Cooking Up A Dream: Quintessence of SpunSugar

Let me state at the outset that this is not a review. It is a story of sorts – about friends, food and new beginnings.

I’ve been going to Kamaya de Soysa’s house since I was 13 years old and now, over ten years later, it still retains what is to me an irresistible atmosphere of warmth. Hers was the kind of household that welcomed anybody – from scampering little girls and raucous teenage boys, to adult friends dropping in at a moment’s notice. Her mum would stand smilingly at the door, ask you to come in and whip up something delicious to eat and drink as if she had been expecting you all along. You’d dump your stuff wherever, gasp in pleasant surprise as pets of various shapes and sizes got underfoot and then sink comfortably onto a couch or chair somewhere, and tuck in.

Mint Cupcakes

Although a few years ago she probably never thought she would be in the business of culinary arts – in hindsight it seems almost predestined that Kamaya would take this path, considering the house and environment in which she grew up.

Kamaya is someone who spent her childhood searching for passion. During school, most of us had found something we loved to do: for me it was singing, for another it was athletics, for yet another it was art. Never one to commit to something half-heartedly, Kamaya stayed unsure, right through school and even some way through University. Until one day, she visited a friend’s family for the weekend, observed how they threw their passion into cooking and knew unequivocally that she had finally found what she wanted to do.

From that time onwards, Kamaya’s urge to ply any visiting guest with an impressive spread of food and dessert went unmatched – even by her mother from whom she no doubt inherited the trait. As someone who went to University in the same country and state, I was a regular and distressed recipient. Regular because I visited so often. Distressed because that meant the diet I was courageously trying to follow was obviously failing. Whenever I spent the night over in her little flat, I would wake up to hot pancakes with chunks of melting chocolate embedded in the soft batter and a generous dollop of ice-cream on the side. This has since become a tradition with us and even now, whenever I stay with her or her with me, this serves as our decadent breakfast.

Kamaya’s decision to open a shop with her business partner Ramesh Ranasinghe came almost out of the blue. The two of them had begun a catering business about 18 months previously, which ran alongside a daily cookies-and-coffee bike service outside Ladies’ College but were eager and impatient to expand towards what they really wanted: a shop of their own. “We had a month’s notice and we said ok, let’s do it!”, she says, as the three of us chat in the lounge of Quintessence of SpunSugar. The “shop” is really a city house which Kamaya and Ramesh have charmingly managed to keep looking and feeling like a home instead of a store. Sitting in the lounge and breathing in flavours of mint, chocolate and baking dough wafting in from the kitchen, I almost feel as if I am back at Kamaya’s house, waiting to be fed with something unexpected, but delicious.

Gift-basket of assorted cupcakes

“I love working with flavours. Mixing and fusing them,” Ramesh tells me, prompting me to ask him where his love of cooking came from. He replies that it is in his blood; in his family – a large one where people were always in and out of the house and where meals were habitually cooked in large quantities to feed whoever might have dropped in. “I must have started helping my family in the kitchen when I was about 7 or 8”. I smile hearing this, and can immediately see where both he and Kamaya get their almost instinctive urge to cook.

While I chat to them, they give me leave to poke around the display refrigerator, which holds their treats. I whip out my camera and start taking photographs of cupcakes topped heavily with rich vanilla, mint and chocolate cream; dark, moist brownies that look as if they are waiting to melt in your mouth, and bowls brimming with home-made chocolates – one with a white and mint mixture, another with pralines and others as well, which make me want to kick myself for putting myself on a month-long no-chocolate diet.

“You can’t go wrong with chocolates” Kamaya says. We’ve been talking about presents, and she gestures past her shoulder to prove her point. Behind her stands a display cabinet which houses bags, boxes, ribbons and quaint baskets of all shapes and sizes. “A box of home-made chocolates, a basket of cupcakes – they make perfect gifts. And we are ready to be creative”. I am barely listening, transfixed by the pralines – my favourite. She pats my shoulder reassuringly. “Come back in a month sweetie”.

White and Mint Chocolate

The refreshing thing about Ramesh and Kamaya is that they are restless. This may be an unusual word to use, but I feel it is apt. They are never content with sticking to a formula or skimping on creativity to make things easier for themselves. Even when talking about making rice and curry (not on the menu I’m afraid!), Ramesh assures me he never makes it the normal way. “We never want what we make to be standard,” he explains further. “We’ll never sell a regular brownie. It will always be a cream cheese brownie or a dense nut slice”. I try to ignore the rumble in my stomach as he continues. “We make éclairs but they aren’t chocolate – they’ll be butterscotch or almond. With French cream filling of course!” Later, Kamaya rapturously describes what she would do if somebody asked her to make a cake with a 3-D design. I think about instances in restaurants here where I have asked waiters to make a tiny deviation from the menu and been greeted by dumbstruck expressions and emphatic NOs. Here in front of me, I have two people who are actually waiting to test their boundaries; who are actually asking their customers to be creative in their orders. How often do you get that?

