There’s no such thing as static for Amirah Kassem. “I don’t think that I have been in the same city for more than five days in the last couple of months,” the baker, author, and Flour Shop owner says, giggling at the thought. Two days before this call from Los Angeles, she was home in New York City posing alongside multicolored suitcases—a new addition to the Away family—that mirror the youthful decor of her Lafayette Street bakery.
Let’s just say that rainbows are the fabric of Kassem’s DNA. She has become immortalized by her signature Instagram-primed Rainbow Explosion cake, which has been featured at Kardashian-West birthday parties and replicated for Barbie’s 60th anniversary. While she’s always loved life cooking alongside her mother in the kitchen, being a professional baker wasn’t the original plan.
Her love for the vibrant hues of her Mexican hometown—Kassem is Kuwaiti-Mexican—seeped into her sense of style, evident in her initial career in fashion, but truly blossomed in her baking. “One day I just decided I want to wake up and play with sprinkles for the rest of my life,” she says. And that she did.
In 2017, she opened Flour Shop, a wall-to-wall rainbow themed oasis for sweets and treats that she calls her “little pocket of sunshine in SoHo,” and two years later released her cookbook, The Power of Sprinkles. Next up for the cake boss: a children’s series.
Ahead of the release of her book, The Magical Land of Birthdays, and a brightly colored collaboration with Away, we caught up with Kassem about how her travels spark creativity, her methods to achieve work-life balance, and the unexpected things you’ll faithfully find tucked in her carry-on.
WORK-LIFE BALANCING ACT
The reason I don’t take too much vacation time is because my life feels a little bit like a vacation. When I go on all of these trips, there’s a job that’s getting done, but there’s also so many moments for me that are fun. I’m obsessed with food, so trying to find the best new thing to eat in each city is so exciting for me. You give it your all in certain aspects and then you play just as hard, because I think it’s really important to wake up the next day and be just as excited. It never has to be one or the other. I’m obviously very serious about what I do, but I don’t take it too seriously. At the end of the day, whatever we’re creating, whatever we’re doing, is something that we’re giving our all, but at the same time it’s not the end of the world.
SLEEP TO SELF-CARE
Usually I love to look for a place to do pilates when I travel. I think it’s fun to start my morning with a really good stretch. I also love walking around as much as I can. I’m a fairly healthy person in the sense that I go to bed really early no matter what I’m doing or where I am. Those eight hours are very, very crucial to anything. To me it’s all about my sleep and regaining all that energy back. We charge our phones every night; we need to also think about charging our bodies every night.
CREATIVITY, SIGHTS, AND SNACKS
I pull inspiration a lot from my childhood, but also all my surroundings, whether it’s going to try new sweets or seeing new colors while I’m traveling to a different country. Even that time on the plane where you can’t use your phone, you’re not really watching something and you have a moment for yourself to daydream and use your imagination—some of the best things I create are usually started when I’m just staring into nothing in an airplane.
COLORFUL, BUT COMFORTABLE
I’m definitely the comfortable kind of traveler. Comfort is essential to get through the really, really long days. But I’m still always a little bit colorful and wear a lot of rainbow. I always travel in my Vans. When I see people running around the airport in heels, I have mad respect because I cannot do the same. I also usually have a denim jacket. It’s an easy thing for any time, any weather.
My headphones. Creating my own environment is part of being able to play happy music when I’m running around. And the Drunk Elephant travel collection. I became obsessed with them when I found out they have little tiny travel kits, because I’m personally not the best at beauty and skincare. But I find that if you stick to your one thing that you do all the time, then travel isn’t affecting it as much. I used to just wash my face with whatever soap was at whatever hotel, but now I just carry my little Drunk Elephant facial moisturizer and face wash. I’m really into it, especially because the packaging is so cute.
I have to travel with baking tools all the time because if I’m going somewhere where my regular kitchen isn’t there, then I need my own specific tools to make the cakes for the orders or any custom things I’m doing. I have so many tools in my bag, whether it’s a specific spatula I use or a specific cake scraper or a turntable. A lot of the time, I have multiple pounds of sprinkles in my carry on. You never know when you’re going to get a boring meal.
I travel pretty light. I usually pick a sneaker that I’m going to run around in and a shoe that I can switch to at night. Whenever I’m trying to just stick to carry-on, I always have a bathing suit because you never know where the next pool is going to be. I don’t know why, I guess I’m just really hopeful. My favorite one is a Shoshanna bathing suit that I just throw in and I feel like it goes with every vibe. If I have any appearances or photo shoots, I always try and squeeze in my Dyson blow dryer because I need the diffuser for my curly hair.
I’m a backpack girl, and in my backpack, I usually have my laptop, any things I think could get smushed, like my sunglasses or if I’m really obsessed with a new pair of shoes, I’ll keep them in my backpack. I usually have a little bag that I take out and it has everything I need for the flight: my phones, chapstick, a tiny Kleenex, an eye mask, a phone charger, and sometimes a little box of crayons because sometimes I get inspired in the middle of nowhere.