Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

Magnum White King

Why not at sugarnot!

posted by in Cafés, Restaurants


I’ll be the first one to turn my nose up at anything sugar free. To my mind, partaking of anything devoid of sugar is sacrilegious to my devotion to dessert. It’s like missing the point entirely.

But I think that I may have been converted. Almost.

sugarnot interiors 1

In what may be a landmark move, the first and perhaps the world’s only sugar free bakery-café has been set up in Manila, just last June 16 at The Podium. Aptly called sugarnot! – yes, lowercase letters all and an accompanying exclamation point – it’s like a candy store for the diabetic (uh, bad pun) and those similarly sugar-deprived.

cake case at sugarnot
cake case at sugarnot!

My jaw promptly drops open as I gape at the wide array of cakes, pastries, cookies, donuts, and breads. I’m handed a menu and there I see that I can even have a full meal here – my choice of pasta, salads, soups, sandwiches. Hey, I can even have a sundae, (made with ice cream from BTIC). All sugar free too. (!)

While I don’t know if vibrant shades of chocolate and yellow induce appetite, the interiors of sugarnot! are having a strange effect on me. I feel myself getting hungry, my stomach is actually growling for that… can it be, a sugar free chocolate chip cookie?

Owned by several partners, sugarnot! was started by Eli Beltran Sr. and his wife, Edna. When Eli was diagnosed as a diabetic, his disappointment at the lack of sugar free food available locally propelled him and his wife to create a line of sugar free food and desserts. Their experience as bakers for Malacañang back in 1980-1986 benefited them greatly, so after two years of research and development, they opened their commissary and first outlet along South Super Highway.

At sugarnot! sugar is verboten. It’s replaced by isomalt, a sugar replacement derived from beets. Crystalline and white in appearance, isomalt doesn’t spike blood sugar levels (hello, glycemic index!) and contains only half the calories of sugar. Unlike Splenda, isomalt can replace sugar in a 1:1 ratio, a great boon for bakers. Even employees aren’t allowed to bring table sugar into the workplace because of the real threat of replacing it with the isomalt. With the wide selection available however, it’s hard to miss the sugar here. (I can’t believe I just said that.)

sugarfree desserts
clockwise: Snow Queen, Last Temptation, NY cheesecake, strawberry shortcake

Armed with a fork and plenty of trepidation, I close in on my sugar free adventure. The cheesecake (P118/slice) is a cross between dense and fluffy, almost spongy, with a good balance of sweet. I’m starting to smile. I feel myself gaining courage. The strawberry shortcake (P78) is mousse-like in texture, alternating with a thin sponge and then what appears to be a topping of strawberry gelatin. Not bad. The Snow Queen, a lemon sponge cake with almonds, tastes remarkably of dust with a mighty kick of almond extract. Ouch, I scamper back to my sugar-full desires. But there’s more to be tasted, and appropriately enough, it’s called the Last Temptation (P128), a chocolate cake swathed in ganache encasing a truffle filling. It’s deep, dark, and attractive, just my type of cake; chewy and dense, with even sweetness and a light crumb, I’d go back for this.

sugar free chocolate cake
the first and last word in sugar free desserts: the Last Temptation

One thing to keep in mind about sugar free food is that it won’t have the same texture as its sugar-full counterparts. Sugar has many functions: it tenderizes, retains a food’s moistness, improves shelf life, contributes caramelization (aka golden brown color), assists in leavening (puff power, aka lightness of crumb), and promotes a crisp crust to certain baked goods, among a host of other functions. Because of its chemical properties, products made with isomalt don’t brown easily nor do they possess that melt-in-your-mouth texture. This isn’t bad, it’s just different. I myself am quite the “texture person,” deriving most of my eating joy from the mouth-feel of food, so you can see why I love my sugar.

grissinis aka bread sticks

sugarnot! makes its own breads, which are soft and great for toasting: oat, wheat, focaccia, ciabatta (try the tuna on this), and grissini, ultra-long bread sticks that are crispy and garlicky. There’s also a pesto pandesal that I like very much. Fragrant and soft, all it needs is a slap of ham and a dab of cream cheese. Er, but that would miss the whole low-fat point, no?

