A Sit Down with Cake Queen, Yara Hashem, and All Her Kitchen Adventures
Yara Hashem has taken the game by storm in Beirut with her online bakeshop, @Thehashbites. Her desserts are simple, captivating, and just what the doctor ordered. I had the opportunity to sit down with Yara and ask her a few questions about all her latest adventures in and out of the kitchen.
Melania Zilo: Hi, Yara! Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background! Where are you from, what do you do, what's your favorite color?
Yara Hashem: Hi, I'm a senior at the American University of Beirut, studying Food Science and Business Management. I also recently founded TheHashbites, an online dessert shop. I love all the colors depending on my mood, but purple has a special place in my heart. It calms me down and makes me happy, which is why the main colors for TheHashbites are purple and pink.
MZ: I would love to hear your thoughts on how to create a healthy relationship with food, something I talk a lot about on the podcast!
YH: I think the healthiest relationship with food is one without obsession. Be at peace with your body and listen to it. Don't obsess over what you eat because it will ruin the whole experience and make you feel bad about yourself. This is not healthy. Instead, focus on food that makes you happy or makes you feel good about yourself and your body. I am passionate about food, if you haven't noticed, and it took me a long time to be at peace with how my body looks and what I eat. I learned to balance my diet to eat healthy and nutritious food, but I will never say no to take-outs and desserts when I'm craving some.
MZ: What inspired you to take the first steps in creating @thehashbites?
YH: So I've been into baking since I was seven or so, and throughout middle school and high school, I would always bring the sweets I make with me to school for my friends to try. All my friends would tell me, "Yara, you're gonna be a chef one day" or "Yara, you're gonna make my wedding cake," and it made me really happy. In my junior year of high school, a friend told me she wanted some cookies and that she was willing to pay. That was the first time I thought about selling what I bake. After that, I quickly became the cookie plug at school, and I would sneak the cookies to customers during our lunch break because we were not allowed to sell each other things at school. Fast forward to my senior year, in May, I was scrolling on Instagram, and I got the idea of starting my own baking page and taking things to the next level. I came up with so many names, but they all flopped, and then I came up with TheHashbites, a combination of my last name "Hashem" and bites. I'm so glad I took this leap of faith because it's been such an incredible experience so far.
MZ: Biggest flop in the kitchen?
YH: Big oof. I have had so many flops, most of which are related to electric mixers. Once, I was making buttercream, when suddenly the bowl tipped over while it was still mixing and it exploded everywhere; all the buttercream landed on me, the walls, the table, the floor. It was a huge mess. I don't know how I managed to turn it off in time. I had to redo the buttercream so fast because I had to deliver the cake a few hours later.
MZ: The nicest thing anyone has said about your baking?
YH: I’ve received so many compliments, and I’m so grateful for everyone who supports me. I think the nicest one was when a customer’s relatives were so surprised that I was a student and the cake tasted so good -they loved it- they thought I was a professional pastry chef.
MZ: What's the most exciting thing you've made in the kitchen?
YH: I think that would be chocolate truffles. I used to think they were so hard to make, but I was ecstatic when I finally nailed it. They’re divine and very famous in the chocolate world.
MZ: Could you let us in on your top food tip to get that perfect shot for the gram?
YH: Good lighting and presentation are essential. Choose a spot with natural lighting and fix it up with anything you have at home like some cardboards for the background (or if you have a place with nice wallpaper, that’s enough); cute cutlery is a plus too! If you want to get deep into it, add some ingredients besides the dessert (some powdered sugar, strawberries, chocolate pieces, etc.). I shoot everything on my iPhone, and it always comes out looking bomb.
MZ: What would be your dream destination regarding food?
YH: Switzerland. I hope to go to pastry school there some day.
MZ: Could you walk us through your creative process? What fuels your iconic cake ideas?
YH: Well, I’ve just started to come up with designs. At first, customers would send me pictures of what they wanted, and I would make it - but always with a special touch of my own. More recently, I think with experience, I now have more ideas, and I am more familiar with cake designs and all that. When a customer contacts me, I suggest changes to the design they give me or discuss designs with them based on what they have in mind. We collaborate on different ideas and decide on combinations that work well together. Also! Pinterest is my best friend; I use it for inspiration.
MZ: If you could share a meal with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why? What's on the menu?
YH: Amaury Guishon. I'm always in awe of all the work he does; he's so talented, and I appreciate art in the form of food, which is precisely what he does. I'll leave the menu for him to decide!! I would love to try his different dessert combinations.
MZ: And lastly, can you include your favorite recipe you've made?
YH: Here is my famous Banana Oat Cookies Recipe, it's super simple, gluten-free, and delicious!!!
1 cup of oats
1 tbsp of honey or (use maple syrup as a vegan alternative)
You can add any topping you want like choc chips, raisins, dried cranberries, or dried raspberries.
Put them in the oven and bake them for 10-15 minutes at 350°f
Be creative, and prepare food the way you enjoy it. Follow your gut!!! That's what being a chef is all about.
Melania & Yara
To see more of Yara Hashem and to follow all her cake adventures head to @yaraahashem + @thehashbites on Instagram