Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Box of Goodness with Frosting on Top!


Hello, my name is Rouba and I am a social media addict. 

Yes, those who know me (and especially those who live with me) must also endure the consequences of my disease, and I have to admit it is not always easy. But just when I am about to ditch everything and check myself into virtual rehab, I come across something interesting or challenging or amazing or all of the above and I return to my initial gut feeling: social media rock. 

It happened to me recently when Facebook introduced me to Cupcake Box. 

Yeah, yeah, I can hear you screaming at the screen "Please! Not another bakery!" 

Well you can relax and put down the huge rock you are about to throw at your laptop because you should not let the name fool you! No, it is not just another bakery. It is not just another cupcake boutique either. It is much more than that. It is the ultimate realization that sweetness of the senses and sweetness of heart can indeed be one. 

Randa Shammas Kabrit is the young social entrepreneur behind this deliciously heartwarming novelty. Her concept is quite simple: baking for charity: "Cupcake Box is a gourmet cupcakery that specializes in homemade cupcakes. All profits from Cupcake Box are sent to The-Charity-Of-The-Month".

Photo Credit: Cupcake Box

See? Not your typical cup(cake) of (chari)tea, right? 

Ok, enough with the lame play on words. 

Bottom line, you no longer need to feel guilty after having a sinful treat because now, desserts come with heavenly goodness and the whole degustation experience takes an entirely new dimension: sweets can indeed be baked with love, tasted with lips and enjoyed with heart. 

Doing some good for people in need, by eating delicacies? 
Sign me up now! 

Who would have thought that an Oil and Gas Consultant with a Mechanical Engineering degree would spend her free time immersing that well-trained mind of hers in flour, butter, and a rainbow of flavors?

Well this is exactly what Randa Kabrit did. But her love for baking was not her only drive. A philanthropist by heart, she decided to merge these two passions into one inspiring project. "I had no idea there was a name for what I'm doing until my friend texted me saying 'I didn't know you were a social entrepreneur'. I didn't know I was a social entrepreneur either (laughs) I guess I am (smiles)". 

It all started in Dubai: "Baking didn't start until 2011, before that I really didn't think I had a nack for baking at all."

Since then, Randa has moved back home to Lebanon, and she brought Cupcake Box along with her.

Go ahead, check that menu and tell me you can resist a "Nutella" or "Chocolate Nutter"!

I, for myself know, I won't be sharing my batch of "Death by Chocolate"! Yes. I have a chocolate obsession; sue me. Or you could do your heart and taste buds some good and join me in this delicious discovery instead: Dear, loyal Reader, meet Randa.

So who is Randa Kabrit?

I was born and raised in Dubai until the age of 15, then my Mom, sister and I moved to Lebanon. The transition was not easy, given that I didn't speak a word of Arabic back then. Several "F"s in Imla' (arabic dictation) and a couple of years later I was totally in love with Lebanon. I finished studying at AUB in 2001 and graduated as a mechanical engineer, which took me back to Dubai to work in an oil and gas company, which I later stayed with for 10 years.    

Randa Kabrit
Photo Credit: Cupcake Box

And how did Cupcake Box come to life?

It all started in 2011 with the Japanese earthquake. I felt this desire to collect donations at the company I worked in at the time for The Japanese Red Cross and was quite disappointed at the response I got. So I had to come up with a creative way to get people to donate. That's when I thought of cupcakes! The idea was simple: you give me a donation, I give you a cupcake.   

How well was Cupcake Box received?

The response was better than I hoped, people in my office loved the cupcakes so much that I decided to bake and sell cupcakes every Thursday in the office. We called it Thursday Treats. Soon enough people were telling their friends and family and Cupcake Box took off in the UAE.

Death By Chocolate Cupcake
Photo Credit: R. Abouzeid

What are the charities you support? 

There are so many charities that are so dear to me, so each month I feature a different charity to donate to, some of which are: The Japanes Red Cross,, Amnesty International, The Red Crescent Society, and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital - Children Cancer Center of Lebanon.  

How do you select your Charity Of The Month?   

I usually make a poll and ask people what charity they would like to feature the next month. Personally, I have a soft spot for charities that work with underprivileged or sick children.   

Photo Credit: Cupcake Box

So now, Cupcake Box has found a new home in Beirut. 
Tell us more! 

I recently relocated from Dubai to Beirut. As sad as it was to me to close all Cupcake Box activities in Dubai, it was an exciting time for me because I had the opportunity to setup Cupcake Box in Beirut, my hometown.

Given that I still work in engineering as a profession, Cucpake Box is something I do on the side. It is my passion and it keeps me sane and combines my love for baking, designing and charity work. As yet I receive orders through Facebook, phone and email, and bake everything from home myself. 

