12 Unexpected Desserts to Try at Your Favorite Local Bakeries
Pipeline Bakeshop & Creamery Malamodes filled with ice cream flavors, from the top: Molly Madness with coffee sugar, She’s So Strawberry with li hing sugar, Avery’s Chocolate Avalanche with original sugar, and Malafrozada with cinnamon sugar (bottom).
Every local bakery has that signature dessert, the one that lures customers back, the one that gets Instagrammed. There are the poi glazed doughnuts from Kamehameha Bakery, blueberry cream cheese scones at Diamond Head Market & Grill, the cream pies from Ted’s Bakery. But if you sample the rest of the menu—which I did—you’ll discover something even sweeter.
First, it was the malafrozada, a creamy ice cream made with a special malassada base that’s pasteurized in-house and dotted with chunks of malassadas and caramelized sugar to give it some crunch. Then, Pipeline Bakeshop, known for its freshly made Portuguese doughnuts and cake bombs, added another ingenious dessert mashup to its dessert menu: the Malamode. It’s simply a warm malassada filled with malassada-studded ice cream. (It’s a lot of fried dough, we know.) This past year, though, the Kaimukī bakery started offering the Malamode in six flavors—including the vegan Haupia Heaven—with a special flavor that rotates every month.
Pipeline Bakeshop & Creamery, 3634 Wai‘alae Ave., Kaimukī, (808) 738-8200, pipelinebakeshop.com
Pistachio and Strawberry Crunch Cakes
It’s hard to go to the alley and not order a slice (or slices, let’s be real) of its famous lemon crunch cake. Layers of moist lemon cream cake are separated with creamy lemon curd and crunchy, house-made toffee bits—it’s a cake I imagine is served in heaven. But many people don’t know that The Alley also makes similar crunch cakes in strawberry, pistachio and, for very special requests, liliko‘i. Chef Shane Masutani, who loves strawberries, created the strawberry version with a whipped cream filling and chunks of fresh fruit between layers. The pistachio crunch cake has a bright-green, milk-based pistachio filling that’s also used as a topping. The liliko‘i uses passion fruit curd instead of lemon curd. Both are only available by request. Sometimes, Masutani uses other flavors requested by customers, including chocolate, coconut and orange. “These recipes were made because either I wanted to eat it or someone else that I knew wanted to eat it,” Masutani says. “Basically, I made what I like and want to eat or what I think others would like to eat.”
The Alley Restaurant at ‘Aiea Bowl, 99-115 ‘Aiea Heights Drive, #310, ‘Aiea, (808) 488-6854, aieabowl.com/restaurant
When you have “pie” in your company name, pies are what you’re likely known for. But Hawaiian Pie Co., which churns out more than a dozen types of pies, bakes something else that’s been cultivating its own following: cinnamon bread. “The cinnamon bread is a classic from back in the day,” says Jan Hori, who runs Hawaiian Pie Co. with her husband, Joel. (His grandfather, Yoshio Hori, founded the famous Holy’s Bakery on the Big Island.) “Now, it’s mastered by three generations of Horis.” The buttery, cinnamon-laden bread, baked from scratch, is only sold on Saturdays. Sometimes, the bakers will riff off the recipe, making cinnamon rolls, cinnamon bombs and sticky buns. Once in a while, the bakery sells seasonal twists of its cinnamon bread, including strawberry shortcake and s’mores. “Every now and then, they will add something new to the bread lineup,” Hori says.
Hawaiian Pie Co., 508 Waiakamilo Road, Kalihi, (808) 988-7828, hawaiianpieco.com
Gary Chong was one of four investors who bought Sconees Bakery in Kaimukī 20 years ago. And, after a couple of years, the financial adviser was the last remaining, running a bakery without any bakery experience. He continued selling the pastries the bakery had become known for, including the popular scones, cornbread and cheese pockets created by the original owner, the former head baker at Liberty House. But it was Chong, the nonbaker, who added fruit bars to the bakery’s menu. And these bars, particularly the lemon ones, are some of the best around. “It was really hit-or-miss,” Chong says about coming up with the recipe. He’s also the only one who makes them. “It’s too time-consuming and when other people make them, they don’t turn out the way I like. Lose money!” The best-selling bar is the lemon bar, but Chong’s favorite is liliko‘i. The difference with his bars, he says, is in the eggs. He uses fresh eggs—not frozen eggs, which are cheaper. “It tastes better,” he says. “Trust me.”
