Cakes are considered to be the best and most important part of any celebration. It is an essential piece and sometimes the one that all the work is focused on. Birthdays, weddings, family gatherings, and any kind of event must always have a cake as the centerpiece. Artists and bakers have taken this industry to a whole new level and the creations created are mind-blowing and incredible.
Those cakes are pieces of art and not just cakes. In Libya, baking and cake art are things that have developed greatly in recent years and many women now started their own businesses in this industry and the competition is on. There is a page I have been following for a while now and I wondered who is the amazing lady behind it because her work is unique and mind dazzling and I knew I had to know her story and share it with you, dear readers.
In this article, you will get to know the story behind Marshmallows and the power woman behind this amazing project, Arwa BenOmran, from Benghazi. I am sure her story will inspire you as much as it has inspired me. Arwa is a 26-year-old dentistry graduate and cake artist from Benghazi. She comes from a small Libyan family. For her, baking came out of nowhere and it was very indirect.
She enjoys crafty work such as drawing and carving. Especially, after the revolution when universities were shut down and the wave of depression hit people hard. She told me that one day, she was drawing and she watched a video of someone making roses using whipped cream and he put them on cakes.
Arwa was very amazed and perplexed by how art can be used like this with cakes and it was her first discovery. It was very beautiful and since then, she wanted to try edible crafty work and this was during 2011. Her beginnings were in 2011, the idea didn’t start as an official project, there were multiple trials and she was obsessed with mastering this art.
To a point, she was not that informed in baking so her mom started to bake cakes and Arwa took the decoration task of those cakes. The most cake she put a lot of effort into was her birthday cake and she worked on the decoration part and she spent an entire night forming the roses and petals. The process progressed and her passion escalated and her mom motivated her, even more, to learn how to bake as well and she eventually did.
For their friends and family members, she did all the cakes and she was studying during that time in med school. People were amazed by how young she was and she managed her time wisely. People asked her if she could start a project during 2012-2013 and at that time, her age, she didn’t even know what a project is and the culture of selling from home was not quite popular.
People insisted and that made her consider the idea seriously. It was a little bit hard but people suggested she start her own page to showcase her work and attract more people so she did. She called it Marshmallows. She picked this name because it is used to make sugar paste used in cakes and she wanted a name related to this big industry. When she started in the beginning, she exposed herself even more on nature and roses in cakes and she was inspired by a British page called Artistry cakes and that inspired her even more.
She wanted people to know that in Libya, art exists regardless of the hazy situation and that headlines should not only include war, death, and conflict. Arwa wanted to share the beautiful side of Libya through her talent. Libya is full of talented people in many fields. She started her page in late 2013, it was not a project but mainly an educational platform to share recipes so women can learn and get out of the war mood and until now it is a platform that reflects a form of art which is food art.
She cared about color coordination and forms. She tried to stay well informed of what was happening in the world. For her project, she focused on roses and flowers and how to make them as realistic as possible. More people reached out to book cakes and the project grew even bigger and she officially started to sell her work.
After that, she gave an introductory course that taught 20 participants to teach people the thing she is passionate about. She had a beautiful but scary feeling and her first courses were the most successful through the support of her family, especially her mother, and she still remembers her students from those early courses.
Marshmallows is focused on the concept of food art and simulation themes for her work. She likes to try new things and different techniques but she mostly focuses on the concept of simulation of anything from simple to complicated structures. It is because that simulation is what can blow people’s minds and it is realistic.
She only took one course but she mainly uses YouTube videos to learn more but as she got better, she doesn’t watch a lot of videos now as she practices and tries different things. In addition, there are some cake artists who give tips and the use of the internet is very helpful especially on Instagram.
I asked Arwa about her clients and what kind of clients she works with, she said that some clients can be hard sometimes as she would not predict the reaction of them because her cakes are very simple and the client would want more complexity with the design. However, some clients would come with the design or some would keep it for Arwa to choose. So, some of them would want to be part of the cake making process and she gives her advice and suggestions to work well with them.
Regarding her special cakes, when it is for a special occasion, the story that strikes her the most was when she did a cake for Eid Al-Adha and for her, it was very special as she remembers all the details ‘’but there is always something sweet to remember behind every cake I make’’ Arwa described.
The main challenge she faced in her early beginnings was the lack of materials as the society was not helping due to the continues electricity cuts and the war situation but now, she is facing another challenge which is about expanding the project as the field became competitive so she has to make sure that the growth is accelerating steadily.
She still has a problem with taking online courses to develop herself and she is still looking for a committed team to work with her. Arwa is a very detailed person. It is hard for her to trust someone who can do the work the same way she does it because she pays high attention to every single detail of the cakes she makes.
She is currently developing her project and she hopes to have a place for Marshmallows that can further provide opportunities for people who are passionate about this industry and project development and can reflect the beauty of Libya and Libyans and also teach people more about simulation. Management and administration of her work are key variables in this journey.
Arwa was so easy to talk with and I could sense her passion through her words and the way she described this journey to me when we had the interview. I felt welcome to ask her and talk with her about this amazing project and she was truly open and that made this interview one of my favorites so far. Arwa told me that she wants to tell those reading her story to keep moving forward and focus on positivity to help you even more and try to overcome negativity, your passion and dream should be your fuel in this journey of growth.
Manage your work and use your talent and don’t compare yourself to others and we all started from zero and ‘’if there is no failure, there is no success’’. Stay humble and don’t forget the support of others and your family, teach and help others as much as you can. Each Duaa from someone who you taught one day can change your life for the better and help you greatly. Arwa is so hopeful and many artists are doing great things regardless of what is currently happening in the country. She is seeing so many youth seizing opportunities and she knows that more can be done and that peace is possible.