Passion and a flair for being unique are the two mantras that went into creating Chef Salim Al Kalbani’s the Dried Lemon, partnered by his zealous wife, Amal Al Khaburi. Having kick started their culinary dream in 2012 with the inception of this innovative business, both husband and wife ventured into the field of baking when they began receiving orders for wedding cakes, and by that, we mean cakes of the highest stature and grandeur!
‘We started the Dried Lemon as a carry through from Cinderella Sweets, which was run by my mother-in-law, Mrs. Habiba Al Khaburi’, says Salim. ‘It’s been three years since we opened the Dried Lemon, and we started off with doing savoury dishes from home. Once we gained recognition from referrals, we entered the business in full-fledged fashion and advanced on my mother-in-law’s experience. We approach our craft with extreme care and artistry, and take pride in creating strikingly beautiful gourmet food, cakes and confections that are innovative and bold.’
Of course, being eccentrically named, we couldn’t help but wonder what brought about the title of the Dried Lemon. ‘We wanted to embrace something that the Sultanate of Oman is renowned for in the world of food when it came to naming ourselves’, says Amal Al Khaburi. ‘We decided on the simple dried lemon, also known in the culinary industry as the black lemon (Loomi Omani) and infused it in all of our trademark dishes to create our signature flavour!’
‘It’s a secret!’ laughs Salim when asked how the signature Dried Lemon flavour is prepared. ‘After many failed attempts to include the dried lemon taste in our desserts, it took us over 40 days to enhance the flavor of the Loomi Omani and remove the bitter element from it. We are the first to have succeeded in incorporating it in sweet dishes.’
How did they start making wedding cakes? ‘We began with making birthday cakes, and cakes for privately held weddings (not the ones held in hotels). Since couples usually get the cake done from the venue they are hosting their wedding in, the demand for wedding cakes wasn’t very high, but it grew at a slow yet steady pace. What turned our cards was when we designed the chandelier cake at Ritz Carlton’s Al Bustan Palace Hotel. It paved a whole new path and outlook into the world of wedding cakes for us!’
‘Salim was also featured as a Guest Chef at the Six Senses Zighy Bay in Dibba’, adds Amal. ‘That was another factor for changing the dynamics of the Dried Lemon. We now make signature couture cakes, and never repeat any of them!’ Indeed, having achieved great popularity for their incredibly designed wedding cakes that don’t miss out on the nip of the Loomi Omani, the entire process is considerable hard work. ‘We have a small, hardworking team’, says Amal. ‘It isn’t easy because when we first launched the Dried Lemon, I was pregnant, and then when Noah, my son, arrived, balancing parenthood and the business was a very hard task.’
‘Nothing is more disastrous than food that looks spectacular but tastes uninspired’, says Salim. ‘We have committed ourselves to creating classic flavour profiles with lovely textures for all of our creations, be it food, cakes, or confections.’
Both husband and wife agree that they would not have been where they are today, had it not been for Amal’s parents, Tariq and Habiba Al Khaburi. ‘Their dedication and utmost support in what we do is immeasurable. Without them and their help as grandparents, it would have taken us much longer to reach the level we operate on today.’
In recent years, cakes have seen an upsurge when it comes to weddings in the Arab world. Salim admits that though not a tradition in the Middle East, wedding cakes have always been a part of the celebration, but not with the gusto that we see today. ‘Ever since the advent of western themes in weddings, cakes have become a part and parcel of the whole package’, he says. ‘We have towering cakes now, with each trying to outdo the other in different weddings! The newer generation has taken to grand cakes with very specific designs.’
What was the most remarkable cake that they have done? ‘All of our cakes are unique’, says Salim. ‘However, if I had to pick one, I’d say it was the chandelier cake. We received great recognition with that cake. It was literally an upside down cake hanging from a 6.5 meter metal beam! In itself it was about three meters tall with 4,722 Austrian Crystals hanging from it along with 24 meters of diamantes wrapped all around. Over 350 handmade petals were done for its sugar flowers. The structure was fabricated in merely five days!’
Recently The Dried Lemon made news about having made the tallest wedding cake in Oman at the Al Bustan Palace that stands a whopping 3.62 meters tall. ‘It was an enormous task!’ says Salim. ‘I think it’s safe to say that is definitely one of the tallest cakes in the Sultanate.’
‘You won’t notice any specific trend when it comes to wedding cakes’, says Amal when questioned about the international designs that have entered the world of baking. ‘The wedding cake is dependent on the theme of the wedding. Embellishments such as hand crafted sugar flowers and decorations detailing are the demands in the Omani market.’
‘In striving to create the best food, cakes, and confections that make our customers say ‘Wow!’, we continue to expand our business purely through word of mouth referrals’, conclude the couple together. ‘Our wonderful Loomies, as we like to call them, are great evangelists, and we are very proud to be able to provide them with something worth sharing. The ultimate goal is to create decadent memories for all of our clients, by marrying together the most elemental ingredients to make creations that taste just as beautiful as they look!’
All in all, the Dried Lemon is certainly a hot card when it comes to wedding cakes! With personal consultancy that looks to develop an intimate relationship with their clients, Salim Al Kalbani and Amal Al Khaburi take great pride in what they create. Don’t forget to visit thedriedlemon.com and their Facebook page for further information and contact details!