Sconees Bakery, 1117 12th Ave., kaimukī, (808) 734-4024
It’s not surprising that the baker behind Let Them Eat Cupcakes, known for its perfect cupcakes and innovative desserts, would combine mochi and malassadas. These chewy balls of fried mochi dough, dusted in white sugar, are actually a combination of its mochi cupcakes and mochi brownies. “People love mochi, so I wanted to add to our mochi playbook,” explains baker-owner Kawehi Haug. “On a bit of a whim—and because we had a surplus of mochi flour that needed to be used—I thought that perhaps I could use our Portuguese malassada recipe and swap out some of the regular flour with mochi flour.” It took a few tries before Haug perfected the recipe, creating a pop-able bite of fried deliciousness. Haug sells them every first Friday out of Hukilau Honolulu (which she also co-owns) and they don’t last very long. “It’s super rewarding to have created something that people really love,” she says. “That’s the only reason we do what we do: to feed people happiness.”
Editor’s Note: Let Them Eat Cupcakes has closed.
Butter Flake Rolls
If you’ve even heard about this little bakery, tucked away in Keolu Shopping Center in Enchanted Lake, you probably know about its signature mochi anpan, sweet rolls filled with an azuki bean paste and a round ball of mochi before baking. This is the bakery’s best-selling item—second is its super-soft spinach bread—and they sell out quickly every day. But one of the oft-overlooked pastries in its display case is the butter flake rolls, which owner Nobuyuki Nagai makes daily from a Danish dough that yields flaky, crispy, buttery pastries. “Other places use regular dinner roll-type of dough or a sweet dough,” explains his wife, Cheryl. On holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, the bakery produces more than 2,000 butter flake rolls a day. But on any given day, Nagai makes only about two dozen. And I’ve bought them out before, just to eat on the drive over the Pali.
Nēnē Goose Bakery, 1090 Keolu Drive, Kailua, (808) 262-1080
Ube Butter Mochi
It started as an experiment. Two years ago baker-owner Jill Yamashita decided to add ube to her butter mochi, just for fun. She was already incorporating the sweet, purple yam in her bread pudding. And it just took off. The flavor of her chewy blocks of buttery mochi isn’t altered much by the ube, but the dessert’s got a rich violet color that sets it apart. She plays with other flavors for her butter mochi, too, including matcha, strawberry-guava and cotton candy, which is bright pink and comes topped with the fluffy sugary stuff. Ironically, Yamashita doesn’t make the dessert in either chocolate or vanilla flavors, despite the name of her bakery.
Chocolate + Vanilla Bakery, 1115 12th Ave., kaimukī, (808) 737-2462
When you walk into Cake Couture in ‘Aina Haina, the first thing you’ll notice is the display case full of perfectly frosted cupcakes: rich red velvet, chocolate topped with mini peanut butter cups, vanilla dotted with rainbow sprinkles. Don’t let them distract you. Just to the right of the case is another, smaller one that houses the crown jewel of this boutique bakery. It’s called the Faux-stess, a playful and far more sumptuous version of the classic Hostess cupcake. This moist chocolate cupcake is stuffed with marshmallow filling and double-dipped in a silky chocolate ganache. They’re made fresh every morning, and good luck finding any by the end of the day. “I love the nostalgia of it,” says baker-owner Carmen Emerson-Bass. What makes her cupcakes, and in particularly the Faux-stess, so crave-worthy is simple, she says: “I use really good ingredients. I use good cocoa, I use good vanilla, I use good chocolate, I use good butter. It’s expensive, but it’s worth it.”
Editor’s Note: Cake Couture closed its shop in 2019 and is now a pre-order business on Instagram at @cakecouturehi.