White Chocolate Brownie Cupcake

Quite apart from the shop, Kamaya and Ramesh also cater small events and take orders for an extensive and ever-changing menu of savoury and sweet foods. I wonder how they find the time to fit it all in, but Ramesh assures me that being busy is precisely what they want, especially where the shop is concerned. “We look forward to a time when people are constantly coming and going,” he says. “We want to stay busy”.

Ramesh hands me a lemon tart, which I delve into immediately. The taste takes me back to the lemon curd sponge cake my grandmother used to make when I was little and I can’t help letting out an involuntary “mmm” of appreciation. Everything about SpunSugar has a touch of home about it – from the food, to the warm hues of the décor, to the friendly enthusiasm of the two young people who run it. “We want to have a relationship with our customers” Kamaya says and Ramesh agrees, adding, “There’s nothing mass-produced here. Everything we do has our personal attention”.

Red Lilies on Vanilla

As my final question, I ask what they want to ultimately end up doing with their careers and the two of them let me in on their dream of starting a chain of cafés. “I can write out the menu I’ve envisioned for it right now – it’s all in my head” smiles Kamaya. Ramesh tells me practically though that they still have a long away to go. “It all depends on how all this works out ” he says, gesturing at his surroundings.

If ever there was a recipe for success it should be this: passion, drive and raw talent. Kamaya and Ramesh have all three in the bag and I hope they get to open their café one day. I get up to leave, hug my friends goodbye and wish them good luck. I know I’ll be back in a month for my chocolate.

END.

Quintessence of SpunSugar

Address: 207/21 Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 7. (Lane adjoining Commercial Bank)

Hours: Open 10 am – 7 pm, Tuesday – Sunday

Telephone: 0775273713 Ramesh OR 0777481674 Kamaya

Email: spunsugaaar@gmail.com

Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Colombo-7/Quintessence-of-SpunSugar/320946476439?ref=ts

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30 Comments Add yours

  1. Vann says:

    yummyness :)

    the almond rolls…. i love it ….

    much Love to Kami n Ramesh, i wish u both nothing but the best..

    now i want a cupcake, who wants to come with me ….

  2. confab says:

    Great article ma’am.

    I admire Kammy for taking the leap of faith at such a young age to have and run her own little shop. More so, her drive and enthusiasm is infectious, her goodies irresistible :)

    Your mention of her Chocolate Chip Pancakes with Ice Cream made me remember the time she invited me over for breakfast to have the same! I couldn’t move for the rest of the day!

  3. Gehan says:

    looks great, imma def check it out when im in colombo next..

  4. Dee says:

    oh wow, I tried their cupcakes. Really really good. Chaar and I went into chocolate comatose after having a brownie. And she’s super cute too!! hehe :D

  5. Negosyo says:

    it looks great nad yummy…

  6. T says:

    Damn. I’m absolutely ravenous now, and I don’t even like cupcakes!

  7. Kaos says:

    Chocolate silk tart’s the special this week :).. Thanks Tari girl.. *big big hug*

  8. Haren says:

    Sounds like just my type of kind of place!

  9. Kaos says:

    This is Kamaya.. Thanks for the love guys :). Hugs to all!

  10. Dinusha says:

    Hi, I’ve tasted the choclate flavoured cup cake which is outta this world. So is the coffee one….yummmmm

  11. Maneesha says:

    I sooo know what you’re talking about Gypsy – Having had a very similar experience at Kammy’s house over the years! I think I finished an entire jar of cookies once!! As a friend, I am sooooo proud of the 2 of them and I am soo sure that I will one day be a regular at their Cafes…just as I am a frequent cupcake customer now….:-)

  12. Cupcake Lover says:

    I read your article and visited spunsugar. Sadly it was very disappointing the cake was hard and the flavours bad.
    They have to improve if they hope to run for a long time. This is a general opinion by many who have been there. Good luck

  13. Kaos says:

    Hi Cupcake Lover,

    I regret that you had a bad experience at SpunSugar. I do appreciate the feedback though and I would really like to know what flavours you and your friends didn’t like?

    We try to do things differently at our shop. Many Sri Lankans are used to sponge cake, we prefer butter cake. It is more dense, yes. The flavours, for example, the chocolate is dark rather than milk. We do this in order to attract a specific clientèle that is looking for something different. Maybe for a slightly more sophisticated palette. I understand that our product is not for everyone.