sugarfree treats
i’d like to cover my cookbook in that sugarnot! paper

Their profiteroles taste like the real deal, oozing with custard, its top sporting a jaunty coat of chocolate. There are cookies (P48/piece) – oatmeal and chocolate chip, muffins — banana almond and apple walnut (P48/piece), and the cutest little donuts with filled middles. There are truffles and pralines too, as well as chocolate-covered cherries, and two-hued chocolate shells.

sugar free truffles

tuna sandwich and tomato pasta
tuna sandwich and pasta arrabbiata. Love them potato chips.

sugarnot! prides itself on its sugar free, low carb, and low fat philosophy. Frying is forbidden — here, it’s only boiled or baked or tossed (salad). Whole-wheat pastas are used and sauces are either olive oil or tomato-based. The bakery-café makes its own tomato puree, and only vinaigrette dressings are available for the salads. Other always-coming-back-for items are the teriyaki chicken sandwich (P148), and the mango salad (P138), which I’m told has a winner mango dressing.

sugar free latte
superstar latte

I must tell you that at sugarnot! they serve me the best latte I’ve had in a long time. Smooth with velvety undertones, it doesn’t have that bitter taste to intimidate me, the milky-coffee drinker. Coffee used here is Mauro from Italy, and there are lots of specialty coffee drinks to savor including frapps (P82-P128) and hot cocoa.

Okay, so while I still pay homage to the temple of Sugar, I must admit I’m thrilled with this bakery-café. I won’t be crossing over to sugar free anytime soon nor will I be changing the name of my blog to Sugar Free Dessert Comes First, (!) but hey, at least now I can decide to have sugar or why not sugarnot!


5/F Podium
ADB Avenue, Ortigas

Labaire Bldg.
5462 South Super Highway corner Malvar,
Bangkal, Makati
(going towards Magallanes if you’re coming from Quirino, turn right after Pasay Road).

Many thanks to Angeli Lambsdorff and Cheryl Lua!

Related Post:
Sugar Free Desserts To Make A Convert Out of Me

25 Responses to “Why not at sugarnot!”

  • This is a first!! And I agree it does seem like a sacrelige- desserts without the sugar, but I guess it is a great option for those who cannot have sugar.
    Just wondering is the sugar they use artificial?


  • Hi Lori. My wife and I attended your tea party a few months back. I’ve been waiting for this entry because I was at Podium and saw you taking your pix at sugarnot while on my way to pay my celphone bill. I was going to say hi, but when I came out you were already talking to the owner and I didn’t want to interrupt.

    Anyway, I still very much enjoy your blog, and I’ll say hello next time!


  • Hi Lori! Yes, I was surprised with the cakes at sugarnot – sugarfree but good. We both have the same comment on the Snow Queen but their Last Temptation and Tiramisu i looove :) Its good I just work nearby so I can have guilt-free treats :)


  • Hi, Ms. Lori!

    I just learned about your blog a few weeks back while looking for a good place to treat a balikbayan friend. I loved your entries and I still have to finish reading your past entries.

    I’ve been to sugarnot! a number of times in their SSH stall. Actually, before having my first serving of their goodies, it took me four times to get in the store. At first, I don’t know the store hours and whenever I pass SSH the store is still close. Luckily on my fifth visit, I was able to taste their products. I am a Type 2 Diabetic and I do love chocolates and desserts. When I was diagnosed as Type 2 DM last November, my sister always tell me that I’m not sweet anymore since I can’t have my usual desserts. With sugarnot! available, I guess I can still be sweet after all.

    Even if their goodies are a little bit expensive, I do enjoy the products of sugarnot! Though my Mom and Sister are not diabetics, they also love the treats.

    More power and more good food entries!


  • Saw their opening poster and I was quite intrigued about this new dessert place in Podium! sugarnot!, I automatically assumed served only desserts and coffee.

    Luckily, with your trial on post, I can now drag officemates to visit sugarnot! for lunch. Yeahoo! :)


  • As they say, “The best things in life are SUGARfree”.

    I’ve tasted sugarnot!’s carrot cake and tiramisu and though I’m not diabetic, I enjoyed them very much. They’re even better than some of the other stores’ products!

    Congratulations to sugarnot! and I’m looking forward to more branches, hopefully, one here in the Alabang area.


  • Sugar-free deserts? A diabetics heaven! That is awesome.
    At this time of year a lot of fruits are sweet enough they don’t need sugar
    That works for me


  • I’m a sweet tooth myself and am constantly craving something sweet. I’m so happy to see more and more places that are serving splenda-based of other non-sugar sweet alternatives! Gotta try these soon!


