Sabina Uzeirbegović – Doboj: Medenjak offers cakes and sweets as made by our mothers and grandmothers
When I was recommended to visit the Medenjak craft workshop in Doboj, I did not even suspect that this visit would be likely to change my attitude towards cakes I would like to eat in the future. Namely, in Medenjak, I tasted Paradise Cake as recommended by its owner Sabina Uzeirbegović, with whom I talked. It’s a cake that doesn’t look like much at the first glance, but every bite is such that while you eat you think you do not want to ever again eat anything that’s less tasty. No wonder that this cake is a sort of a brand of its own in Medenjak, because many customers come here only for this cake.
And Medenjak is a small shop since December 2014. It’s interior design will win you ower the moment you walk in. They make and sell the cakes we all have in our recipes, or what our moms had in their books with recipes. As I was looking through glass freezer, I discovered everything that my mom makes for holidays. They use unprocessed ingredients, butter, and everything is just so homey.
They have retail stores in Doboj and Jelah, where you can find everything that they have to offer, a whole range of cakes and sweets, but for me, the offer of raw cakes is very interesting. In the wholesale, they have a somewhat modest range, mostly dry sweets, so these can be found in other stores as well.
Sabina told me the story of Medenjak, its origins and specificities. Once you get to know Sabina, a wonderful young woman who’d love to see more often for the energy she spreads around. I said after this visit I won’t eat cakes of lesser quality than Medenjak, so don’t be surprised to see me in Doboj or Jelah when my sugar levels drop. (laughter)
Let’s say that nothing, absolutely nothing in life happens by chance and that this is the story that simply had to happen. First of all, there’s a family trait here – as a family, we’ve been living with food. Nothing special about it, but maybe we’re a tiny bit more into it than others.
I must mention my mom here, as the conceptual creator of all this is. I figured that our every reflection of the past and some events that took place in childhood were always related to tastes and smells and related to food. If we mention someone dear to us, it’s like, “Oh, she’d cook this and that, and I got that recipe from her.” If we’re mentioning travelling, its “Yes, in the restaurant there we ate this and that, in this hotel, it was so and so”, “Yes, that movie was with that dinner.”
This is a good inclination with family history, but at the same time a foundation in industrial work as I’d once worked in the production of cakes, I was in charge of one such larger production facility for some 12 years, so definitely it gave considerable knowledge.
What might have set us apart from others is that this is a real crafts workshop where homemade cakes are made. Today, so many products are labelled as homemade that it became a bit cheesy, but we’re literally following those old-fashioned recipes from old notebooks, with eggs, sugar, butter, nuts, and good quality raw materials where housewives come here and say, “Wow, are these London sweets, or Garbo cake, Doboš, Schwarzwald cake?!”
We bake those old-fashioned cakes that are in no way deprived of any ingredient, or how they turn out, and at the same time, are enriched with our knowledge – our and of our workers who know it nicely decorate it.
There is no need for this to become a bigger deal, a manufacture and should not be some big story. It should be kept a little story, while preserving quality. It’s possible to expand the range of products and the number of staff, but it doesn’t have to be a big story to keep the charm it has now.
Customers who come to our store like being served by a woman who comes out covered in flour with sugar and chocolate stains, who will shake it off slightly. It’s a nice feeling to go to a store where everything smells of crust, of chocolate, where something is constantly cooked and really, whoever comes in, says “Oh, it smells so nice in here!”, and I say “Go ahead a smell it, it’s free of charge!” (laughter)
That’s nice because it’s not just a store selling whatever but something is actively happening behind. People love that homey feeling, smell, stuffing done, cooking, you can smell cinnamon, vanilla, sugar … What can beat that smell?
That’s how we work here, and the same thing we do in Jelah. Our store has some warmth, it has its charm. It evokes memories and people say, “That’s how my mom made it, my grandmother!”
That other side that’s not so great but it’s there anyway is that of course it all must have its economic justification. We’re are not making a cheap product as it requires a lot of work, manual labour, expensive materials. But there’s already a range of clients there looking to buy a quality product and will give an extra penny for a quality product.
We do not have too many demands or expectations, let’s say we are satisfied, we’re slowly expanding our business and we are still continue to be happy.
Plans for the future, expanding product assortment?
Yes, of course, expanding product assortment for non-sweets, primarily catering that wouldn’t depart much from this whole idea. This is certainly one avenue that is yet to be built. It took a long time to develop the product assortment for sweets and cakes and it takes time, I’m aware of that. But we’re heading in that direction.
When we started this job you’re a bit in fear, it’s private business, so what to do and how but some words just stick with you. A lady told, “Whoever does an honest job and puts in hard work will succeed in business.” And that went to my head and I often repeat it to myself. Honest, hard work, fair and just believe in it.