and mother of two Hind Almulla, it was her natural love of baking and determination to take the dessert experience to a whole new level that inspired her to launch Home Bakery in 2011. With a menu that changes every six months and a setting that makes every visit to this small café a cosy encounter, Home Bakery is loved for its friendly appeal, intimate hospitality and delightful selection of cakes, cookies, pies, brownies, loaves, tarts, pastries and muffins.

“With new concepts opening every week, it is important that restaurant owners do everything they can to make their offering interesting,” says Hind. “I didn’t want my place to be a pick-up shop; I wanted to create a destination where people want to enjoy desserts in a dine-in setting and appreciate the littlest details that go into baking these creations.”

So, what makes Dubai the perfect venue for Home Bakery? “It is a people’s city; a city that people visit to try out new things, new experiences,” explains Hind. “Home Bakery is a new concept in the world of bakery, and I couldn’t think of a better place than Dubai to set it up.”

For Emirati business owner Shayma Nawaf Fawwaz, it was the dream of establishing a home-grown brand with local influences that could go international that led her to launch her Euro-American fusion eatery, Gossip Cafe and Desserts. “The motivation behind the cafe was my passion for gourmet food, delectable desserts, and art and fashion, fused with my natural connection with my Emirati heritage,” explains Shayma. “Bringing style into the kitchen, the outlet specialises in gourmet designer desserts that blend home-made American style with various Emirati and Mediterranean flavours and ingredients.”

A hot favourite among socialites and influencers from within the UAE as well as GCC, the all-day dining gourmet outlet is a popular spot for breakfast, lunch and dinner, all prepared using only the freshest organic ingredients with no added preservatives. “With Gossip, my goal is for each and every person who walks through our doors to experience the same level of delight and pleasure that I get when I eat something I truly enjoy,” says Shayma. Her recipe for F&B success comprises five key ingredients: quality of the food, diversity in the menu offerings, fabulous desserts, excellence in customer service, and the overall vibe.

The granddaughter of legendary Egyptian dessert pioneer Madam Manna, May El Abany has always believed that food should be both flavourful and aesthetically appealing. “I wanted to create desserts that served a higher purpose than merely being a dish for the sweet-toothed,” she says. “I wanted to make pastries an essential component in the planning and decoration of every special occasion.” This idea led to the birth of The Candy Bar, which transports its guests to a unique tearoom experience, mesmerising them with the outlet’s relaxing yet chic ambiance. The design concept revolves around a floral ceiling, with the simple yet elegant dessert displays complementing the floral element, and with brightness playing a vital part in the overall design.

“Dubai is truly one of the world’s most global cities with its diversity, superior standards and appetite for innovation. Success in such a city, to me, was the embodiment of international success. We are able to achieve this through our constant endeavour to be unique, with our desserts being as diverse as our customers, and we pride ourselves on constantly offering new twists on traditional dishes,” explains May.

Today, The Candy Bar is a popular spot for both locals and visitors from the GCC owing to its innovative offering, which is also aesthetically appealing and deliciously refreshing. “It is this combination that gives us a competitive edge in the market,” says May. “Our guests from the GCC appreciate our high standards of customer service, which we believe to be a very important element of success in the GCC, along with our innovative menus and our classy ambiance.”

Altogether, Dubai’s vibrant and ever-growing collection of world-class cafés and bakeries promises to make every trip to this wonderful destination enjoyable and memorable – not only because the endless variety is a treat for the palate, but also because every creation embodies the proprietor’s passion and love for the art of confectionary