Proving that sibling love is one of life's sweetest gifts, Sugar And I is spurring some of the Klang Valley's most irresistible dessert movements, fuelled by a brother-and-sister team who tackle everything from Italian-inspired bomboloni to Japanese-style cream puffs.
If you've nibbled on Nutella-stuffed doughnuts in recent months, you might have already relished the work of Sharifah Nur Ilisa and Syed Mohd Ilyas, who've turned Sugar and I from a Subang-based home baking business into a full-fledged store with enthusiastic fans from the neighbourhood and beyond. When we visited them on a recent Wednesday afternoon, a steady stream of customers strolled in every several minutes to collect their orders of cakes, cookies, brownies and much more.
Four years after embarking on baking, Ilisa and Syed Ilyas might seem like naturals now, but that wasn't their original plan. Ilisa, 27, pursued her studies in econometrics, while Syed Ilyas, 30, was an engineer for nearly two years. The motivation for Sugar and I emerged when Sharifah began baking at home.
"Every time we gave baked gifts to friends, they became instantly happy," Syed Ilyas recalls. "We then became interested in making it a business - we thought, we could go the distance with this."
What started as a family hobby steadily expanded with three staff members at home, while Ilisa and Syed Ilyas enrolled in professional courses in baking and business respectively to sharpen their skills. Sugar and I – “Syed and Ilisa” - moved into their own cafe in September 2018 but continued to cultivate a consistent online presence. So while this year's upheavals have put a pause to dine-in operations, the bakery is busier than ever, with six bakers working with Ilisa.
Through it all, Sugar and I has stood by its motto - Celebrate Happiness - especially at a time when everyone's anxieties are amplified. If you're new to Sugar and I, here are a few recommendations to spark some mouthwatering joy.
Sugar and I first introduced its range of bomboloni - Italian stuffed doughnuts - in January 2020 on a customer's request. While Ilisa and Syed Ilyas nearly hesitated to experiment on it at first, it has since become their biggest hit. Other customers who noticed it began ordering bomboloni, triggering a chain reaction that blew past Sugar and I's expectations – if you follow Malaysian celebrities on Instagram, you might have spotted some of them raving over Sugar and I's bomboloni.
The result: Bomboloni are now becoming increasingly sought-after at KL's dessert destinations.
This isn't a fleeting fad - after all, bombolini have been a traditional treat in Tuscany and other parts of Italy long before Instagram or even the internet existed. Sugar and I has painstakingly finetuned its recipe, finding a balance in their choices of flour for doughnuts that retain their shape while still being fairly fluffy-soft, yielding a lovely bite and light chew without being too airy. Quality ingredients are upheld, right to the use of fine icing sugar.
The Nutella (which Sugar and I nicknames The Boss), loaded with the hazelnut cocoa spread, is the crowd-pleaser. "We don't stinge on our Nutella in our stuffing," Syed Ilyas notes. "Sometimes customers tell us there's too much Nutella - so much, you could take it and slather it on another slice of bread."
Many of the other bomboloni feature Sugar and I's own-crafted fillings. The Strawberry Jelly (aka The Classic) boasts a house-made strawberry jelly with a luscious, lively texture, naturally nectarous with fruit, not artificially cloying at all.
Our personal favourite might be the Lotus Biscoff (The Gentleman), packed with Sugar and I's special blend of the caramelised biscuit spread with cream cheese for delicious distinctiveness, topped off with crumbs of the speculoos sensation, like a doughnut reinterpretation of a Lotus Biscoff cheesecake.
Syed Ilyas, meanwhile, is a devotee of maple syrup, so it's no surprise that the Maple Almond Crunch (The Canadian), also lovingly piped in with cream cheese for a full-bodied temptation, is his best bet.
All in all, we appreciate how Sugar and I has poured plenty of thought into its bomboloni. The Red Bean Mochi (The Samurai) showcases a beautiful blend of red bean paste with glutinous rice flour, while the White Chocolate Oreo promises house-made white chocolate cream with bits of Oreo mixed in - taking the extra steps to produce imaginative, innovative bomboloni.
Bomboloni aren't Sugar and I's only claim to fame - for fans of Japanese cream puffs, grab these too! These would be a beautiful gift in Sugar and I's 'Box of Happiness.'
Perfect choux pastry puffs, with their crisp craquelin exterior and creamy vanilla bean custard. Seasonal specials like Musang King durian cream puffs are also sometimes available.
There's also a tantalising twist to Sugar and I's cinnamon rolls, which can be served plain (RM22 for four, lightly cinnamony, rich with brown sugar and butter) or with optional pipings that add indulgent dimensions to these super-large rolls - choose from cream cheese (RM25; the savouriness of the cheese is the perfect pairing for the aromatic rolls) or Nutella (for a sweet, thick kick).
Sugar and I's selection of cakes is equally noteworthy - the Ferrero Rocher (RM14.90 per slice, RM149 whole) is for the young-at-heart, a vanilla chiffon cake layered with dark chocolate mousse plus nuts covered with chocolate ganache on a milk chocolate feuilletine base. It's impressive from the first bite, convincingly replicating the taste and texture of its namesake Italian confectionary in the form of a cake.
Fans will have lots more to look forward to from Sugar and I next year, with Ilisa and Syed Ilyas planning to broaden their range of choices and their availability - they're already working with Malaysians who need stable employment as agents to offer Sugar and I's products in various locations. If the past four years have been a sugar rush for Ilisa and Syed Ilyas, it looks like their sweetest days are still to come.
Sugar and I
110, Jalan SS14/1, Ss 14, 47500 Subang Jaya, Selangor.
Open Tuesday-Sunday for pick-ups, 11am-6pm. Tel: 011-1142-2597