Words and Photos: Stephanie Breijo
At the start of the week 18th Street got a lot sweeter. Sugar Daddy’s Bakery, the Middle East bakery chain, just opened its first shop in North America and, miraculously, D.C.’s tasting its date cakes, streusel bars and banoffee cupcakes before everyone else.
Just across the street from Jack Rose you’ll find a brightly lit, cheerful shop brimming with homemade pies, cupcakes, cheesecakes, cookies and lemon squares, all with a surprisingly homemade feel. The secret ingredient in these recipes is dedication from one Fadi Jaber, the marketing director cum baker behind the franchise.
Shortly after I arrive at the StreetSense-designed spot, the bakery’s interior designer from Ethan Allen stops by. As I dig a fork into the Sugar Daddy’s famous carrot cake–perfectly buttery and dense with an abundance of shredded carrot–I hear Jaber exclaim,”Oh my god it looks amazing now!” where they’re placing new pillows in the window nook. If there’s one thing you must know about this entrepreneur, it’s his endearing excitement about the bakery coming together be it recipes or ambiance.
We sit upstairs in the shop’s perching area made to remind you of a living room; perhaps your grandmother’s, perhaps what you’d imagine the standard den of a southern home might be like, with just as many pastries. The walls are checkered or else peppered with patterns of roosters; there are floor lamps and comfortable chairs and glass-top tables. And yes, there is free wifi.
It is here that Jaber, who opened his first bakery in Jordan, explains he’s always had a sweet tooth. His mom’s refusal to bake led him to teach himself, always jealous of his peers who would bring cookies in their lunch at his Saudi Arabian school. In later years baking became more of a hobby, which escalated when a friend bought him a Kitchen Aid mixer. It was only then that Jaber started experimenting and toting his confectionary Frankensteins to work, where co-workers would tell him to open his own shop. Eventually, he listened.
Fadi Jaber graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education with a degree in baking and culinary arts as well as business management, setting out to bring traditional American desserts to the Middle East with homemade and rustic flair. His first recipe creation was the Date Cake, an incredibly sweet mixture of flour, sugar and butter that’s punctuated by plump, sugary dates. Digging into a slice, my fork nearly finds a whole one immediately. It’s rich and goes surprisingly well with the sticky toffee that’s drizzled over the top–it’s as if these flavors always belonged together and you’re only just now learning it, savoring every bite. Jaber is clever like that.
Stressing that Sugar Daddy’s Bakery is not just another cupcake shop, he explains they do everything but breads. There are five categories of goods: Layer Cakes, Cupcakes, Pies, Cheesecakes, and Cookies, Bars & Squares. Within each category you’ll find at least six or seven varieties of each, many rotating seasonally and even daily. You can even order wedding cakes and baked goods for events like baby showers and holidays. It’s the key to not just a good bakery but a neighborhood bakery, Jaber tells me.
“We like to get involved. Whatever the customer wants, we sit down and really work it out with them.”
It’s just another example of the Sugar Daddy’s enthusiasm, down to the last crumb.
Sugar Daddy’s Bakery is open every Monday to Saturday from 8:00am to 10:00pm and on Sunday from 10:00am to 10:00pm.