Amirah Kassem of FLOUR SHOP
Let Them Have Cake! Here’s How this Mexican-born Fashionista Turned Cake Connoisseur Built Her Celeb-Crazed Bakery Empire From Scratch
Owner and founder of New York City-based bakery Flour Shop, Amirah Kassem, baked her first of many beloved birthday cakes for her brother when she was only 8 years old. The secret ingredient? M&Ms! Meet the baking buff who made her dream a reality - one sweet sprinkle at a time. (Spoiler alert: it was anything but a cakewalk!)
“Because a woman’s place is in the kitchen…from a company she built from scratch” says the Mexican beauty with the perennial candy apple-red pout and bubblegum pink boiler suit who has famously built a brand out of eternalizing birthdays, celebrations, and other momentous occasions, all while magically employing copious amounts of sprinkles, sugar, and smiles in the process. Kassem, 33, has literally amassed a sweet $50 million-dollar fortune from a cascade of designer cakes, candy, glitter, and sprinkles. That’s a whole lot of edible bling!
When one ventures beyond the doors of Soho’s Flour Shop, they’re immediately met with a barrage of captivating sweet obsessions in full Technicolor delight. Like Dorothy stepping into her rainbow-filled dream, the Flour Shop, too, is a real-life, dream-come-true for the candy and cake enthusiast – or just about anyone with an insatiable sweet tooth! Besides running her Instagram famous bakeshop in lower Manhattan, Kassem recently released her first cake book, The Power of Sprinkles: A Cake Book by the Founder of The Flour Shop, a whimsical children’s book fittingly entitled Magical Land of Birthdays, and has collaborated with the high-end housewares brand Williams-Sonoma on a full-range of signature bakeware. The bright, candy box-colored collection includes everything one needs to successfully pull off her famous Rainbow Explosion Cake – a heavenly, six-layer pleasure that explodes with piles of confetti-like bits of candy and sprinkles when sliced!
From Clothes to Confections
But, long before Kassem was baking bursting cakes, she was hard at work creating a rewarding career in the competitive field of fashion. Hence, her relocation to the Big Apple after earning her degree from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in Los Angeles. In 2011, after working for Interview Magazine, Kassem soon landed a prominent position to work directly alongside legendary fashion designer Johan Lindeberg to help launch the denim and leather label BLK DMN. The coveted role eventually landed Kassem as the brand’s general manager. Although she was truly enjoying her rise up the fashion ranks, she would awake at the crack of dawn every morning to work on her passion pursuits – baking colorful, eye-catching cakes for all her friends. “While I was working in fashion, I was waking up early and baking for friends and family," says Kassem, “I never had a plan, it was just something I loved doing.” The great, late musician John Lennon once quoted, “Life is what happens when you have other plans.” And, so that’s basically how Kassem’s story unfolded and the Flour Shop blossomed.
With a growing demand for her bright-and-bold, fun-filled, sweet indulgences, Kassem decided to officially leave her full-time fashion gig in 2012 to bake cakes out of her small Williamsburg apartment. Without much funding for proper branding, marketing, and a just as eye-catching website, Kassem relied on word-of-mouth and the same resourceful innovation that made many entrepreneurs millionaires – social media. She would photograph all her Insta-worthy, multi-hued creations and post to the photo-sharing app. Unsurprisingly, the Flour Shop had the mouths of Valentino, Chanel, Versace, and Stella McCartney watering in no time. Her artistically sculpted, decadent desserts have been featured in the Whitney Museum and the Brooklyn Museum, respectively. Her long list of A-list clients includes Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry, and Beyonce.
Kassem is enamored with cake baking, specifically, for the special, celebratory moments it represents. Whether it be for friends or family or strangers, Kassem relishes in surprising people with things they love. “And, with cake, I get to feel like I’m part of so many of New York’s ‘big life moment’ celebrations. I think there’s something really special to that.” Kassem admits that not possessing the classic “bakery business” training before launching the Flour Shop was quite intimidating, overwhelming, and even scary. Having to willingly relinquish some of the reins to a team of 30 was even tougher for the determined cake aficionado. Entrusting your brand’s vision to what she now refers to as her “Sprinkle Squad” took some getting used to. Yet, the process has taught her to fearlessly “let go” and focus on other things that demand her bevy of unique talents. Her husband of just a few years currently handles the business side of the bakery, while Kassem manages the entire creative side - from events, collabs, partnerships, social media management, and deciding what the next must-have treat will be to blow up Instagram. While sales from the brick and-mortar shop and its accompanying virtual store comprise much of the brand’s primary revenue, collabs, and partnerships, the two books are lucrative extensions of the Flour Shop trademark that help propel growth.
Recipe for Success
Kassem also believes that you can successfully work in multiple capacities simultaneously, but you cannot move onto the next thing until you’ve completed the thing prior. The secret for success has a sequence. In business, one must understand what comes first, second, etc. And, interestingly, she refuses to use the term “goals,” but rather “dreams.” “I think a lot of people set goals that they know they can reach because a goal that is not realistic can turn into something scary that could fail. When you’re young and full of imagination, you can dream things and nothing can stop you.” When Kassem began gaining recognition for her masterful baking skills, she was approached for a cookbook deal but didn’t feel the time was right. “I don’t like to come up with ideas because there is an opportunity; I prefer to come up with an opportunity because there’s suddenly an idea.” Talk about thinking outside of the cake box!
Kassem’s end goal is to always create something that will bring someone else pure, unadulterated joy. Whether it be a cake, product, environment, celebration, event – whatever – being able to bring a smile to someone’s face, including your own, is the ultimate recipe for success. Kassem also unapologetically subscribes to the Peter Pan syndrome of everlasting youth, sprinkled with lots of love, laughter, and hosting themed brunches and dinners for her closest friends. And, of course, PIZZA! “I’m obsessed with pizza. Pizza is always welcomed at the store,” she hints. To get a taste of her color-crazed concoctions, be sure to visit flourshop.com or on the ‘Gram @flourshop, if even just to glimpse her glamorous, glitterati Rainbow Explosion Cake that is sure to blow your mind.
Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it, too?