For the love of all things sweet, Amaretti's Mai El Raffie went to Le Cordon Bleu to figure out how to do desserts right, and she nailed it.
It’s no secret that many of us wait for Ramadan just because the thought of qatayef with cream, konafa mango cakes, and red velvet everything makes us drool. We've got a bit of a sweet tooth, if somehow you haven't been able to tell. Cairo has been a real den of desserts for the last few years; we've finally started moving away from the classic La Poire, Saé Sucré, and Mandarine Koueider to include an outstanding variety of shops and bakeries that have stolen our hearts, like Nino’s, Carousel, Copperrmelt, and smaller but still brilliant home businesses like Amaretti.
Run by 25-year-old Mai El Raffie mainly via Instagram, but now expanding to Sunny Supermarket in Zamalek, the business aims to satisfy sweettooths through the plethora of options that customers can request for events and catering, or for their own personal indulgence.
Vanilla bean crème brulée, raspberry galettes, and banoffee pies are some of El Raffie’s culinary babies. The business owner makes her own creations; once bored with a life in the development sector, she went off to London to study the art of pastries at Le Cordon Bleu (if you have no idea what that is – if you're living under a rock – it's basically the biggest culinary school in existence). After training at the Four Seasons temporarily, she decided to venture on her own and started catering for engagements and weddings.
Even dessert-makers have their favourites, and El Raffie's personal favourite are the Biscoff truffles. The young entrepreneur has plans to create a menu, which is somewhat of a challenge considering she experiments extensively and comes up with new recipes all the time. "I will upload a menu with a selection. I'm always adding items, but I’m seeing what people want. I used to do more classical desserts but I noticed, with younger generations, that they really sweets like Nutella and Biscoff, but the older generation likes dark chocolate. I like to incorporate nuts with chocolate or fruit,’’ she explains of her creations.
A fresh, family-size tart can set you back 160 to 190 LE, but a truffle is 15 LE a piece. El Raffie justifies the pricing based on the quality ingredient she gets for her creations. "For the truffles, I don’t use sugar but I sweeten with honey because I want people to actually taste the chocolate, not just sweetness and the cream I use; the cream is vegetarian and is very light, and yet the truffles are very filling,’’ she says.
El Raffie puts a lot of effort into her work; if she’s using nuts, she likes to give them a twist by caramelising them or making sure she uses quality chocolate like Lindt or Valrhona. She believes that, despite what every store says, it’s truly the ingredients that set her work apart. She tries to use ingredients like the ones used in her London school, and also tries to accommodate for every taste by being capable of making simple tarts, modern, and classical desserts but with a twist.
"I want people to focus on the taste and the balance – for example, butteriness and crispiness in a tart. The tart has a lot of butter and is more classical French than American,’’ she enthuses.
Make sure to check out her creations on Instagram.
All images were taken by Zeina Abaza and belong to Amaretti.