Marilyn Basbous is an enthusiastic 22 year old Pharmacy student with an extraordinary passion for baking. When she is not dancing at a professional level, or seriously studying for her exams, you can find her baking her way through the world of Marly’s Goodies in her own little kitchen.
KAMSYN met up with this lively young talent to find out more about her early success. A story about a Pharmacist to be, a dancer, and to top of it all off, an amazing baker.
When did your love for baking start ?
Well, I’ve always had a knack for baking since I was 10 years old. I used to follow my mom to the kitchen and watch her bake cupcakes, cakes, and Lebanese sweets. I always had a sweet tooth and I loved crafting as well, so I decided to mix the best of both worlds and started baking on my own.
Other than baking, you’re a Pharmacist to be and a dancer, how do you juggle between such commitments ?
It’s definitely not easy, but when you have a passion for something, (or things in my case) you always find time to manage what matters to you.
I did well in school, and I always admired the science behind chemistry and biology; so I decided to study pharmacy. As for dancing, it is something I grew up doing as a child, and till now it is something I still have passion for. Recently I volunteered as a dancer in Heartbeat’s concert to raise funds for children with heart diseases.
Do you think Pharmacy and baking have a lot in common ?
Definitely, it’s like Professor Utonium from the PowerPuff Girls ! You’re mixing Chemical X with sugar and spice and everything nice. This is why I mixed chemistry and baking; they’re both different forms of science. You need to add components in both and mix them together, and then wait for a certain pill or cake to come together. They are both precise sciences and you always need to experiment in order to achieve the desired results and reach the perfect match. Who knows what can be created with such combination of skills ?
So you are a self-taught baker ? What kind of challenges did you face when you started baking?
It just needs a lot of practice and patience until you loose sense of time and spend hours in the kitchen baking. Most of the recipes that I found online seemed to always miss something, so I would try over and over again until I felt like “Yes, this is it !”. Sometimes, I would even be partying with my friends but my mind would still be in the kitchen. The most rewarding moment that makes it all worthwhile is when the cake appears in its total glory: baked and fully dressed with drips and sprinkles.
You stopped baking for a year but then you resumed your practice shortly after, what inspired you to get back on track?
As you know, studying Pharmacy is not easy. I reached a moment where I felt overwhelmed and somehow convinced that I was wasting my time on baking and needed to focus again on my studies. However, something was missing from my life.
One day, as I was scrolling through my Instagram feed, I saw this big colourful cake that bedazzled me. It turns out, the baker behind the masterpiece was and still is a famous home baker based in Australia. I immediately felt a resonance with her baking journey. Because she is also self-taught and does not have a bakery, I was inspired by her approach. She is a devoted high school teacher that bakes for fun when she has the time and makes beautiful cakes. Her creations inspired me and revived my passion for baking. Then I thought to myself:”if she can do it, why can’t I ?”
Can you tell us more about your inspiration and development process of each cake ?
I get inspired by everything around me and keep this little notebook to record any Epiphany I may have. I sketch out my idea and bring it to life shortly after. One of my main inspirations is the country I live in and the diversity of cultures that revolves around it.
Baklava is a traditional sweet in Lebanese cuisine, so I decided to modernize it by recreating into a cupcake using orange blossom, honey, and roasted pistachios.
Every cake order is special and unique. I rarely make the same cake twice because I believe that the cake should represent the uniqueness of my customer. We normally sit down together and have a little chat. Some questions I ask are: what are their favourite colours, their preferred style, music..
How does a typical baking session at Marly’s Goodies start ?
It starts like it does in the lab. I prepare my scale to measure out the ingredients, the thermometer to keep track of the temperature, and organize my working area. I keep my notebook and whiteboard in front of me because that is where I have planned and sketched everything out. The mixer is ready to whip up the magic, and the oven will give rise to the creation. It’s something I love and enjoy. When I start baking I lose sense of time and don’t feel tired. Sometimes even if I do, it’s something definitely worthwile.
Do you have a certain specialty ?
Each baker has his or her own specialty and mine is designing every single detail on the cake by hand. I enjoy using Swiss meringue buttercream because it allows me to manipulate the colours and textures in an interesting manner. On the inside of my drip designed cakes, I combine various flavours and delicacies that I get from all over the world.
Every cake has to look pretty but it has to taste even better ! I always use the best ingredients for my orders to ensure the highest quality and a unique gourmet experience.
When was your first public event ?
My first event was in my university, in the faculty of Pharmacy for Pink October -breast cancer awareness month. It was a bake sale that raised funds for the Lebanese Breast Cancer Foundation (LBCF). I baked pink donuts, pink cupcakes, and other pink goodies for 3 days in my kitchen. It was an amazing event and the goodies sold out within an hour.
I love working with NGOs and feel fulfilled when it’s for a good cause.
My latest collaboration was with two brands, Elsa O l’ Accessoire and Boshies Neo-Oriental Hats. Kamsyn brought us together around the idea of modernizing Lebanese Heritage. The video was shot by Elias Abkar and the Music Track “Simplicity” specially composed by Sharway featuring an amazing performance by Aziza & Chyno.
What message would you like to share with young aspiring Artists ?
Follow your passions because they will never disappoint you. You will doubt yourself, have ups and downs like everything else, but your passion will empower you to rise above the obstacles in your path.
Sally Mansour, October 2016