It was the smell that hit me first. In the midst of the crowds that had gathered to dance and make merry in Freedom Park, Lagos for http://www.afropolitanvibes.com/ concert I decided to walk around the park with bae and had become convinced that someone, somewhere was cooking something amazing. My olfactory sense did not let me down as soon we found a small cabin where a young woman was diligently icing cupcakes. Mystery solved.
Once inside, I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting to the lady behind http://www.kiniyidun.com, owner and baker Temi Igbinovia, as well as sampling treats and ordering some of the most delicious baked goods I have had the pleasure of eating. This written by a woman who has walked the streets of Paris in search of the perfect Tarte au Citron (La Patisserie Cyril Lignac, since you ask) and makes an annual pilgrimage to the West Country of England for true scones with the obligatory clotted cream and jam (No, I am not telling!). The birthday cake, cookies and cupcakes I have since ordered from Kiniyidun did not disappoint, so it felt only right and proper to return to Freedom Park for an interview, and some more delicious cake.
Born in Camden London, Temi returned to Lagos as a child and remained there until her first degree in Communications Design in KNUST, Ghana. It was whilst at KNUST that her food calling initially manifested, and she started a baking business with a friend that before long made them the toast of Kumasi and beyond. However, with graduation, the business came to a natural end and Temi travelled to London for her Masters in Character Animation at the prestigious Central Saint Martin’s.
“I decided to set myself the challenge of baking my way through the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and blogging about it.” Temi says “My blog Sweet Art By Temi http://www.sweetartbytemi.com was really an online journal for me but also an introduction for readers to baking and I quickly gained a wide readership with comments coming in from Nigeria, the UK and America”
I asked her whether the baking interrupted with her studies, and apart from a season where her finals loomed, it was an opportunity to marry her love of food with her innate artistry. Although keen to return home after graduation, London with its multifarious food culture influenced her; concepts such as seasonal consumption, additive free eating, as well as the importance of aesthetics would later inform the unique Kiniyidun offering.
“I knew I would never stay in London beyond my studies. It was too cold and grey. Having said that one of my big discoveries was Patisserie Valerie, obviously the Hummingbird Bakery and Busaba, which had the most incredible Asian cuisine. My academic mentor had an office in Soho, so this gave me the opportunity to be exposed to a variety of cuisines.”
But onto the magic that is Kiniyidun. I asked her why the name? What was the ethos of the brand itself and what were her long term plans:
“Kiniyidun is Yoruba for ‘This is Sweet’, it was important for me that the name of the bakery was rooted in my African identity, as well as giving a clue to what I make.” I probed her and suggested that there was a certain ambiguity in ‘sweet’, it could be literally about her being the purveyor of sweet treats but it could also be used colloquially for things that are in general amazing. “I hadn’t thought of that,” Temi said laughing shyly “But we don’t just do cakes so perhaps you are right, I make gourmet sandwiches and salads and we serve artisan coffees too. But yes, it is principally about the cakes and about the name being something my customers can relate to immediately.”
Talk moved onto the cakes themselves: for those who are lovers of minimalism, precision and insane flavour combinations, then Kiniyidun is the place for you. I ask her about the cakes, which also come in tall options and oftentimes are decorated with tonal almost semi sheer effect icing, with a smattering of edible gold dusting that can make you reluctant to cut the first slice.
“Yes, the cakes are definitely decorated with my aesthetic language in mind. I see myself as principally an artist and that is reflected in my work. Animation and graphics are rooted in my decorating style, hence the black ink effect wording for the messages, presented on a white icing disc, and the precision in additional artwork. I even designed my logo, and the aesthetic is something customers noticed immediately, even before I moved to the Freedom Park space in August last year and I was working out of home for a year. I believe art can be appreciated by all, and should not be limited to what we see in a gallery, hence my cakes looking the way they do.”
What of the challenges of sustaining her standards in the challenging environment of Nigeria? Had supplies and sourcing proved difficult? Temi was quick to answer:
“Many of the challenges of Nigeria would be the same with any business start-up. You have the issue of training people, the power issue is ongoing, but essentially the business has grown out of ours and our customers’ passion for our cakes. We have worked hard to educate people away from artificial colours and flavouring in how we do what we do, and most of our ingredients are sourced in Nigeria, allowing us to create seasonal recipes too. Ideally in the future we will expand, not just across Nigeria but the rest of Africa.
As our time comes to a close, I couldn’t resist asking Temi whether she had a favourite flavour of cake she made; she responded it was ‘like picking a favourite child”; I asked her of her most audacious baking plan and she replied ‘baking her own wedding cake’. I know, I too was in awe of that!
I think we can expect to hear a lot more of Kiniyidun. The quality speaks for itself, Temi’s passion oozes through all the work and her small team are as dedicated as the lady herself! Food Hero? Absolutely, especially as she is conquering Lagos one exquisite bite at a time. http://www.kiniyidun.com