Serious Eats: Sweets
Sugar Rush: Lilikoi Cake at Maui Speciality Bakery Products, HI
Before my first trip to Hawaii, everyone warned me about how expensive it was. "It's beautiful, but you'll pay for it," people chirped. I started to panic a little. I just wanted to see some sea turtles, maybe a dolphin. I didn't want to pay $20 for a beer that was imported from the place I just came.
It turned out that Hawaii is, or at least can be, much more pocket friendly than I'd expected. Part of this is because I am now the number one fan of Spam musubi, a filling little snack that costs about $1.50 and can be acquired in the hot food tray at any Foodland supermarket. The second is because I am a crazy frequent user of the bathroom. Probably due to the outsized mai tai-swilling tourist population, most casual food joints in Hawaii don't have public restrooms. They hand you a key and tell you to make a left at the shave ice shop. Well, when you're wandering in random places, searching for a bathroom, you come across interesting food opportunities. That's how I found Maui Specialty Bakery Products.
This small bakery can be found in Lahaina on Maui's west coast. It's full of homey looking baked goods with a Hawaiian twist (think mango banana bread, coconut cookies, and Hawaiian sweet bread.) I opted for the lilikoi cake because of its friendly pale yellow color and birthday party-sheet cake cut. My 6-year old sentiments didn't betray me, as I was told that lilikoi means passion fruit in Hawaiian.
The frosting is what this cake is all about. The chef and owner, Gloria McMeans, gets the lilikoi fresh from her friend's garden. The fruit's bright, tart acidity and distinctive tropical sweetness give the frosting a delicious flavor that simply pops on your tongue. Its smooth, fluffy texture begs you to lick it off separately, but there's no need: despite the appearance of a high cake to frosting ratio, the passion fruit flavor is strong enough to dominate every bite. For fans of passion fruit, who are so often at a loss on the mainland, this cake is a must-try.