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From above, a plate with four different pastries in various textures and shapes
Breadshop pastry box
Martha Cheng

The 16 Essential O‘ahu Bakeries

Where to find the best roll cakes, coco puffs, ensaimadas, and poi mochi donuts

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Breadshop pastry box
| Martha Cheng

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.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Paalaa Kai Bakery

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Paalaa Kai is one of those bakeries with one superstar product. Don’t let the other goods in the case distract you — just order the snow puffy, a puff pastry almost as light as cotton candy, layered with cold custard and topped with a squiggle of chocolate ganache and a dusting of powdered sugar. Eat it cold for the best textural contrast.

From above, a pastry case full of snow puffs (rectangular layered treats topped with powdered sugar and squiggly chocolate ganache)
Snow puffs
Martha Cheng

Valerio’s Tropical Bakeshop

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The one thing you must not miss at this Filipino bakery, an import from California, is the ube cheese pandesal. Crunchy breadcrumbs just on the verge of burnt coat the outside of the fluffy vibrant-purple bun, which gives way to a cream cheese center. Other bakeries offer their own versions, but none comes close to Valerio’s.

Two filled puffed pastries, with crackly crusts and bright purple filling, wrapped in paper
Ube cheese pandesal
Martha Cheng

The Alley Restaurant at Aiea Bowl

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Some of O‘ahu’s best cakes come from inside a bowling alley. The hits at the Alley Restaurant include lemon crunch cake and two styles of chocolate cake: the light Mama Miya’s version with chocolate chiffon and chocolate mousse, and the decadent Chocolate Insanity, six layers of rich cake and frosting. Chef Shane Masutani used to work at Diamond Head Market & Grill, so you’ll find some similar sweets, but Alley provides enough unique offerings to make it worth a separate trip.

A slice of layered chocolate cake laying on a plate on a black background
Chocolate Insanity cake at the Alley Restaurant
The Alley Restaurant at Aiea Bowl [Facebook]

Lee’s Bakery & Kitchen

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Lee’s Bakery, which is over 30 years old, is famous for its custard pies; it sells almost 3,000 of them each Thanksgiving. In pre-pandemic years, the bakery didn’t take preorders, prompting hours-long lines outside (and at least one instance of a customer camping out overnight), but now you can preorder a pie. Ideally, pick one up just after 8 a.m., when they emerge from the oven. But even cold, it’s wonderful — a smooth-as-silk custard, just barely firm enough to be sliced, cradled in a tender crust.

Liliha Bakery

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Five years ago, Liliha Bakery introduced poi mochi donuts, fluffy yet chewy rings that now (almost) rival the shop’s decades-long best-seller, coco puffs — cream puffs filled with chocolate pudding and topped with chantilly frosting. Liliha also offers a cross section of Hawai‘i’s favorite traditional bakery items, including ensaimadas, doughnuts, and filled malassadas.

A filled, lit-up pastry case, with employees working behind, and the name Liliha Bakery in big block letters on the back wall
Inside Liliha Bakery
Martha Cheng

Artizen by MW

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Artizen, a bakery and cafe from the wife-and-husband team Michelle Karr Ueoka and Wade Ueoka of MW Restaurant, recently moved to new digs in a luxury car showroom. Whether you’re in the market for a new flashy car or not, definitely make a stop at Artizen’s pastry case, where a frequently changing array of cakes includes Michelle’s riffs on local favorite sweets, such as a strawberry Jell-O chiffon cake and nostalgic tricolor rainbow cake. Don’t miss the chocolate buttermilk cake.

A slice of Jell-O cake on a plain plate, with bright blobs embedded in a creamy center, frosted topping and a bright flower for garnish
Jell-O chiffon cake
Martha Cheng

Brug Bakery

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It’s self-serve at this Hokkaido-based bakery. Take your pick from row after row of sweet and savory treats, including an pan (a baked bun filled with sweetened azuki paste) and curry pan (a doughnut filled with Japanese beef curry). The shokupan bread is soft as a marshmallow; you’ll get more chew from mochi treats like black sesame mochi doughnuts and chocolate mochi bread.

A pastry case with wooden boxes containing various muffins, cookies, and sweets wrapped individually in celophane
The pastry case at Brug Bakery
Martha Cheng

Patisserie La Palme D’Or

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Here you’ll find Japanese cakes, airy, delicate, and less sweet than their Western counterparts. Best-sellers include the quintessential Japanese strawberry shortcake — layers of sponge cake, whipped cream, fresh strawberries — and Mont Blanc, a chestnut-whipped-cream dome over a center of chestnut paste atop an almond sponge cake. But one cannot live on cake alone. The croissant sandwiches and jelly drinks are also terrific.

Small cakes on individual cake plates, covered in white frosting, with bright strawberry slices on top
Strawberry shortcake from La Palme D’Or
La Palme D’Or [Facebook]

Kulu Kulu

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At this Japanese dessert shop, you’ll find the best strawberry roll in town — a sponge cake rolled around a whipped-cream cloud and fresh strawberries. It’s so light that one slice is barely enough — best to just get the whole roll. While La Palme D’Or may be superior for some classic sweets, Kulu Kulu offers more novel desserts. The playful “loco moco,” for example, looks just like a mini version of the iconic Hawai‘i dish, with a cream puff as the hamburger patty, caramel sauce for the gravy, and mango jelly and whipped cream shaped into a sunny-side-up egg.

