There are very few places in Guwahati where you can go for a good cup of coffee and a decadent slice of cake but all that’s about to change with the arrival of ‘The Sugar Butterfly’. The first thing that strikes you once you enter the café is that it doesn’t feel like you are smack dab in the middle of the city, which you are since the resort is located near the Assam Secretariat. Even then, the little distance between the road and the café helps lend a certain air of tranquillity which allows you to ‘eat your heart out’ in peace.
The next thing that strikes you when you step inside is the quaintly done up interiors. Pretty minimal posters, elegant moulded iron tables and chairs, and the rows of tempting cakes and desserts tend to overwhelm your smell and sight sensors, all in a good way. The woman behind this sweet paradise is Mandakini Das. ‘I have always had a huge sweet tooth. Wherever I go, I always look at the dessert menu and plan what I am going to have for dessert and accordingly I order my main course,’ she reveals with a smile.
Training at Institute of Culinary Education in New York City
A trained chef from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, she always knew that she wanted to open something of her own since the time she was studying in culinary school. ‘The things that I learnt there, I knew that very few people in India were doing them, if at all. So, I wanted to introduce people to new tastes and experiences’. The construction of the café started around February this year and Mandakini was involved in every step of the way. ‘I was involved in the whole planning. I knew I wanted the cafe to be slightly L-shaped, and I knew that I wanted to keep the tree (which you can see from the café)’. Looking at the place, now open to the public, you can tell that she has taken that extra effort to ensure the décor and interiors are tasteful and unobtrusive.
Even before ‘The Sugar Butterfly’ had opened its doors to the public, Mandakini had won a lot of hearts with her baking skills when she used to bake personalized cakes for friends and loved ones. Now she has two assistants to help her in the kitchen but at that time, she had to manage all on her own. ‘The problem is not the size but there are so many elements to one cake. There’s the cake itself then there’s the icing and the frosting, and there are so many embellishments that go on one cake. It was really hard but it was also very enjoyable. I especially liked the fact that it let me explore my creative side’.
Mandakini stresses that she is very particular about quality ingredients, ‘We only use 100% real chocolate. We don’t use any margarine, we only use 100% butter. We don’t use synthetic cream, only 100% cream. I even import my colours from abroad. As far as possible, I like to use all natural and pure ingredients. After all, we are in the food industry and the product is going into your body, so we don’t want to have any kind of chemicals that can harm your body’. To ensure that the quality is not compromised, she spends a lot of time in the kitchen on a daily basis. ‘I am either baking or supervising. There are always things that need my attention, so I tend to spend most of my time in the kitchen’.
Fresh and quality ingredients were a big issue that Mandakini struggled with when planning the menu for the café. ‘It’s very difficult to get ingredients here, if we were based out of Delhi or any other big metro, it wouldn’t be such a challenge. If you look at the menu, you would see that I really had to limit the use of fresh fruits in my desserts because berries like raspberries and blueberries are not available here, neither are they available frozen so I really had to think “What do I substitute this with?” and “What do I substitute that with?”. It’s been a challenge but since I know my food, I have been able to make substitutions without affecting the taste’.
Mandakini suggests that first-timers should try the Chocolate Truffle Pie which is one of their best-sellers. We also recommend the Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing and Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Icing. No matter if you are looking for a sugar fix or need a quiet place to unwind with a slice of cake after a stressful day at work, ‘The Sugar Butterfly’ is the place for you.
Address: The Residency Tourist Resort, Behind SBI Main Branch, Dispur, Guwahati
Words: Meeta Borah