The couple behind Charleston’s Sugar Bakeshop entertains in style
With a wildly popular bakery and an architectural consulting business between them, Bill Bowick and David Bouffard don’t have a lot of time to entertain—but when they do, they do it right. The couple throws a big party at least once a year, but more often they host intimate get-togethers, like having friends to their home in Charleston, South Carolina, to catch up over a relaxed Sunday brunch outdoors.
The backdrop: Bill and David’s tranquil, sun-dappled garden, which connects their house, a restored Charleston Single, to their bakeshop, Sugar, next door. And while the Lowcountry offers plenty to celebrate in the spring—the Spoleto performing arts festival, the opening of shrimp season, jasmine in bloom—there’s no occasion necessary among this group, a collection of neighbors and friends from Charleston’s design community.
It’s the sort of easy living they envisioned as architects in New York City back when they were mulling a move south to open a bakery together. They wanted to be able to live next door to their shop, and Charleston’s Cannonborough district fit the bill perfectly. Not only was the zoning suited to residential and retail, the history of the neighborhood—west of the main shopping drag—resonated with them. “I always thought of this area like a Harlem,” Bills says, referring to its role as a hub for the city’s Civil Rights movement. And, as it turns out, Sugar once housed Whaley’s Fruit and Vegetable stand, where Bill’s father, who grew up in Charleston, shopped for produce.
By the time they arrived in 2004, the neighborhood wasn’t as vibrant as it once was, but it had promise, says Bill. “We felt like we could make an impact and help build a community here.” Today, Cannonborough is among the most diverse neighborhoods in the city, where newcomers thrive alongside longtime residents and businesses.
Sugar opened in 2007 and, despite neither of the couple having baked professionally before, quickly became known for its stellar cupcakes. Turns out they were naturals: Bill, in particular, was inspired by a childhood spent on the receiving end of his mother’s and grandmother’s homemade treats. “I didn’t grow up baking, but I missed it,” he says. After the Tennessee native moved to New York, he clocked a lot of phone time with his mother getting the basics down—“I learned to bake over the phone,” he says. The long-distance lessons paid off: Sugar has become Charlestonians’ go-to for nostalgic desserts like Lady Baltimore cake and saucer-sized oatmeal raisin cookies, and it’s impossible to walk out of the bakery without a signature white and teal box of their buttercream-slicked cupcakes.
Not surprisingly, the couple brings the same level of detail to their party menu. They serve scones baked in a cast-iron skillet with honey butter and homemade jam. Individual quiches with cauliflower crusts pair as well with coffee as they do with David’s boozy punch. A red potato and pea salad adapted from cookbook author Lee Bailey is one of Bill’s standbys.
The two experimented with aspic and settled on a vibrant tomato. “A bloody mary in solid form!” as neighbor Laura Paton puts it. Today’s brunch stretches well into the afternoon, with guests lingering as they chat about what they’re growing in their community garden plots this spring. The stragglers say their goodbyes as they sip the last of the almond iced tea and Bill sends them away with little boxes of the cupcakes that started it all.
- by Trisha Boyer