From above, a decorative plate topped with half an intact rolled pastry dusted with sugar and with fruit in the center, and several slices laid out beside to show the interior
Strawberry roll at Kulu Kulu
Martha Cheng

Kona Coffee Purveyors | B. Patisserie

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This cafe in Waikiki’s International Marketplace is also an outpost of B. Patisserie, the San Francisco bakery that helped make kouign amann famous in the U.S. Find the layered, caramelized sugar pastry in flavors including black sesame, as well as a liliko‘i bostock and a decadent chocolate-banana-almond croissant.

A pastry case with a variety of items and little individual labels, with workers behind
Inside b.patisserie
Martha Cheng

Nanding’s Bakery

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Fernando Paez (nicknamed Nanding) came from the Philippines to Honolulu in 1996 and started selling his baked goods at bus stops. Now Nanding’s Spanish rolls are so beloved they’re found in 7-Elevens across the state. But it’s best to get them straight from the bakery, where the soft rolls emerge warm, the molten butter of their salty-sweet centers quickly seeping through the brown paper bag.

Three long twisted pastries on a dark plate
Spanish rolls at Nanding’s Bakery
Martha Cheng

Diamond Head Market & Grill

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Diamond Head Market is one of Honolulu’s most beloved bakeries. Locals come here for the blueberry cream cheese scones (more like muffin tops) and lemon crunch cake, another dessert Hawai‘i has popularized and made its own. To create the latter, soft cake is layered with lemon curd and topped with crushed toffee bits, making for contrast in textures and sweet-tart flavors.

Breadshop

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Owner Chris Sy, who was singled out in the Alinea cookbook for his dedication and perfectionism when he worked with Grant Achatz at Trio, applies that same focus to breads and pastries at Breadshop. In addition to a classic lineup of country breads and croissants, he also subtly folds Hawai‘i flavors into some of his burnished carbs, in items like furikake focaccia or a croissant with spinach and taegu (candied codfish). Pastries are available in boxed assortments, but during the pandemic, all orders must be placed in advance online.

From above, a plate with four different pastries
Breadshop pastry box
Martha Cheng

The Local General Store

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Hawai‘i’s local fruits are an unfortunate rarity in Honolulu bakeries. Harley Tunac wants to change that. She and her fiance, Jason Chow, a butcher and Eater Young Gun, met at the now-shuttered Aina in San Francisco and returned home to Honolulu at the end of 2019 to start a butcher shop and bakery. The pandemic altered those plans, and now the two sell meat and pastries out of Kaimuki Superette on Sundays. Chow’s products find their way into Tunac’s savory treats, such as in a Kualoa Ranch ham and cheddar pastry and a house-made pork floss and scallion Danish. Check Instagram for the weekly menu, which might include Manoa Chocolate croissants, kumquat doughnut twists, or pirie mango buns.

A paper box sitting open to reveal a variety of baked treats and cookies
Pastry box from the Local General Store
Martha Cheng

Pipeline Bakeshop & Creamery

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If you get only one thing from Pipeline, it should be a malassada, fried to order. It’s more fluffy than doughy but still carries some heft, and it’s especially excellent dusted in li hing, a sweet-and-sour plum powder. If you have space for more sweets, try the cake bomb, a mini Bundt cake that comes in flavors like strawberry guava. Pipeline also serves an exemplary version of the beloved pumpkin crunch, which consists of a pecan crumble crust topped with a tall layer of pumpkin and an equally lofty layer of whipped topping.

From above, an open cardboard box filled with five dark, sugar-dusted doughnuts separated by paper filling
Pipeline malassadas
Martha Cheng

Nene Goose Bakery

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At this neighborhood gem in Kailua, the green-flecked spinach shokupan (square, soft Japanese sandwich bread) is the first to sell out by early morning. The other get-it-if-you-can item at this family-run bakery is the mochi an pan, a baked bun filled with sweetened azuki paste and chewy mochi. If you prefer savory treats, try the salmon and spinach roll topped with cheese.

Paalaa Kai Bakery

From above, a pastry case full of snow puffs (rectangular layered treats topped with powdered sugar and squiggly chocolate ganache)
Snow puffs
Martha Cheng

Paalaa Kai is one of those bakeries with one superstar product. Don’t let the other goods in the case distract you — just order the snow puffy, a puff pastry almost as light as cotton candy, layered with cold custard and topped with a squiggle of chocolate ganache and a dusting of powdered sugar. Eat it cold for the best textural contrast.

From above, a pastry case full of snow puffs (rectangular layered treats topped with powdered sugar and squiggly chocolate ganache)
Snow puffs
Martha Cheng

Valerio’s Tropical Bakeshop

Two filled puffed pastries, with crackly crusts and bright purple filling, wrapped in paper
Ube cheese pandesal
Martha Cheng

The one thing you must not miss at this Filipino bakery, an import from California, is the ube cheese pandesal. Crunchy breadcrumbs just on the verge of burnt coat the outside of the fluffy vibrant-purple bun, which gives way to a cream cheese center. Other bakeries offer their own versions, but none comes close to Valerio’s.

