Hawai‘i is so much more than shave ice and malassadas. Those two treats are just a few of the iconic desserts that can be found at O‘ahu’s bakeries, where goodies wander across continents, from brioche tarts filled with liliko‘i (passionfruit) curd to poi mochi donuts.
There are older places, like the 70-year-old Liliha Bakery, that deliver straight nostalgia. Shortening-based crusts and whipped toppings (in lieu of whipped cream) still dominate many pastry cases. (Health trends have largely passed Hawai‘i by, which is why you’ll still find fried apple pies at McDonald’s.) Then there are younger outfits, like the Local General Store, a new pop-up that sells locally grown fruits — including cacao — folded into buttery pastries.
While the Japanese influence is obvious, the Philippines are more subtly represented in Hawai‘i’s baked goods, a reflection of the second-largest ethnicity in the state. Some of O‘ahu’s most iconic bakeries, such as Liliha and Paalaa Kai, offer ensaimadas (buns smeared with margarine and sugar), while each of the more explicitly Filipino bakeshops tends to do one thing exceptionally well, though they’re mostly reliable for hot-from-the-oven pandesal (bread rolls).
For a long time, Hawai‘i’s bakery realm stayed static, confined to old favorites. But recent additions have added a welcome mix of new flavors and techniques to make life that much sweeter.