Meet the inspirational talent that is Talal Al Hamdhan, the pioneer of cake designing in Kuwait. As a cake designer, Talal believes that every occasion deserves a special cake that needs to stand out in two aspects, taste and presentation. A mastermind in the field of edible art, we learn more about Talal’s cakes in this special interview.
How did you get started?
I started by coincidence. My family and I had moved to the US as my wife was working on her PhD. At the time, I had a group of Arab friends I met up with every weekend, so I got into the habit of cooking for them. I realized I missed home-cooked food, especially my mother’s cakes! I called her up for some recipes, and I just became very interested in baking. I started with my close friends, and then my weekend specialties spread around the community I lived in. I used to watch the Food Network, watch the cake challenges, and I became completely engrossed in the whole art of cake designing. I then took classes with teachers of the cake challenges such as Michelle Bommarito. The cake challenges taught me so much, and I learnt so many techniques by simply watching, let alone taking classes with these great masters.
Is there a certain chef, or cake designer, that you look up to?
Chef Ron, of Ron’s Cakes, in New York is absolutely an inspiration, especially his work with flowers. I was lucky enough to take a class with him during my time in Los Angeles. We learnt how to create decorative items for cakes, like poppies, lilies, tulips, and crafting jewelry out of sugar.
Do you also bake the cakes?
Of course, I create the whole design, including the cake. Nobody touches anything, except for my wife who helps me with the decorating at times, as I trust her taste.
I have several recipes that I like to make; my specialty is the chiffon cake, which is a mix between the sponge cake and the Bundt cake. White angel cakes, marble cakes, raspberry, blueberry, cheesecakes, all kinds of flavors, I even make a delicious cheesecake konafa. However, my specialty lies in cake designing, I am really not a chef.
How would a typical order take place?
Say that you are planning your wedding; you would use a designer for your gown, a wedding planner, etc. I do the same for your cake. I would design a masterpiece. I’ll ask you about your theme, your color preferences, your dress, and then I would start designing. Depending on the size of the cake, and the details required, I would then determine the time needed to execute the design. I also bake the full cake as well, after deciding on the design of the cake.
How did you get started in Kuwait?
My sister first requested a cake for a friend’s birthday, I did it, and her friends went mad for it. They were so surprised that her brother actually designed and baked the cake. After that, word of mouth took over, and people started calling me for orders. I thought, why not? This always adds to my portfolio. Suddenly, the media contacted me, and I was so surprised by the interest people showed towards my hobby. I think that this is because my specialty is very rare, and I am the first Kuwaiti male cake designer trained with such great teachers. Sadly, people still don’t fully understand the concept of cake design, yet it is picking up now given the positive feedback I am receiving.
What inspires you?
A teacher once told me, ‘Once you reach a point where everything and anything you see inspires you, you know you have reached a high level of creativity.’ I see a window design, flowers, anything around me inspires me. I take plenty of pictures, and then I expand based on that.
What is your favorite technique, or kind of design, you like to create?
I love working on flowers, roses, as they are the most challenging and deliver a very desirable effect.
What are your hopes for cake designing in Kuwait?
It’s too early to tell. I would love to start a cake designing school in Kuwait. I learnt so much in the US, and would be introducing new cake techniques which I would love to put Kuwait on the cake-designing map on a global level. That is my ultimate goal. Another goal of mine is to participate in a large cake challenge in the US at a cake Expo in Oklahoma. It’s a reunion with your colleagues, your teachers, and the experience alone would teach me a great deal. The Kuwaiti bride, and our culture is the inspiration behind the design I wish to enter with. I would also love to cake salon, or cake atelier, to allow for my work to develop further.