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Honey Castella from Bunmeido of Hawaii

Castella Honey Cake (brick shape), Mikasayama (round) & Apple Turnover (semi-round) from Bunmeido of Hawaii

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…

Mikasayama – “Red Bean Jam Pancake Sandwich”

Let’s open it up and and cut one in half see what’s inside…

Mikasayama, net weight 3-1/4 oz.

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…

Bunmeido Apple Turnover, net weight 2 oz.

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:

Bunmeido Castella
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
(808) 949-0555

Business Hours:
Monday – Saturday 8am to 5pm
Sunday 8am to 12pm

Related Links:
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’


13 thoughts on “Honey Castella from Bunmeido of Hawaii

  • September 16, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Don’t be embarrased — Despite growing up in Honolulu (and near S. King Street, too!) I’ve never set foot in Bunmeido, but now I really want to go. I have tried the Mikasayama from Shirokiya and enjoyed them.

    I think I need to make a food trip to Hawaii. Forget visiting family; what I should do is arrived with a bunch of notes from your blog and hit each place. Wouldn’t that be a dream trip?

    (Okay, I might say hi to my mom and dad.) ;)

  • September 16, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    I remember Bunmeido since the 70s that how long this business been around. Too bad can’t find any in San Francisco . Love their castella cake . What we have here is Chinese cocktail buns sold in Chinese bakeries all over . Was back in Honolulu not too long ago could’nt find anywhere that have it. I told my cousin to make some for his business in Honolulu.

  • September 17, 2008 at 2:11 am

    wow, I remember eating them–from Shirokiya. I thought they were imported. Akira-san looks like a very nice man. :)

  • September 17, 2008 at 5:22 am

    I don’t like cakes that much either, especially these types of Japanese cakes. Don’t know what it is. They’re good and all but to me they’re too light. But the honey cake sounds and looks good but still I think I prefer heavier cakes.

    Great writeup though!

  • September 17, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    Natsukashii!!! It makes me feel home sick.

  • September 18, 2008 at 12:59 am

    Bunmeido is a big, old-time confectioner in Japan (if you search “kasutera” on YouTube you can see their cute black and white dancing teddy bear commercial), and I figured this was a branch in Hawaii that sold stuff they shipped over. I had no idea it was a shop where they baked fresh (much less that it’s a one-man operation!). They use the name and logo, so there must be an affiliation.

    I enjoy the sweet, but not too sweet kasutera, so I’m sorry I haven’t checked it out yet.

  • September 18, 2008 at 8:25 am

    The apple one is my favorite, I used to get it at Shirokiya all the time when I was young. They also have the rectangle castella cakes there. We would often get those for omiyage on the way to Hilo. I’m not a big cake and frosting person so I like that these aren’t too sweet.

  • April 27, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    The Mikasayma is great but the Castella cake is something that haunts me constantly! I miss that light spongy light honey sticky cake. It is Great with Earl Gray or Green tea. I normally get the combination pack that has both. I buy a few of the Castella cakes and freeze them. They are good with vanilla ice cream and strawberries too. Bet you can’t just eat one Mikasayama or one slice of the Castella cake! I have mastered making the Mikasayama-I’m in the process of mimiking the Castella cakes recipe. I guess the secret is how you keep it sealed and moist-retaining the honey is most important. YUM!

  • December 1, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    You have got to be kidding me the shop is still in the same place?! I grew up on Bunmeido cakes. Not only did I grow up eating it one of my aunts worked there at the front counter for a few years. Made the addiction even worse since they loved to spoil us kids when ever we came in to see my aunt. They would load us up with the not so perfect product. Believe me they may not have looked picture perfect but they tasted just as good! I miss that place and the cakes.

  • December 8, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Too bad, I went there last April 2011 only to find they closed. Had been open April 2010. :(

  • February 12, 2012 at 8:46 am

    I love Japanese type cakes. I like the light texture and the fact they aren’t sicky sweet, even their frosting. I lived on Okinawa in the late 80’s to the late 90’s and lived in Hawaii on and off from the early 60’s to the mid 80’s. I would have loved to find that shop! I just returned from a trip to Okinawa and had the best cake at of all places Lawson’s, a 7-11 type store quick shop. My daughter bought it on the way home from the airport at Naha and we had more on our trips around the island. My mouth is watering right now thinking about it. I should be going to Hawaii in the not to distant future and will find the shop!! Thanks for the great piece, I just found your blog and I love it. Keep up the great work. You have a new follower.

    • February 12, 2012 at 8:49 am

      BTW, I have a sweet tooth that won’t stop and love pies, cakes, cookies and adore donuts. (Hot Malasadas, yum!) So I was really surprised how much I loved the Japanese cake. *L*

  • April 7, 2017 at 5:52 am

    Nate, I’m half with u. LOVE heavy cakes , but I still like this too ~sigh childhood~


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