  • Carlos wrote about this on his blog weeks ago, and since I live very near South Super Highway, I’ve been meaning to check it out. Now that you’ve actually shown pictures and confirmed that (at least some) of their products don’t taste* sugar-free, I’m definitely going to drop by. My dad’s a sugar-addict (as is my whole family) diabetic who shuns sugar-free desserts. My plan is to buy the yummiest products of sugar not! and serve them to him without telling him where they’re from. If it fools him, then sugar not! would’ve succeeded where no one has before!


  • wow, this looks like a nicer place to have an EB than myron’s.


  • hi can i add you to my site?


  • yum! very very interesting blog! i’ll add you to my blog if you don’t mind!

    warm regards!


  • kudos to sugarnot!

    i wonder if someone now can come up with one that’s…


    hehe ;D


  • got curious & dropped by at the SSH store one time even before this post came out. i was a little disappointed that the mini chocolate cake i bought was a little dried out. understandably, customers at the branch are few, so perhaps their cake inventory is not as extensive as the one at podium.

    and i tasted a hint of ‘lasang gamot’ in it. could it be the isomalt? i wonder. & medyo pricey for a teenie-weenie cut. expensive ba isomalt?

    will try podium, am excited to check out their cool drinks.


  • hi lori! ive been looking for an isomalt supplier for a long time, but havent found one. can i ask if you know any isomalt supplier? thanks a lot


  • Jenny-
    Call sugarnot! and ask to talk to Cheryl Lua, the Operations Manager. She might be willing to share their source with you.


  • I think isomalt is a little expensive. You can find isomalt at Chocolate Lovers.


  • hello lori!

    I was finally able to visit the shop! The Last Temptation is really good! But the tiramisu is not! I had to call up the shop the next day and ask if the tiramisu really tastes kinda tangy…hmmm.. and the chocolate chip cookie is too dry.. wonder if I got old goodies… would you be able to shed light here?

    anyway, i talked to deanna, the cashier and she told me i could bring the receipt to the store tomorrow and maybe, they’ll replace my tangy tiramisu!



  • Hello again!

    Was finally able to go back to sugarnot to get my replacement for the tiramisu that-didn’t-taste-like-one. It was my son who got to talk to some guy (because I was too lazy to park my car) who apologized and went on to explain what seemed to be the “problem.” He told my son that they were experimenting with adding lemons to the tiramisu! Duh?! Is there such a thing? I wish the owner would be able to read this so she/they will know what’s going on over there at the Podium!
    Lemon on my tiramisu???? Seriously???

    Anyway, your blog is still tops!


  • hi ruby!

    first off, we are very sorry for the negative experience you made at our sugarnot! podium branch with the tangy tasting tiramisu. secondly, and here i personally have to laugh a lil’, we apologize for the odd statement made by our staff. it’s our guess that he simply invented that explanation for the sole purpose to pacify the customer. well, not good enough, ergo we make sure that our staff will give validated information in the future. even if they are new.

    as to the tangy tasting tiramisu. what actually happened was that we run-out of one of the main ingredient. all our products are sugarfree and most are low carb and low fat. to achieve that we import most of the ingredients. like the non-dairy low-fat whipping creme that we are using for the tiramisu. we made the mistake to replace said ingredient with another product which did not gel well with the recipe resulting in that tangy taste. but only after approximately 24 hours. initial taste tests with the whip creme replacer did not reveal any funny taste.

    anyways, lesson learned, and again, our sincerest apologies.

    our tiramisu is back to normal. our regular supplier assured us that there will be no more shortage of the low-fat whipping creme.

    maybe you will be able to confirm. how was the tiramisu you picked up the other day?

    good day and

    wolf lambsdorff
    - ceo, sugarnot foods inc. -

    note: we are opening new sugarnot! branches in The Block at SM North and also in Westgate Alabang by mid october.


  • Hi Jenny, I’ve found mine at 8$ for 24oz


  • So does this store really no longer exist?


  • I need some grissini. Where is ur current store located?


Leave a Reply


DCF the Book

Dessert Comes First: The Book
Available at all Fully Booked stores

Signed copies and FREE shipping available for Philippines. Email me.

Order via Amazon (International)

Follow Us