Famed Unicorn shake shop opens March 17 in Del Mar


Head’s up, Instagrammers: Wildly colorful unicorn milkshakes, cocoas and cakes are about to materialize in Del Mar.

Orange County’s famed Crème & Sugar dessert shop has picked a strip-mall shop on Del Mar Heights Road as the location for its second store, which opens March 17 at noon.

Ever since Cosmopolitan magazine spotlighted Crème & Sugar founder Joanna Czikalla’s off-menu unicorn desserts in December 2016, the Anaheim Hills shop has been a mecca for snap-happy social media enthusiasts.

So just what is the Unicorn Milkshake? The $10, 24-ounce confection begins with several scoops of multicolored cotton candy ice cream hand-spun in a mixer and served in a tall Mason-style jar, topped with fresh whipped cream, hand-mixed candy sprinkles, fruity marshmallows, a “unicorn horn” lollipop, candy bracelet, a twist of rainbow-striped sour candy and a final dusting of edible gold glitter.

The sugary concoction is just one of dozens of technicolor concepts that have sprung from the creative mind of Czikalla, who has long been nicknamed “Willy Wonka” by her friends, said Andrew Yun, her business partner.

The famed Unicorn Milkshake at Crème & Sugar, which opens its first San Diego County store on March 17 in Del Mar.
(Pam Kragen/San Diego Union-Tribune )

“The unicorn thing ties into Joanna’s personality. She’s very whimsical and loves bright colors,” Yun said. “People love unicorns because they’re mythical creatures that everyone is always looking for. They’re elusive and special.”

Yun, an attorney and restaurant industry veteran, said he went into business with Czikalla last year because of her creativity, not her famous shake.

“I wouldn’t have partnered with her if it was just the unicorns because fads like that peak,” Yun said. “I did it because she’s always coming up with new ideas and concepts. She did an entire ‘Beauty & the Beast’ line and a mermaid theme, too. The ideas in her head are unbelievable.”

Czikalla has been a designer for years, but desserts only entered the picture in recent years. The Orange County native worked for a time at Disneyland and has sold her prints on Etsy since 2012.

Crème & Sugar got its start several years ago when she and her dad started selling cold-brew coffees and shave ice at Orange County farmers markets. In late 2015, they moved the business into a small 30-seat strip mall coffee shop, but it struggled to find customers.

One day when she was feeling particularly blue, Czikalla decided to comfort herself by making something sweet and colorful. The result was a bright pink cocoa made with white chocolate, red food dye, sprinkles and colored mini-marshmallows. She didn’t even put her Unicorn Hot Chocolate on the menu, but word soon got out. Before long, the drink was popping up all over Instagram and Cosmo took note.

Virtually overnight Czikalla’s business quadrupled, with lines around the block and customers patiently waiting two to three hours for the labor-intensive beverage. Next came the Unicorn Milkshake, which quickly eclipsed the cocoa in popularity, a Unicorn Cake and much more.

Last April, Rubab “Ruby” Suri joined Crème & Sugar as both the store manager and recipe refiner. Before joining the business, the Yorba Linda native spent seven years with JW Marriott in Dubai as a hotel pastry and Italian chef. She also ran her own custom cake business.

Suri said first-time customers are happy to spend $10 on a shake and $7 on a cup of cocoa just for the experience. But what they come back for is quality.

“Everyone wants to come in to take a picture, but when they drink it, we want them to enjoy it,” Suri said.

The store uses local suppliers for its premium ingredients: milk from Rockview Dairies in Downey, ice cream from Fosselman’s in Alhambra and Bon Suisse in Poway and coffee from L.A.’s Pasquini Coffee Co.

Two of the ice creams are custom-made for Crème & Sugar, a lavender and honey variety and something called Cookie Monster, an electric blue ice cream mixed with Oreos, graham crackers and chocolate-chip cookie dough.

The cakes also feature a buttercream frosting made from a Czikalla family recipe.

“Joanna wants to recapture the feeling she got eating cakes as a kid,” Suri said. “She adds a lot of components to make it really soft and to give it a good mouthfeel. There’s a lot of love that goes into it.”

Beyond unicorn sweets, there’s the Harry Potter-inspired Butterbeer, a spiced butterscotch cocoa; Wonka’s River, a shake filled with the various item seen in the chocolate river scene in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”; the Mermaid float, with piña colada ice cream, blue raspberry kiwi soda and a sparkly mermaid tail; and a S’mores Overload latte with whipped cream, liquid chocolate, house marshmallow sauce, graham crackers and a skewer of roasted marshmallows.

Yun said Czikalla received numerous offers for a second location, including the Irvine Spectrum and a Las Vegas resort, but chose Del Mar because the location had the same homey neighborhood feel of the original shop. Decorated with antique furniture like the original, the local shop is managed by owner/operator Randy Rauser of Del Mar.

The Del Mar location will have its own unique touches, including a hand-painted mural inspired by the Del Mar Racetrack and a now-in-formulation Del Mar Bar (ice cream).

On opening day, March 17, the shop will open at noon. The first 100 people in line will receive free T-shirts in collectible mason jars, free unicorn horns, free signature cocoa mugs and free treats.

Crème & SugarHours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays. 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. On opening day, March 17, the shop will open at noon.

Address: 2646 Del Mar Heights Road, San Diego

Online: cremeandsugar.com