    Having said that, we do make things to order. Sponge cakes, specific flavours etc. If you don’t like what we sell in the shop you can always place an order for something personalised to suit your taste.

  14. thebohemiangypsy says:

    Cupcake Lover – I also have to say, you’re the first person to say something negative about the place. I’ve actually had people coming up to me, saying they read the article and telling me the food was fantastic. Something they wouldn’t take the trouble to say if they didn’t really think so. So I think saying it’s the ‘general’ consensus is not true. But people have their own tastes and opinions so you are welcome to yours. Thanks for the comment.

  15. sweetstreak says:

    Oh dear! Here is a classic case of self destruction about to happen. Is it right to chastise a genuine customer who takes time out to give an opinion on your products? I think you should be honoured that people give feedback – good or bad – on your products and service. How else would you expect to improve in the future. If you don’t have the capacity and the goodwill to take on board constructive criticism, then really you shouldn’t be in the business of hospitality. Sure, different people have different opinions, point of views and palettes but really isn’t it rather egoistic and condescending to imply that this person who wrote to you doesn’t fit into your “slightly more sophisticated palette” target. I actually find it rather degrading. From Bohemian’s blog I gather that the owners of SpunSugar are rather young, this immaturity is evident in how you have addressed Cupcake Lovers comments. If you are going to survive in a malicious commercial world, its high time all of you grew up to demonstrate the it take more than a pretty cupcake to make a business successful.

    I also visited SpunSugar about 3 weeks back, enticed by this article and bought a variety of cupcakes as well as the Pink Lemonade. I was disappointed on all accounts. I have eaten cupcakes from around the world but sadly I too seem not to possess this “sophisticated palette” because I found the cupcakes heavy and rather hard to digest! The flavours were overpowering, especially the mint. I have also seen a couple of comments to this effect made on the Facebook group “Best Cupcakes in Colombo”.

    Anyway, I have hope in our new generation of entrepreneurs and am optimistic that you guys will take on feedback with the right attitude in the future.

  16. thebohemiangypsy says:

    I don’t think Kamaya’s comment was meant to chastise at all. She has every right to defend her product and give an explanation – just as you or anyone else has the right to give good or bad criticism.

    Note: ” I do appreciate the feedback though and I would really like to know what flavours you and your friends didn’t like?”

    You may not agree with her choice of words, but I think it’s pretty obvious that she has not meant to be insulting. If feedback is meant to be taken in the right spirit, then the same should apply to her response.

  17. Cupcake Lover says:

    I thought i was giving constructive critisicm,but the sophisticated pallette bit just made me speechless.
    Businesses dont flourish just by friends/customers doing marketing for it.
    If there is a customer complaint u are suppose to take it up and look at where you can improve.

    I have been in the panel of food tasting for some of our colombo restaurants. If there is something wrong with the food I always make it a point to tell my real opinion. They are always open in getting the true comments and making changes.

    gypsy – I made a comment here just because I got influenced by your article and visited there. Each to his/ her own .

    Kaos – I dont want to cause anymore Chaos with my comments. good luck with your business.

    sweetstreak- thanks for the link

  18. Apalled says:

    I happened upon this dicussion by accident but I must say it was quite enlightening. I had not known, for instance, that consumers were being categorised by the likes of Kamaya by what she personally defines as a “slightly more sophisticated palette”. What, for instance, are the parameters by which Kamaya would judge a “slightly more sophisticated palette”. I think that’s a legitimate question because it would help me determine whether I should try her cupcakes at all. Frankly, I’m not sure if my palette deserves her cupcakes. I’ve never tried them but I’m sure with the vast choice of cupcakes available now, my palette (sophisticated or otherwise) fortunately need never suffer them.
    Also, I noticed that Cupcake Lover said the cake was hard. Surely, that’s not rocket science. You don’t need a sophisticated palette to determine whether or not a cake is hard.
    By all means, do things differently at your shop but I personally think it makes more business sense not to alienate your potential market as you have already done me.
    As for the writer of the article, perhaps you shouldn’t let personalities or personal friendships cloud your writing or sense of judgement.
    If Cupcake Lover is the first person to say something negative about the place, you possibly need to go out more.
    What appalled me was the general tone of hostility directed at Cupcake Lover, most pointedly to undermine her taste, perhaps even her background without even knowing where she came from or what she was about. It is immature to say the least.

  19. thebohemiangypsy says:

    Cupcake Lover: Your comment was welcomed by us both. I will let Kamaya address what she said as I cannot speak for her. I only said you were welcome to your opinion and I to mine and pointed out to sweetstreak that she HAD inquired about what you didn’t like her about product.