Are you planning to broaden your outreach? 
What about other Arab cities?

Wow. I think for now the next step would be registering Cupcake Box as a charity in Beirut and then establishing a shop somewhere in Hamra. But if I were to dream big, then yes I dream of conquering the Arab world... One cupcake at a time.  

So what does your menu look like?  

Cupcake Box Menu
Photo Credit: Cupcake Box
(click on image to enlarge)

The Cupcake Box menu has 2 categories.  

The first is the fixed menu, which is a range of flavors that are available for ordering any time of the month, and contains 2 categories of cupcakce:  
  • The classics, which are cupcake flavors everyone knows and loves, such as Dark Side Of The Moon (chocolate cake and vanilla bean buttercream), and Royal Veil (classic red velvet cake with cream cheese or vanilla buttercream icing).
Royal Veil Cupcake
Photo Credit: Cupcake Box
  • The specials, which are more detailed cupcakes with fillings, and interesting flavor combinations.  

The second menu category is Flavor-of-the-Week. I love having a Flavor-of-the-Week because it allows me to try out new recipes that are not so predictable, like green-tea infused cake, beer frosting etc... If the cupcake-of-the-week is a hit, there is a good chance it will make its way to the fixed menu.  

How do you come up with the flavors? 
Do you have a creative process you go through? 

My main inspiration for the cupcake flavors I choose comes from the foods I eat and love here in Beirut or when I travel. Recently I went to Canada and fell in love with their maple syrup. The first thing I thought of was "how do I get this in a cupcake?". That created one of Cupcake Box's most popular flavors: The Spicy Canadian with an exquisite maple syrup icing.  

Peanut Butter and Jam Cupcake
Photo Credit: Cupcake Box

Then there's peanut butter and jam sandwiches, an all time favorite of mine. That inspired me to create PBandJ, a cupcake with chocolate cake, strawberry jam filling and peanut butter frosting, and to top it all none other than Reese's pieces!  

The flavors are all very customizable, and I encourage people to create their own cupcake flavors when they order if they cannot find exactly what they like on the menu.    

How does Cupcake Box operate?

Cupcake Box currently operates on orders placed through facebook/twitter/email/phone. The minimum order is 6 cupcakes per flavor, and each order takes up to four days to prepare. I'd be happy to bake for anniversaries, weddings, meetings, conferences and parties, anything from 6 to 120+ cupcakes! For orders more than 50 cupcakes, I would encourage you to place your order one week in advance. Payment can be made upon delivery. 

We currently deliver only in Ras Beirut but in April 2012 you will be able to find Cupcake Box in Souk El Tayeb every Saturday with a range of cupcake flavors along with other sweet treats (pies, muffins, cookies, puddings etc.) that vary each week. There is no minimum order here, and you can buy whatever is available on the stand on the day. 

Raspberry Swirl Cupcake Photo
Credit: Cupcake Box

What does the future hold for Cupcake Box? 

My aim is to continue baking and raising donations for various causes in our community. In the future, I would love to offer baking workshops in collaboration with local NGO's on their community development programs, or offer fun cupcake preparation classes to underprivileged kids. There is nothing like playing with flour and icing to remind you of how sweet the world can be.  

What does the future hold for Randa Kabrit? 

I dream of conquering the world, one cupcake at a time.

If you were: 

A cupcake, what flavor would you be? 
Chocolate all the way baby! 

A quote? 
Each of us has a fire in our hearts for something. Find it, and keep it lit! - Mary Lou Retton  

A shape? 
IN shape would be good enough for me  

A song or music composition? 
Anything by Tori Amos... or Adele.... or U2... or Snowpatrol...or Alicia Keys... (I could keep going but I know it's cooler to give a short witty answer, which I cannot possibly do here)  

A film? 

A book or literary piece? 

A fabric? 
Velvet... Red Velvet


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Thursday, February 9, 2012

From Lebanon with ♡


Valentine Poster

Concept and Design: Mohamed Olaymi

Metel Ma Shelta (متل ما شلتا) Bookmarks:

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

A New Jagal, sorry I mean Jamal in (down)Town


We love Michelle Keserwany. You know that.

And if you don't, don't utter a word because anything you say can and will be used against you. Just quickly click here and here and you'll be OK.

Michelle and Noel cruising in DT

After "Jagal El USEK" went viral, Michelle teamed up with her sister Noel to create their first album, "Bel Ghalat" a musical satire of Lebanese society which has been widely covered in the local media.

Since then, they've been working hard at bringing us their very first music video, and seriously, who could possibly resist sharing it?

You be the judge of that:

Yes, they're cute, and fun... And right on!

Needless to say I now want my own camel.


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