Craft baker Zubair creates exciting plan

Experienced marketer Zubair Arshed turned a passion for baking and food into a new start-up enterprise during last year’s coronavirus lockdown which saw his luxury wedding and event planning company become another victim of the pandemic.
Zubair Arshed of 3Forty-seven Cakes in Belfast has developed gluten-free chocolate eclairsZubair Arshed of 3Forty-seven Cakes in Belfast has developed gluten-free chocolate eclairs
Zubair Arshed of 3Forty-seven Cakes in Belfast has developed gluten-free chocolate eclairs

Born and bred in Belfast, Zubair (30) reacted to the crisis by setting up 3Forty-seven Cakes last October in his home kitchen and began selling unique baked goods. He had carefully prepared the ground for the new venture by achieving fine stars in the essential food hygiene authority approvals.

“Closing the event planning business was a severe blow,” Zubair says, “but there just wasn’t any realistic alternative due to the lockdown. I am not the type to sit around and whinge in the hope that conditions change. I reckoned it would be some considerable time before the restrictions on events would be lifted and I began looking for another career that would give me greater control over my own destiny. I’d been in marketing for most of my career, my most recent being with Lyle and Bailie International in Belfast. I reckoned that I could use my marketing and business skills to create a new venture based on my longstanding passion for good food and home baking. I was determined not to allow the crisis to get the better of me. I also needed to generate cash, of course, to pay the bills and put food on my table.

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“Starting something new in the middle of a global pandemic and associated lockdowns, of course, was a leap of faith.”

A birthday cake created by Zubair Arshed in BelfastA birthday cake created by Zubair Arshed in Belfast
A birthday cake created by Zubair Arshed in Belfast

The patisserie is the realisation of an ambition to do something food related in his teenage years.

“I just didn’t know what it would be. Baking and food is a huge passion of mine. With lockdown the opportunity presented itself. There was also a lot of support available due to people turning to local producers in greater numbers,” Zubair continues.

He says the situation presented “a great opportunity because the gluten-free market was seriously lacking in variety”. The demand, timing and opportunity was just right and 3Forty-seven Cakes was born.

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Encouraged by family and friends, Zubair began shaping his business idea and decided to focus on gluten-free and often dairy-free treats especially gourmet chocolate eclairs, profiteroles, cheesecakes and luxury cakes for occasions such as birthdays, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s and other celebrations. All the delicacies are handcrafted meticulously by Zubair from the best local ingredients.

Zubair Arshed of 3Forty-seven Cakes in Belfast in creating gluten-free delicacies by handZubair Arshed of 3Forty-seven Cakes in Belfast in creating gluten-free delicacies by hand
Zubair Arshed of 3Forty-seven Cakes in Belfast in creating gluten-free delicacies by hand

“Everything I craft is gluten-free. I pride myself on this and the ability to cater to many allergies without compromising on taste and texture,” he adds. Business had grown steadily. He’s a one man show who hopes to recruit another employee soon as part of an expansion plan he’s drafted.

“As is the case with most start-ups, I currently do everything from baking through to washing up, greeting customers, deliveries, stock management, marketing and finance. It’s plenty of work and I look forward to bringing in someone to give me a helping hand,” he says.

He chose 3Forty-seven Cakes in “homage to my roots”. “My paternal grandfather founded a village in what is now Pakistan and my maternal great-grandfather founded another village. The name 3Forty-seven Cakes represents me, my ancestors and my roots, without which this would all not be possible,” explains Zubair.

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His grandparents had moved from India to what is now Pakistan during the terrible partition of 1947 that divided their Punjab homeland.

“They founded new communities and then ventured to the UK in the 1950s to create a better life for their children. Moving to a new country, not knowing the language and customs was a tough challenge for them. I admire and still draw great inspiration from the gritty resilience with which they overcame it all and prospered,” he says.

His unique patisserie is currently available online, via Instagram, Facebook, his internet order form or stockists such as Ward & Co deli in Belfast and Kraken in Portrush. He derives greatest satisfaction from exchanges with customers.

“I love the excitement from dealing with my customers,” he continues. “I have a bond with many who tell me how long it’s been since they’ve had good gluten-free delicacies. My job also lets me be creative, something I have enjoyed from an early age. I experiment with flavours, techniques and decorations to create something new and unique.”

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Zubair’s ambition is “to build a bigger audience and keep making gluten-free mainstream”.

“I am also looking into setting up an industrial kitchen to increase my capacity and provide greater scope for innovative treats. My long-term plan is to be in all major stores. Maybe one day I’ll be in Harrods Food Hall in London,” he says.

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