The CakeRoom


Editorial Review

Classic bakery is far from a bar
By Lavanya Ramanathan
Friday, January 3, 2014

The newest resident of the busy 18th Street corridor in Adams Morgan isn’t a beer bar or hip Japanese restaurant. It’s Betty Crocker.

Or at least that thought might occur to you when you step inside Sugar Daddy’s Bakery, where, amid chintzy decor, there’s an array of layer cakes and cookies, cupcakes and other classic American treats.

The two--story building that once housed the boozy dive Bobby Lew’s Saloon has been splashed with a coat of hot--pink paint and lined with quaint wallpaper. Gone are the barstools, and in their place are rows of glass cake stands, each bearing lovely layer cakes ($45, $5 a slice). Some are flecked with crumbled Oreos; others are topped with toasted coconut, bright sliced berries or simple sprinkles. Behind the pastry case are cupcake versions of the confections ($2.50) for those who prefer bite--size treats.

Fondant is nowhere to be found at Sugar Daddy’s, which specializes in cakes frosted by hand to look as if they were made by a particularly skilled home baker.

Behind this wholesome temple to sugar is pastry chef Fadi Jaber, a Jordanian American who fell in love with Western--style treats as a child living in an American enclave in Saudi Arabia. Because his mother wasn’t versed in baking, Jaber began making his own cakes using box mixes, a passion that continued through his boarding school years and at the College of William and Mary. As an adult, Jaber left his corporate job to pursue baking full--time. He studied at New York’s Institute of Culinary Education, then opened his first Sugar Daddy’s Bakery in his parents’ hometown of Amman, Jordan, before moving to Washington.

Decorating is Jaber’s second passion, so he has filled his Washington location with homey decor, including a cushy, cranberry­--colored sofa, lamps and wicker chairs, all of which have the effect of luring passersby in for a cappuccino and a slice of cake. It’s just like hanging out at Grandma’s.