Since opening up shop this year in Sydney's Surry Hills, Café Rumah has made a name for itself with the standout sweets it produces alongside its popular Malaysian-inspired breakfast and lunch offerings.
Husband and wife team Riszal Nawawi and Sook Yoon Yang mix the traditional recipes of their Malaysian families with their favourite sweets from other cuisines to winning effect. Take the madeleines, for instance. Baked fresh to order, the warm shell-shaped cakes are filled with house-made kaya, a sweet coconut-egg jam found in parts of Malaysia and Singapore for a Paris-meets-Kuala Lumpur treat.
"There's a strong thread of family and home in the sweets at Rumah," says Yang, who learned how to make kaya from her mother, who in turn learned from her grandmother. "We wanted to sell the food we grew up with and we both enjoy. The madeleines are obviously a more Western pastry, but we've put our own flavours in there, with the kaya."
Rumah's sweets rotate each day, depending on what Yang can do in her time. You might catch their kuih dadar, a rolled crêpe flavoured with pandan juice and filled with grated coconut that's glazed with gula melaka, a caramel-like coconut palm sugar. Or maybe you'll find their baked tapioca kuih, a chewy, semi-soft slice of tapioca and coconut milk with a hint of pandan leaves. Combine that with a slice from their ever-changing range of $5 chiffon cakes, such as a pandan version, which mixes the flavours of pandan leaf into soft chiffon.
If you're really lucky, you'll visit when Yang has made a nine-layer rainbow kuih lapis. The silky, colourful snack is a favourite in South East Asia, usually eaten during large family gatherings. It's one of the few desserts that the café has played straight and one of the most labour-intensive, too, with nine separate layers of coconut milk tapioca mix steamed individually before being layered together as one.
"It's definitely my favourite from the things we do here," says Nawawi. "Growing up, it's what I ate the most."
Café Rumah, 71-73 Campbell St, Surry Hills, NSW; open 7.30am-4pm Mon-Fri, 8am-4pm Sat.