Marly's Goodies Crafts Cupcakes With A Lebanese Twist

Several months ago, one of my avid blog and Instagram followers got in touch via private message. Marilyn Basbous, a spirited brunette in her early 20s, wanted to meet the face behind Beirutista and swap stories. In this age of social media and the comfort we enjoy shielded behind the screen, how unconventional to set aside our monitors and smartphones and make a real connection over a cup of coffee.

I was thrilled. Marilyn, named after the iconic Hollywood celebrity, is a fifth-year pharmacy student at USJ. By day, she’s poring over chemical compounds and learning about medication therapy. By night, she shrugs off the lab coat to don an apron and toque. You see, Marilyn is a passionate cake creative. Her objective is not just any diner cake or cupcake with confetti sprinkles.

In fact, she cites Katherine Sabbath, a name only diehard cake-makers would recognize, as being her principal inspiration and idol. Sabbath fashions colorful extruded cakes and is notorious for her ice cream cone cake, with an upside down cornetto sticking out of the top.

And Marilyn’s proven to be a diligent student. Forage through her resplendent Instagram account, and you’ll be left wondering whether her line of work is more art than the edible. 

Her “Doh’nut Cake,” for example, begins with a four-tiered vanilla and chocolate cake soaked in maraschino cherry syrup filled with cherry buttercream and drizzled with Belgian chocolate ganache. The proverbial cherry on top are homemade glazed vanilla bean donuts. I’m not even sure how you’d start to slice that tower.

Doh'nut Cake

Marly’s Goodies, as her enterprise is dubbed, has been toying with a fusion of the Orient and Occident, the modern and traditional. Lately, she’s innovated a collection of cupcakes embracing classic Lebanese desserts, like meghlé (spiced rice pudding) and osmaliye (vermicelli sandwich of clotted cream).

Let’s get up close and personal:

Meghlé cupcakes feature a cinnamon-, caraway-, and aniseed-laced crumb caching the namesake Lebanese pudding. The crown is a rich cream cheese frosting decked with nuts and shreds of coconut as in the original dessert.

Meghlé cupcake

Fan of biscuits and loukoum? Marly’s biscuit w rahit mawared cupcakes are rosewater-flavored cupcakes iced with rosewater swissmeringue buttercream cradling biscuit and rose Turkish delight.

Biscuit w rahit mawared cupcake

Perhaps the most daring novelty is the osmaliye cupcake, with a mahlab-kissed crumb enveloping a pouch of sweetened crushed pistachios. The frosting evokes the Lebanese pastry with a bed of vermicelli and candied rose petals.

Osmaliye cupcake

Marilyn will be debuting her cupcake trio at Beirut’s Salon du Chocolat November 17-19 to coincide with the publication of Taste & Flavors’ winter edition, which casts a spotlight on her home bakery shenanigans. She admits to locking her family out of the kitchen while slaving over the dainty délices. And yes, she does clean up after herself.

Apparently, the pharmacy student's final year thesis will be a marriage between pharmacology and baking. Only a chemistry buff like Marilyn could draw parallels between two vastly different universes. For the rest of us, let's settle for savoring her sumptuous solutions.

The Lebanese line of Marly's cupcakes


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