If you’re wondering how I discovered Bunmeido of Hawaii, the truth is, although this place has been here for decades, only in the last week have I heard about it via, of all people, a New York-based television producer interested in taping a segment for one of their shows at Bunmeido, which I’ll share more about later when the time is appropriate. Anyway, this TV producer requested if I could go and check the place out for them. Of course, no problem, so I did just that this past Sunday, early at about 9am.
Before I continue, I’ll need to come forward and say I’m really not a cake fan. Call me unsophisticated or whatever else, but I’m just not into the sweetened bread-like form that most cakes are based on, much prefering the fresh, cool and moist fruit and custard-based fillings and crisp, baked crust offered by PIE. Still, all the Yelp user postings gave highly favorable reviews of the Castilla sponge cake here, so that was all-the-more encouraging in paying a visit to try it out.
Bunmeido of Hawaii is a small bakery located on the Makai side of South King Street, just past McCully, tucked between several other businesses who share the ground floor of a low-rise walk-up office building. It’s a one-man show here, owned and operated by Akira Sugiyama, who you can tell is a hard-working and humble man.
He’s there from early morning, 7 a days a week preparing, baking and wrapping the various treats displayed in the shop’s front display case. Speaking of which, he’s also the sales person and cashier. Hey, when you want the job done right, sometimes you gotta’ do it (all) yourself!
There were Raspberry roll cakes, various mochi, cookies and the items I bought to try as shown here today.
First let’s look at the Mikasayama…
Let’s open it up and and cut one in half see what’s inside…
The pancake has a spongy, airy texture and sweetness similar to sponge cake, having you wonder if it’s the same recipe as the Castilla, in comparing the ingredients, it’s different. As the name suggests, the sweet Azuki “Red” bean filling is made into Jam form, with a good balance between sweet and robust. Overall it complimented the pancake shell nicely.
Next we have the Apple Turnover…
Let’s open it up and see what’s in it…
I liked this better than the Mikasayama, prefering the gelatinous texture and chunky, tender apple filling over the more Jam-like Azuki Bean. I’m not particularly an Azuki Bean fan either, which further explains my preference for the apples. Again, the same “pancake” (Castella?) batter is used, being soft, spongey and slightly sweet. That said, this certainly was an interesting twist in comparison to the classic apple turnover, which of course uses a flaky, baked crust. Cake lovers rejoice!
According to Akira san, you can also get the Bunmeido Mikasayama and Apple Turnovers at Shirokiya in Ala Moana Center. Forgot to ask if they also carry the Castilla.
Finally, speaking of rejoice, here’s where cake lovers everywhere might do just that after trying the Castilla Honey Cake…
Bunmeido of Hawaii Honey Castella sponge cake カステラ, net weight 10 oz.
The size of the box reads:
King of Cakes
In Delicate Natural Honey Flavor.
Castilla is made exclusively from choice ingredients. No substitutional agents are used.
Castella is famed throughout the world for its rich nutritious flavor and quality. You will be amazed with Castella’s delicate texture and smooth crust.
It’s a favorite dessert with everyone, wherever you go!
In Japan, it’s referred to as “Kasutera”, obviously being an accented iteration of “Castella” – the latter of which is pronounced “Cas-tee-ya”. It’s said that Castella found its way to Japan via Portuguese Merchants (my peeps!) back in the 16th Century, with the name evolving from the Portuguese Pão de Castela, which translates to “Bread of Castile”.
Anyway, getting back to the Honey Castilla we have here, as always, the Japanese tradition of quality and attention to detail reflects all the way down to the packaging. Looking at the box, you’d just as well assume a bottle of $1000 perfume were in there.
Let’s open it and see what we got…
Detail, detail, detail. Even the inner wax paper wrapper is folded and taped-down meticulously, while making sure that it’s sealed properly. According to the box, the ingredients are sugar, eggs, wheat, flour, honey and corn syrup.
Once again, unwrapped, it looks like this…
It measures 7-1/2″ long x 2-3/8″ wide x 2″ thick.
Let’s cut a few slices to try out!…
Looking at that, are you thinking what I’m thinking? Coffee! So I ran to the kitchen and fired up the pot, making myself a hot cup o’ joe to go with it.
How is it? It has that familiar light and airy sponge cake texture, while being soft and moist, with a sort of sweeter, slightly sticky browned, yet still soft crust. That sticky crust is where you can distinguish the honey flavor. While even if this were the best Sponge Cake on planet earth, it still hasn’t turned me into a cake convert. Yet for those who are into sponge cake, I can see them going through leaps and bounds to get their hands on the Honey Castilla at Bunmeido. Sure was great with my cup of blended Kona Coffee, gotta’ say that!
The Honey Castilla cakes are boxed in varying sizes from small to large. I forgot to write down or make a mental note of the exact prices for each item here, but my receipt total came out to $7.25 for the Castilla sponge cake (I think was medium size), and 2 each of the Mikasayama and Apple Turnover (5 items total), so the prices are very reasonable, especially considering the quality and level of craftsmanship he puts into each and every item on the shelf.
Here’s the shop front…
Bunmeido of Hawaii
2065 S King St Ste 109
Honolulu, HI 96826
Monday – Saturday 8am to 5pm
Sunday 8am to 12pm
• A Sweet Slice of History – Hana Hou! The Hawaiian Airlines Magazine
• Bunmeido of Hawaii – Yelp user reviews (there’s a photo of Akira san on that site)
• Oyatsu and kasutera (castella), a Japanese sponge cake – A pictorial cooking demo’