Just about every photo posted of Kamehameha Bakery on social media showcases its bright purple poi glazed doughnuts. And why not? These chewy balls of fried dough, caked in sugar, are perfection. But you shouldn’t overlook the Kalihi bakery’s banana bread, a seemingly modest item on its extensive menu of sexier pastries. It’s actually one of the bakery’s unexpected top sellers; it sells anywhere from 80 to 200 loaves a day. The bread is soft, moist and packed with banana flavor. It tastes like the kind your grandma would whip up with overripe bananas from the tree in her backyard. The secret? Using fresh bananas, says owner Geramie Paglinawan, whose husband, Daniel, came up with the recipe. “A lot of bakeries use [prepackaged] banana purée, but we don’t,” she says. “We could never get used to it. … It’s just a good recipe, it’s as simple as that.”
Kamehameha Bakery, 1284 Kalani St., Kalihi, (808) 845-5831, kamehamehabakeryhi.com
Ted’s Bakery opened in 1987, converting the old Sunset Beach Store into a bakery that served coffee and pastries. It didn’t start churning out pies until 1996. Today, the little bakery across Sunset Beach sells dozens of pies and cakes—whole or as slices—at the bakery and in grocery stores across the state. But it still makes glazed yeast doughnuts, called Glazers. These square doughnuts are crispy on the outside and covered in a thick sugary glaze—hence the name. These Glazers can be dusted with white sugar or cinnamon sugar, covered with chocolate, or filled with custard or strawberry cream. Founder Ted Nakamura, now 60, still comes in twice a week and helps fry them. These doughnuts are only sold at the North Shore bakery. “We make them fresh every day,” says Nakamura’s daughter, Torey, the bakery’s general manager. “Once we sell out, we don’t fry anymore.”
Ted’s Bakery, 59-024 Kamehameha Highway, Hale‘iwa, (808) 638-8207, tedsbakery.com
Diamond Head Market Torte
Every morning there’s a line inside the bakery of Diamond Head Market & Grill in front of the showcase of blueberry cream cheese scones. These are easily one of the bakery’s top sellers, along with its lemon crunch cake, buttermilk biscuits and cheesecake squares. But it’s the Diamond Head Market Torte that turned me and everyone I’ve convinced to try this cake into converts. It features a peanut butter cheesecake base, layered with fresh bananas and PB-chocolate pudding on an Oreo crust. “We just came up with it,” explains co-owner Ed Toma. “We had this peanut butter cheesecake and we just started fooling around with it.” That’s how the torte came to be—and we’re not complaining. Every bite is decadent and sinful in the best way possible.
Diamond Head Market & Grill, 3158 Monsarrat Ave., Diamond Head, (808) 732-0077, diamondheadmarket.com
Loyal patrons of Deluxe Pastry shop, a quaint bakery next to a laundromat with just three parking stalls outside, have their favorites: the lemon custard pie, the chocolate-topped éclairs, the blueberry scones. I once bought an entire pumpkin chiffon pie because the owner, Joyce Fukuda, said it’s true to the original recipe of her dad, founder Akio Harauchi. (She now runs the bakery with her husband, Eric.) “Everything we have sells well,” she says. “If it doesn’t sell, we don’t make it.” And yes, there are people (like me) who come in specifically for the bakery’s long johns. What sets these soft, custard-filled doughnuts apart from others? There’s creamy, sweet custard in every bite. “First bite, last bite—you always gotta have custard,” Fukuda says.
Deluxe Pastry Shop, 45-1042 Kamehameha Highway, Kāne‘ohe, (808) 247-4235
The little bakery on Beretania Street has long been known for its Japanese-style white bread and adorable animal-shaped anpan. But last summer it started selling mochi doughnuts—similar to the pon de ring doughnuts found at Japan’s Mister Donut—in kurogoma (black sesame), matcha, chocolate and a plain one with a glaze made from Big Island honey. The idea came from Chris Watanabe, whose father started the bakery and recently retired. (Watabane has also left the bakery this year to persue other ventures in Asia, though the new owners are still commited to these doughnuts.) He spent weeks perfecting the chewy texture he had come to love after living in Japan for a year. Since the launch of these doughnuts in 2017, demand has only grown, and more flavors were added to the menu. The bakery also sells these specialty doughnuts at MoDo Hawai‘i, its retail space in Mitsuwa Marketplace in Waikīkī.
Editor’s Note: Watanabe Bakery closed on July 1, 2019.