Find Honolulu’s Best Taiwanese Pineapple Cakes at Kula & Kō
There’s an entire pineapple in each box of cake bars.
Photo: Shannon Fagan
In Taipei and Tokyo, you’ll spot Taiwanese pineapple cake shops by the lines snaking out the doors. At Honolulu’s Kula & Kō, tucked away on the second floor of the International Market Place, you’ll find cakes that rival those found in Taiwan, but minus the mobs. Wrapped in gold foil and resembling gold ingots, the outer layer of the cake is wonderfully crumbly, leading to a soft center treasure of pineapple jam that hints at juiciness. It’s more akin to manju, or even Fig Newtons, than it is to the Western notion of cake. (Kula & Kō calls them cakebars.)
In Taiwan, they are given as gifts for engagements and birthdays and are so popular they’re sold at Taipei 7-Elevens. While on a trip to China, Kula & Ko’s co-owner (who declined to be named), saw firsthand the cake’s popularity and thought to bring the concept home to Honolulu. Returning from Beijing, he and two friends developed a pineapple cake that they hoped would appeal to both Western and Japanese taste buds, while offering something that the Taiwan cakes didn’t: 100% pure pineapple from Hawai‘i, with no preservatives or additives. (Many Taiwanese pineapple cakes are cut with cheaper winter melon.)
But that means these cakes have a short shelf life: They’re best consumed within three weeks. “We work closely with Dole for sourcing our pineapple, harvesting it, and processing it—from ground, to the bakery, to the product in the store is a timeline of about one week,” the Kula & Kō co-owner says. A box of six cakes ($20.95) contains the equivalent of one whole pineapple.
For the holidays, Kula & Ko is offering a matcha flavor bar. Other flavors include coconut, butter, chocolate and macadamia nut. A three-flavor sample box is $12.95. The flagship store in the International Market Place is the best place to buy them, though boxes can also be found at Foodland Farms in Ala Moana Center, Dean & Deluca’s Waikīkī locations and the DFS shop at the Honolulu airport.
Open 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily, second floor International Market Place, 2330 Kalākaua Ave., (808) 426-5809, kulaandko.com