When you ask Emma Joyston-Bechal to describe herself she says, mother, wife, hotelier, carpet dealer and then adds...bespoke cake maker. She and her family moved to Marrakech six years ago from London and have since set up the very popular Zamzam Riad. The View from Fez crew admit to a weakness for the odd slice of gateaux and so, fascinated by Emma's fabulous creations, we invited her to explain why and how she has taken the humble skill of cake making into the realms of art and along the way created a very successful business.
As long as I can remember I have been making cakes, with my mother, grandmother or friends. I have always had a very keen interest in food and cooking. I was born in Uganda and grew up in Nigeria and during my extensive travels of the world through out my life many of my travel memories relate to food. I have always been waiting to express my creativity and now making these special cakes I have found that outlet. My mother read me a book when I was very small about a girl who worked in the kitchen at the Giant's castle. She made jellies and cakes and fanciful things all magical and over the top. I was in awe of this little girls creations and that story and those illustrations have stayed with me all my life. I now create them in my cakes.
My commercial cake making started in Marrakech when a couple of friends who own a Maison D'hote Riad here asked me if I would make their wedding cake for their own special day. They knew that every Christmas I made traditional fruit Christmas cakes and my own dried fruit mince meat to fill, what we call mince pies in the UK. Friends in Marrakech had often told me I should do this commercially at Christmas as they were desperate for my Christmas mince pies, however each year I like to make them for family and friends and have a big Christmas party at our hotel Zamzam Riad where all my friends and colleagues can sample an evening of Christmas cheer.
So delighted to be asked, I made my very first wedding cake with three tiers of fruit cake covered in marzipan and icing. The icing was pistachio green with burgundy ribbon and burgundy roses. The top tier was a decoration of burgundy roses. I don't even have a photo of that first cake. Since then word has got about with agencies and friends who also own hotels in Marrakech and my client base is starting to get larger and much more demanding with respect to design. The last wedding cake I made was 3 chocolate suitcases complete with buckles, straps, handles sewing and locks, plus travel stickers including one of the Mamounia complete with bride and groom sitting on top. This whole cake was edible.
Since commercially making wedding cakes I am rarely asked for a fruit cake which is what I consider a traditional wedding cake. Most cake requests are for a chocolate devil's food cake and other flavours that include Mandarin, carrot cake, coffee and walnut, lemon and red velvet cake. I recently made baked lemon cheesecake cup cakes which I must say were delicious. I work together on my cakes with a wonderful lady called Fatiya who I have trained along side me and who is a master at colouring icing to the exact hue requested. Now that my orders have become more serious my husband has built me a large kitchen with a big central slab of granite on which Fatiya and I can work and roll large pieces of icing and make special chocolate decorations. Due to the back breaking weight of the cakes we have also installed two ovens at waist height.
The wedding cakes have now spread to special birthday requests. The lilly cake (pictured above) was requested as a surprise by a woman's husband. I often sketch the cakes and discuss colour and decoration with the client before they order. Some people know exactly what they want but for others its a journey of discussion and design.
For more information on Emma's bespoke cakes, email Emma at email@example.com or call her on +212(0)661215062. Note: Emma needs four weeks notice to create these cakes as she often needs to buy certain elements in the UK.
Zamzam Riad, 107 Rue Kaa El Machraa, Zaouia El Abbassia, Website: http://www.riadzamzam.com/