One of Waikiki’s best kept secrets
Delicious French inspired Japanese cakes
You must have noticed by now that Waikiki is packed with retail stores. Everything from Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co’s, all the way to mom-and-pop souvenir shops. Do you want to know one thing they have in common? If you’ve been working on the block for a while, at some point you have probably had a cake or coffee jelly from Kulu Kulu. I’ve had my stint in high-end retail in Waikiki and so has my partner, Momo. We can both attest to celebrating staff birthdays and holidays with various cakes and confections from Kulu Kulu.
This unassuming bakery is where you’ll find some of the best Japanese-style cakes and confections on the island. Surprisingly, it is in the Royal Hawaiian Center food court. Who would have guessed that this nondescript store that you can easily walk by without noticing is a local favorite. I was there last week to buy my favorite coffee jelly and there was a local lady with her husband in front of me buying 4 or 5 different slices of cake for her family. You have to appreciate this for what it is: locals rarely make it into Waikiki, let alone park their cars just to buy some cake! If you need more convincing, Kulu Kulu is the proud recipient of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s People’s Choice Award for Best Bakery in Honolulu!
Japanese cakes are typically known for their fluffy, puffy, and airy textures. Their flavors aren’t as bold and are a lot lighter and less sweet than your typical American confection. Kulu Kulu stays true to its French-inspired Japanese heritage and offers a wide array of cakes and confections similar to the cakes that can be found in Japan.
One of Kulu Kulu’s signature cakes is the Soufflé Cheesecake. While traditional American cheesecakes tend to be creamy and dense, the Japanese counterpart is light, airy, and spongy. The cream cheese flavor isn’t prominent and lingers only slightly on the back of the tongue. You don’t necessarily need to be a big fan of cheesecake to enjoy this cake; it borrows the lofty texture from the classic French soufflé while maintaining the smooth velvety palate of a cheesecake.
The second cake we tried was a seasonal cake. Every month, the patissiers at Kulu Kulu debut limited edition cakes inspired by a theme and the fruits in season. For the month of May, Kulu Kulu rolled out 3 very pink confections, one of which was the Dragon Fruit Pineapple Rare Cheesecake. The dragon fruit flavored mousse is layered on top of a pineapple infused rare cheesecake with a graham cracker crust. There are chunks of pineapple hidden inside the cheesecake as well that adds a fresh crunchiness to the cake. The combination between the dragon fruit and the pineapple yields a tropical burst of flavor that marries well and makes for a visually stunning cake full of delightful details.
The final cake is a cult classic: the Japanese Strawberry Shortcake. This delicate, Japanese cake is super simple. It has 3 components: sponge cake, whipped cream, and strawberries. Instead of being made with biscuits, the Japanese version is made with the lightest, airiest sponge cake layered with decadent freshly whipped heavy cream. Decorated with fresh strawberries, this Japanese version of the classic cake is simple yet has the ability to wow when the components are assembled expertly. The juicy tartness of the strawberries offer a refreshing counterpoint to the slightly sweetened whipped cream, so if sweets really aren’t your thing or if you are trying a Japanese cake for the first time, this cake is a safe bet.
Kulu Kulu gets our stamp of approval. It is much appreciated in the local community and is a true hidden gem in Waikiki. If you have a sweet tooth and are looking to try French-inspired Japanese confections or a foodie on an adventure, this cake shop is a no brainer. Kulu Kulu is accessible from virtually anywhere in Waikiki and should be on your to-do list when in town.