    Apalled: I wrote the article because she was my friend and because I myself am one of her customers. It is a bit hypocritical to accept only a negative criticism and not a positive one. THAT, my friend, is immaturity.

  20. sweetstreak says:

    Bohemian, I beg to differ. You are being hypocritical by only wishing to accept the compliments and not the brickbats. Besides, your POV on this is totally biased due to your affiliation with SpunSugar and its owners.

    You speak of spirit – what spirit to do you want Cupcake Lover to take it in, when she is being rather snobbishly told that she is not up to the mark to enjoy SpunSugar cupcakes. You say “she has not meant to be insulting”, yeah right! PLEASE!!

    Apalled..you’re right. Hostility is the correct word for this tone of voice. Hostility, defensiveness and Immaturity, all rolled into one.

  21. Kaos says:

    Thanks Gypsy for explaining. I only meant what Cupcake Lover also mentioned to each his/her own.

    At SpunSugar we have always tried to be different which means we can’t please everyone and don’t intend to because that would be an unrealistic goal.

    All I meant by sophistication was we try to put a little more thought into our product range. You wouldn’t find Lemon Tart or Pink Lemonade on the menu at most local restaurants instead the usual ice cream sundaes and lime juice. While I myself enjoy eating at local restaurants, I do sometimes crave something a little unusual.

    Just for the record our Pink Lemonade is made using only fresh fruits and sugar of course.

    There may be food critics and connoisseurs among the readers and visitors to my shop. I welcome the tips yes, but I put my heart and soul into my cooking so maybe next time you can call me and give me specific points for improvement instead of loosely throwing vague and nasty comments around on the internet. 0777 481674 is my number.

  22. thebohemiangypsy says:

    Kams: Yes they’d better call you. I tired of this pointless argument a while ago. Funny thing – no one seems to know what “to each his/her own” means. I suggest they look it up.

  23. confab says:

    Haha, classic case of overreaction.

    It is not uncommon for businesses to market that they are catering to a select audience, an exclusive crowd, a discerning palette, a sophisticated customer, a person with an eye for taste, etc. If it bothers the particular readers, I wonder whether they, at the very least the self proclaimed food-critique panelists, do raise the issue with the top notch restaurants that they visit, who are bound to use such tag lines.

    There are bigger fish to fry than to target a rare breed in Sri Lanka, the young entrepreneur. After all, how many ppl you know have rented out a place in central colombo to sell anything, merely on their self-conviction and belief and drive?

    If it bothers you, stop eating the cupcakes in question. As the owner has suggested, constructive criticism given directly to her will help the business flourish. Random remarks left for the world to see will not.

  24. Cupcake Lover says:

    Gypsy and kaos u guys just dont want to drop it do you? As hard as i try not to comment, here goes.

    Gypsy you and your friends seem to know everything including your english better and we are just commoners. In life u will soon find out..

    Confab – dont worry wont be sighting that place in the future. For your information how many of you have given the true opinion that just go la de da to your friends. Go read my first comment properly before you jump to rally and give your opinion. Its not a random remark. You are taking it into a personal word war to come and make nasty comments like self-proclaimed food panelist.

    Kaos – I paid for that old (parana in case my common english is not understood by you) cupcake u served, it was not taken for free. About five different sets of friends commented about how bad it is. You have huge competition in cupcaking in colombo itself, So i suggest you first step out and gets some cupcakes from sits, divine, butterboutique and cake factory and try how it is. I suggest you take gypsy and confab with their Great pallete with you.

  25. thebohemiangypsy says:

    Lol. Sure. Bye now.

  26. Dee says:

    Just adding- we revisited and found the cupcakes were actually a bit hard. Maybe because it was made earlier and kept in the display?

  27. thebohemiangypsy says:

    Thanks for sharing Dee. If you go back, just let Kammy know, she’ll be happy to take on your suggestions.

  28. I want White n Mint Chocolates when I’m in Colombo next!

  29. cakelover says:

    I tried to get a cupcake from spun sugar but couldn’t find the place!
    If you write such reviews, you got to expect the criticisms as well! and just figure out a way to work around it… you have competition my friend.

    U should try Pink Sugar’s cupcakes… beats the one by sits any day!

  30. thebohemiangypsy says:

    Hi Cakelover: here are directions if you want to find Spun Sugar. It’s on Dharmapala Mawatha – the road with the older Paradise Road shop. There’s a big Commercial bank on that road – you can’t miss it (next to Paradise Road I think) – and the shop is down the lane adjacent to the bank. Go right down and you’ll see a sign. Cheers!

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