7 Kaimukī Sweet Spots to Satisfy Your Sweet Cravings
When it comes to desserts, Kaimukī is tops.
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4. Café Laufer
Café Laufer’s banana Oreo torte stacked with white and chocolate cake, fresh bananas, pastry cream, Oreos and a cookie crust.
Photo: Steve Czerniak
It’s no surprise that customers, even after 20 years, don’t think of Café Laufer as a place that serves meals.
When you walk into the quaint eatery on Wai‘alae Avenue, you’re met with two large glass display cases filled with perfectly crafted pastries—apple strudel, buttery croissants, flaky napoleons, custard-filled profiteroles, streusel-topped cobblers, fruit-filled muffins, and classic tarts and tortes that you might find in a boulangerie in Paris.
Who’s looking at the menu?
“To be honest, some people don’t even know we make food,” says chef Melvin Dela Cruz Avecilla, who’s been cooking and baking at the café for 15 years. “They just come for the desserts and the coffee.” (The Kona coffee is definitely a draw, each cup brewed by a $15,000 German machine that also grinds whole beans.)
While the food menu has expanded over the years to include gourmet sandwiches and plates of bratwurst, the dessert array has grown, too. The most recent additions include a peanut butter ganache bar, panna cotta and a chocolate-banana-PB tart.
The signature dessert has been on the menu since the beginning: the formidable banana Oreo torte with layers of white and chocolate cake, pastry cream, fresh bananas, Oreos and a cookie crust. And fans don’t stop at the slice; they buy the entire cake for $59.50.
“Sometimes people come in and buy three cakes,” Avecilla says, shaking his head. “The whole cake.”
There’s a dedicated team of bakers at Café Laufer, who come into the restaurant before daybreak to roll out pastry dough and mix cake batter. All of the recipes originated with owner Cyrus Goo, who has long insisted on using real butter in his baked goods.
It’s the attention to detail that’s made Café Laufer a benchmark for desserts.
“Honestly, I like the competition,” Avecilla says about the new bakeries and sweet shops opening up in Kaimukī. “It forces me and my staff to up our game. We always have to think of something different to draw the customers back.”
3565 Wai‘alae Ave., 735-7717, cafelaufer.com
5. Otto Cake
Otto with his famous cheesecakes.
Photos: Steve Czerniak
On the invite list to the uber-exclusive Vanity Fair Oscars after-party in Los Angeles: Julianne Moore and Eddie Redmayne, with their golden statuettes, Reece Witherspoon, Jay Z and Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Keaton—and Scott “Otto” McDonough.
Credit McDonough’s cheesecake.
The owner of Otto Cake on 12th Avenue got invited by a customer who visited his cheesecake shop. His father was a big-time producer in L.A. The two became friends, and, when he heard McDonough would be in town during the annual Academy Awards, he got him into one of the hottest parties in Hollywood.
“I just can’t believe the cake has taken me this far,” he says, laughing.
McDonough started baking New York-style cheesecakes—his mom’s favorite—in 1990, selling them wholesale to small restaurants and coffee shops. In July 2009 he opened a 300-square-foot cheesecake boutique in Chinatown, offering more than 90 different flavors of the cake, from carrot to haupia chocolate to a Key lime cheesecake that impressed Billy Joel so much he invited McDonough backstage at one of his concerts to personally thank him.
But after a barrage of threats and unsavory loiterers around his shop, McDonough decided to move to Kaimukī in 2013. Bigger space, cheaper rent, more parking—and his sales are up 200 percent.
“It’s crazy,” he says. “I’ve opened up my business to this bigger thing just by leaving Chinatown. It’s sad, because all of my friends are still down there, but it’s really been a great move.”
Though his space is bigger, the demand has grown, and every available refrigerated spot in the new location is devoted to cheesecake.
The Amazing Plain cheesecake is still the most popular, though his customers enjoy indulging in the more adventurous offerings like chocolate caramel bacon and candy corn.
What makes his cheesecakes so good people pay $5 a slice for them?
He says it’s all in the process.
“I’m the same person, baking all the cakes, all by my one arm,” McDonough says. “Most cheesecakes are done by machine. But I make them one at a time, with regular kitchen ovens like in your home. I’m serious. I’m still doing it the same little way.”
1127 12th Ave., 834-6886, ottocake.com