I first learned of Fatema Hijazi’s blog, Crème au Beurre, when she was featured in an issue of Victoria magazine. I instantly fell in love with her stunning pastry creations and her beautiful images of her French country-inspired lifestyle. So, of course, I just had to reach out to Fatema and invite her to share her story here on the blog!
I hope you enjoy the interview, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll likely find that Fatema’s beautiful work will inspire you to bake something extra special for your next afternoon tea!
What is the story behind the name of your blog, Crème au Beurre?
As I was thinking about a name for my blog, I wanted a name that represented my style of baking which was based on French traditions. Crème au Beurre means Buttercream in French. I had a strong preference and still do, to decorate my cakes with buttercream as opposed to fondant. Buttercream is what bakers have traditionally used.
You have mentioned that you are inspired by vintage French country style. What do you love most about this aesthetic and lifestyle?
I have always been drawn to the French style since my childhood. I would gravitate towards styles that represent femininity and elegance, such as wearing my favorite floral dress with lace hems, or admiring my mother’s china collection, or witnessing my grandmother’s embroideries, or spending time with my father at his bridal shop and admiring the romantic atmosphere, or being surrounded by roses and lavender in the plentiful gardens in California, or hearing the French proverbs my parents often used in our household (both being fluent in French). In fact, my mother would always call me her “little French girl.”
So, as I grew older, I found myself increasingly inclined toward such sentimental aspects that reminded me of those fond childhood memories. Furthermore, I enjoyed the presence of the elderly and was always drawn to their lovely tales of the past. I also have always loved “old, rustic, and vintage” articles, so antique shopping was a way to connect to that time. All this culminated into a conscious love for French country traditions. The French culture is about minimalism, preservation, cherishment and creativity, and it’s become my way of living.
What prompted you to format your blog posts as a diary to your children? And what do you enjoy most about writing and sharing them?
I have always thought about what sort of family heirloom I would leave them with, so I decided to write stories and memoirs for them, hoping they can cherish it one day. My children look forward to these stories, and we have started a tradition at home, handwriting each other’s letters and looking at photos. It’s something my children enjoy.
How do you decide what types of recipes to feature on your blog?
I love indulging in pastries, especially with my morning coffee. Where we live, we don’t have the luxury of bakeries that offer traditional French pastries made with quality ingredients. Instead of waiting around for such a bakery to come into existence, I decided to attempt to create my own quality pastries right out of my kitchen. My ideas of what to bake and ultimately feature in my blog stem from a combination of factors: my cravings, or specific memories I intend to highlight for my children, or what intrigues me in a cookbook that I would be browsing, or an idea of a specific styling for my photography.
What is your creative process for researching and adapting recipes?
It all starts with stacks of books on my coffee table and just skimming through the plethora of recipes. Once I have chosen a recipe, I read it over many times as well as research the recipe in other books or on the internet to get a better understanding on how to execute the recipe. I am a bit of a perfectionist, and I try my best to master a recipe on the first try.
As for the photographic element of my creativity, I always had a fascination with photos. Photos represent something of the past and capture special moments in time. I had my first camera at the age of eleven and gradually upgraded my camera with time. At some point, I delved more into French baking, learning from cookbooks and admiring all the beautiful imagery within them. I was inspired greatly by these cookbooks and proceeded to create such experiences for my family and friends through cooking, baking, and styling. Photographing these aspects was the way to capture and document these experiences.
Your edible creations are always stunningly beautiful! What is your background in baking and pastry design?
I started baking at an early age albeit with my mother. As I became a young teenager, my twin sister and I baked our first layered chocolate cake which consisted of mousse filling and was covered with chocolate ganache. However, I started to delve deeply into French baking ten years ago. I cater pastries for charity events and bake for wedding events for friends and family. I had numerous opportunities to pursue it professionally, however, I made a conscious decision to put that on hold for now as I enjoy being a stay-at-home mother baking for my family.
You also sometimes share snippets of your home life on Instagram. What does an average day look like for you? What are some simple joys you look forward to each day?
I like to start my day with a cup of coffee and a pastry with my husband, preferably outside in our garden, when the weather permits ,of course. Thereafter I make my rounds around the garden to check on my flowers and plants until it is time to wake up my kids to have them start their day. During the day, I call my parents to check up on them briefly then think about what I need to do for the day. A typical priority for me is to prepare dinner at a decent time. I do exercise most days to be physically and mentally in shape. I usually do not like creating a daily to-do list, so I tend to set goals and tasks on a monthly basis, such as reading a specific book or writing certain thoughts in my diary. I therefore try to align my days to these goals when needed. Some days, I host family gatherings in the forms of an afternoon tea or a meal. Other days I spend my time with the kids, whether it be going out, baking, or just watching a movie.
And, finally, what is your favorite Willow & Birch “Signature Scent”, and why?
The Lavender Breeze; I love anything lavender.
Thank you so much for chatting with me, Fatema!
Visit Fatema’s blog here and follow her on Instagram to enjoy more of her lovely pastry creations and glimpses into her charming French country-inspired lifestyle!