Cupcakes for Downtownies
Let Them Eat Cupcakes, Cake Couture, Hokulani Bakeshop / Do cupcake shops keep opening because we actually keep eating those indulgent, conveniently-shaped treats?
While the delicate texture and vibrant colors of macaroons have become a staple, and the cake pop even shows up once in a while, few people will refuse a cupcake solely on the grounds that it’s no longer in vogue. The foodie prediction that pies were going to become the next cupcakes has yet to show its crusty self. (Kind of like The Rapture.)
With our newest cupcakery consistently selling out hours before closing time, the Weekly decided to digest the delights at our fingertips.
Sugarcoated Communism: Let Them Eat Cupcakes
The expanse of downtown can seem like miles when it comes to having near non-existent lunch breaks. And you don’t want to walk too far in the sweltering sun in your freshly ironed business casual get-up. So while the more-established Hokulani Bakeshop and Cake Couture have smaller satellite outposts downtown, the Let Them Eat Cupcakes location on South Beretania (at the old Mix Café location) is a much-welcomed treat for those who work within a two-block radius of the hot-pink shop. With skull-and-crossbone mugs hanging behind the counter, contrasted against the whimsical sprinkle bar and pink floral-themed bathroom, founders Kawehi Haug (former Honolulu Weekly Arts and Entertainment Editor and Honolulu Advertiser reporter) and Nick Gervais (former Honolulu AdvertiserTGIF designer) have forged a niche in the baked goods world with a hipper, artsier theme.
An expansion of Haug’s former cupcake catering service called babycakes, Let Them Eat Cupcakes has been followed by fans throughout its transition, from the aforementioned incarnation to occasional appearances at street festivals. Loyal customers line up outside the doors before its 10am opening time to snatch up the freshly baked cupcakes. Rotating daily, Li hing mango, snicker doodle and peanut butter-and-jelly are just some of the more popular novel flavors, along with classic ones like cream cheese-filled red velvet and vanilla.
With Gervais’s beard separated into corkscrew curls and Haug’s company T-shirt artfully snipped and tied into something more fashionable, the founders show that the theme of their badass bakery is a representation of who they are. It’s all heart and flavor in the cupcakes and the custom-made takeout boxes are a plus for the hustle and bustle of busy downtowners.
High Cake Class: Cake Couture
The flagship bakery in ‘Aina Haina is a nice treat for those who live or work on the east side of the island. Owner Carmen Emerson-Bass opened up shop in 2007, and the popularity of her cupcakes has only grown since. Customers will drive from Waipahu to ‘Aina Haina just to satisfy a weekend cupcake craving.
With flavors such as chai spice, rocky road and orange creamsicle in the rotation, Cake Couture’s more conventional flavors such as chocolate and lemon are surprisingly just as impressive. Cake Couture sticks to the contemporary cupcake convention of topping each cake with an impressive tower of frosting, detailed with chocolate shavings, mini peanut butter cups or mini marshmallows.
As mentioned earlier, Cake Couture smartly expanded to downtown, in acknowledgment of office workers’ much-needed teatime treats to finish the day like a champ–or at least a very satisfied sugar fiend. Young, friendly female faces usually staff both locations, lending a more traditional, comforting and maternal image to the culture of cupcakes.
Old School: Hokulani Bakeshop
Hokulani Bake Shop was, at the very least, an early adopter of the cupcake trend, founded by husband-and-wife team Tushar and Ana Dubey. While the bakeshop was initially known for its sugar cookies, the cupcakes have dominated the bakery’s reputation.
Carrot spice, Guittard chocolate cream cheese and lilikoi with lemon cream cheese live alongside double chocolate, coconut and strawberry guava flavors, not to mention offerings of seasonal flavors such as pumpkin spice and egg nog.
With an outpost next to the reputable Downtown Coffee Honolulu at Pioneer Plaza, one finds it difficult to avoid at least a double take when passing by, sometimes only to be disappointed by the sight of sold-out shelves. Those lucky enough to buy cupcakes early in the day will do themselves a favor in immediately marching over to Downtown Coffee to pair that cupcake (or cupcakes…ahem) with a cup of locally-grown Waialua coffee.