Wondermilk co-founder Ifzan Ibrahim on finding joy via cupcakes and creativity

The graphic designer and serial entrepreneur talks about how his love for beautiful things led to numerous enterprises and creative expressions.

Wondermilk co-founder Ifzan Ibrahim was one of the six members behind the popular cupcake brand (Photo: Kenny Yap/The Edge)

The cupcake revolution of the mid-2000s was one of the sweetest trends of the decade, not only because of its effect on blood sugar levels but for the quality and artistry it brought to the baked goods scene. Seemingly overnight, new labels sprouted up around the Klang Valley, purveying designer cupcakes handcrafted at home or at boutique bakeries as a profusion of designs and flavours swept the imagination of an enthralled public.

Wondermilk was among the pioneers of the movement; a surprising turn of events given that its roots lay in graphic design. Frustrated at being creatively hemmed in by naysaying or ultra-conservative clients, its six founders had established the independent house in 2000 to explore unorthodox ideas and visual possibilities. There was even a retail element featuring in-house designed knick-knacks and collectibles. And then came the cupcakes.

One of the co-founders was a dab hand at baking and what began as curious experiments quickly proved to have commercial potential. The brand built a firm fan base around imaginative designs transposed onto its Cuppacakes: too-good-to-be-eaten images piped out in rich buttercream on fluffy, moist bases.

“We were inspired by the cupcake craze in the US at places like New York’s Magnolia Bakery,” says Wondermilk co-founder Ifzan Ibrahim. “It wasn’t as design-centric as we wanted to be but it made famous decadent cupcakes in great flavours. We were a close-knit group of friends who had always imagined running a café that we could hang out in, so this was a dream come true.”

They began selling cupcakes from home in 2006 before attracting enough regular business to risk a café in Uptown Damansara in 2008. More outlets followed: Publika Shopping Gallery in Solaris Dutamas, Citta Mall in Ara Damansara and Megan Avenue 1 on Jalan Tun Razak in Kuala Lumpur. As trends are wont to do, the cupcake phenomenon soon petered out and many pop-up brands that had chased it shuttered. Wondermilk is one of the few survivors of that era.

“Regulars return for staple favourites such as our chocolate, vanilla, lemon and pandan gula melaka,” continues Ifzan. “We were serving over 30 flavours a day at the peak of our business. Although we have trimmed the selection since, there are seasonal designs for holidays such as Hari Raya, Christmas, Halloween and Mother’s Day, which is our busiest weekend. Customers can also pre-order cupcakes from our design catalogue online or reach out to us about customised orders. And although costs of labour, utilities, rent and ingredients have increased significantly over the years, we have not changed our prices since 2006. Each cupcake still retails at RM4.50, but, surprisingly, there are people who complain about them being mahal (expensive).”



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