CakeM and Miss Chen’s Cake: Pieces of Cake at 808 Center
Find chocolate and caramel domes at cakeM and durian everything at Miss Chen’s.
UBE CREPE CAKE, MANGO CAKE ROLL, BLACK TEA CREPE CAKE.
Photos: Martha Cheng
Between cakeM and Miss Chen’s Cake, the cake shops at 808 Center are literally calling my name. One specializes in Japanese cakes and the other flavors from Hong Kong—both lighter and less sweet than American versions—whisking me away to sponge cake heaven. Here’s a look at both:
Miss Chen’s Cake
The bestselling cake at Miss Chen’s is the durian cake, says owner Jai Cheung. I ask him to repeat that. Durian?! I had left a durian cream puff in my bag and during a meeting, I could see everyone sniffing the air but too polite to ask who tooted. He says half the people who order the cake love durian, the other half are curious. I say, tell me in a few months if the durian cake is still the bestseller. Next in popularity is the ube crepe cake, which makes more sense, with its pretty purple layers, and it doesn’t smell of old socks.
Cheung says he and his wife, the Miss Chen the shop is named after, fill their pastry case with cakes based on “what’s trending, what’s cool, what no one else in Hawai‘i has.” So there are the crepe cakes ($6.50 and up for a slice), 25 thin layers sandwiched with flavored whipped cream, ranging from black tea to chestnut; and brown sugar boba lava cakes ($15), which is like a boba milk tea in cake form, topped with boba and a custard so liquid it oozes over the top. There are also cake rolls in flavors such as mango and matcha ($5.95), though out of everything in the case, they wouldn’t be my first pick.
Cheung and his wife met when he owned Bread House, a bakery in Chinatown (it still exists, but he’s no longer a part of it). She came in a few times, and though they’re both from Hong Kong originally, they spoke different dialects and she, a more recent transplant, didn’t understand English. So she stopped coming. It wasn’t until a few months later when they ran into each other in a parking lot that suddenly, something clicked. After all, love is a universal language. As is, I’d argue, cake.
808 Sheridan St., Suite 112, (808) 492-1723, facebook.com
CakeM is a lovely oasis in the 808 Center, one wall stacked to the ceiling with cake stands, a place you’d love to gather with girlfriends and plan a baby shower over tea and petite sweets. I mean, I’ve never done that, but I hear that’s what people do. I’m just here for the cake.
The vinmai, with caramel and chocolate
The pastry case is very small, but it contains some of the most delicate and beautiful sweets in Honolulu. There are peach tarts and fruit tarts (starting at $4.25), fresh fruit tucked into a cloud of pastry cream; Japanese-style strawberry shortcake with fluffy cake and lightly sweetened whipped cream ($6); and a little glossy white dome ($6) encasing bitter caramel, fragile almond brittle, chocolate cake and chocolate mousse. These desserts are more refined in taste and texture than at Miss Chen’s: soft, light and airy often paired with creamy and crisp elements. And they are so beautiful that it makes sense that owner Megumi Albritton’s real bread and butter is wedding cakes, which you can usually see her frosting in the back.
Albritton came to Hawai‘i as a pastry chef with Satura Cakes (we met when we both worked at its Los Gatos, California, location). When its Honolulu shops closed, she moved into unpastrylike things, like working for an accounting firm, before she eventually found her way back to cake, opening cakeM in 2016. I didn’t know she was still in Honolulu—we reconnected when I followed the signs for cake and discovered her shop. We didn’t even need to leave a trail of crumbs to find each other again. Just cake.
808 Sheridan St., Suite 308, (808) 722-5302, cakemhawaii.com