Once Upon a Marmel

Marmel – a gingerbread cake with its origins from traditional Brazilian, pão do mel – is the brainchild of a highly accomplished pastry chef, Marina Hamam, whose story takes us on a journey from Brazil to Spain, India, and then Portugal. Behind this adventure is a resilient resourceful, perfectionist who originates from Lebanon.

The original recipe for marmel came from Marina’s grandmother, who was volunteering in a hospital shop in São Paulo where a woman made pão do mel to sell. When she mentioned to her grandma that she would like to begin to make these to sell as well, her grandma asked the woman at the shop to share her traditional recipe to ensure that Marina had a good base to start from.

Photo © @sewes.studio
Photo © @sewes.studio

The recipe has changed significantly over the last 20 years. As Marina’s cooking style evolved, she wanted to create a more authentic product to reflect her values and the lifestyle that she adhered to – sustainable, conscious, healthy, and from the heart.

These mini cakes are hand-crafted artisanal gingerbread delights that are organic, vegan, sugar, and gluten-free. The flavour options include almond and cocoa, fig, lemon pie, and banoffee, plus Arabic coffee, and chocolate and chilli, to name a few. The different flavours come from the jam that each cake is filled with and all ingredients are home and handmade. After successfully selling marmels to high-end luxury outlets in São Paulo, Marina left for Barcelona when she was 29 to fulfil her desire to travel, and enrolled in a Masters in Pastry Cheffing (Curso de Alta Gastronomia Executive e Creative – CETT).

Her intention was to live in Europe for a year, however, 12 years later she was still in Barcelona and had accomplished a great deal in that time. She furthered her studies at Espai Sucre, a famous pastry school, and also completed an internship with renowned chocolatier Oriol Balaguer, after which she opened her own shop called the Marina Mel Shop selling her marmels in Barcelona. As well as this she worked as a pastry chef for several high-end restaurants in the Eixample region of Barcelona.

Unfortunately, she fell ill during her time in Barcelona, which triggered her to change her diet and re-learn her techniques about nutrition and food. In 2015, she decided to go to India to study the traditional Hindu Ayurvedic Nutrition and Ayurvedic coaching at Greens Ayurvedic in Kerala. After returning to Barcelona, she studied online at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition based in New York as her intention was to become a holistic coach.

Marina decided coaching wasn’t for her as she missed the buzz she got from creative cheffing. Instead, she concentrated on creating a healthy twist to traditional pastry as she had now become vegan to help with her illness. One thing that she learned from her course was that honey, which was the basis of the traditional gingerbread cake that she was offering, becomes toxic to the body when cooked and should always be eaten in raw form. Subsequently, she re-designed her marmel recipe and excluded honey, using substitutes to dairy, wheat, and sugar while still managing to keep the delicious taste of the little cakes.

Photo © @robsuniversephoto

Just before she arrived in Portugal, she was given the opportunity to run her own healthy pastry shop after an investor overheard her at an interview she was attending at a restaurant she wanted to work for in Barcelona. The investor followed her out when Marina left and asked her if she would be interested in collaborating with her to create a healthy pastry shop. She created the concept, which they called Frolis, and she worked there for a year, setting it all up. The pastries were all vegan, gluten and sugar-free.

Not long after, in 2018, she met a man who she describes as her ‘angel’. Sadly, he later died from cancer, but his advice to Marina was priceless. He suggested she move to a place where there were yoga and surf retreats, so she sent her CV all over the world and a very well-established retreat hotel, Monte Velho in Carrapateira, responded. She immediately packed up and moved to Portugal and has lived here ever since. She is now working solo and selling her marvellous marmels to over 30 artisan shops and direct to customers all over Portugal.

These mini delights can be bought for friends for Christmas directly from Marina. Once ordered, delivery is made within 24 hours.

If you buy a box now and create an origami decoration for your Christmas tree from the packaging, then take a picture and add it to your Instagram post and tag her @marmelsmm; she will choose the best decorations and offer a free box to the winner. Details are on her Instagram page, good luck!



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