Two filled puffed pastries, with crackly crusts and bright purple filling, wrapped in paper
Ube cheese pandesal
Martha Cheng

The Alley Restaurant at Aiea Bowl

A slice of layered chocolate cake laying on a plate on a black background
Chocolate Insanity cake at the Alley Restaurant
The Alley Restaurant at Aiea Bowl [Facebook]

Some of O‘ahu’s best cakes come from inside a bowling alley. The hits at the Alley Restaurant include lemon crunch cake and two styles of chocolate cake: the light Mama Miya’s version with chocolate chiffon and chocolate mousse, and the decadent Chocolate Insanity, six layers of rich cake and frosting. Chef Shane Masutani used to work at Diamond Head Market & Grill, so you’ll find some similar sweets, but Alley provides enough unique offerings to make it worth a separate trip.

A slice of layered chocolate cake laying on a plate on a black background
Chocolate Insanity cake at the Alley Restaurant
The Alley Restaurant at Aiea Bowl [Facebook]

Lee’s Bakery & Kitchen

Lee’s Bakery, which is over 30 years old, is famous for its custard pies; it sells almost 3,000 of them each Thanksgiving. In pre-pandemic years, the bakery didn’t take preorders, prompting hours-long lines outside (and at least one instance of a customer camping out overnight), but now you can preorder a pie. Ideally, pick one up just after 8 a.m., when they emerge from the oven. But even cold, it’s wonderful — a smooth-as-silk custard, just barely firm enough to be sliced, cradled in a tender crust.

Liliha Bakery

A filled, lit-up pastry case, with employees working behind, and the name Liliha Bakery in big block letters on the back wall
Inside Liliha Bakery
Martha Cheng

Five years ago, Liliha Bakery introduced poi mochi donuts, fluffy yet chewy rings that now (almost) rival the shop’s decades-long best-seller, coco puffs — cream puffs filled with chocolate pudding and topped with chantilly frosting. Liliha also offers a cross section of Hawai‘i’s favorite traditional bakery items, including ensaimadas, doughnuts, and filled malassadas.

A filled, lit-up pastry case, with employees working behind, and the name Liliha Bakery in big block letters on the back wall
Inside Liliha Bakery
Martha Cheng

Artizen by MW

A slice of Jell-O cake on a plain plate, with bright blobs embedded in a creamy center, frosted topping and a bright flower for garnish
Jell-O chiffon cake
Martha Cheng

Artizen, a bakery and cafe from the wife-and-husband team Michelle Karr Ueoka and Wade Ueoka of MW Restaurant, recently moved to new digs in a luxury car showroom. Whether you’re in the market for a new flashy car or not, definitely make a stop at Artizen’s pastry case, where a frequently changing array of cakes includes Michelle’s riffs on local favorite sweets, such as a strawberry Jell-O chiffon cake and nostalgic tricolor rainbow cake. Don’t miss the chocolate buttermilk cake.

A slice of Jell-O cake on a plain plate, with bright blobs embedded in a creamy center, frosted topping and a bright flower for garnish
Jell-O chiffon cake
Martha Cheng

Brug Bakery

A pastry case with wooden boxes containing various muffins, cookies, and sweets wrapped individually in celophane
The pastry case at Brug Bakery
Martha Cheng

It’s self-serve at this Hokkaido-based bakery. Take your pick from row after row of sweet and savory treats, including an pan (a baked bun filled with sweetened azuki paste) and curry pan (a doughnut filled with Japanese beef curry). The shokupan bread is soft as a marshmallow; you’ll get more chew from mochi treats like black sesame mochi doughnuts and chocolate mochi bread.

A pastry case with wooden boxes containing various muffins, cookies, and sweets wrapped individually in celophane
The pastry case at Brug Bakery
Martha Cheng

Patisserie La Palme D’Or

Small cakes on individual cake plates, covered in white frosting, with bright strawberry slices on top
Strawberry shortcake from La Palme D’Or
La Palme D’Or [Facebook]

Here you’ll find Japanese cakes, airy, delicate, and less sweet than their Western counterparts. Best-sellers include the quintessential Japanese strawberry shortcake — layers of sponge cake, whipped cream, fresh strawberries — and Mont Blanc, a chestnut-whipped-cream dome over a center of chestnut paste atop an almond sponge cake. But one cannot live on cake alone. The croissant sandwiches and jelly drinks are also terrific.

Small cakes on individual cake plates, covered in white frosting, with bright strawberry slices on top
Strawberry shortcake from La Palme D’Or
La Palme D’Or [Facebook]

Kulu Kulu

From above, a decorative plate topped with half an intact rolled pastry dusted with sugar and with fruit in the center, and several slices laid out beside to show the interior
Strawberry roll at Kulu Kulu
Martha Cheng

At this Japanese dessert shop, you’ll find the best strawberry roll in town — a sponge cake rolled around a whipped-cream cloud and fresh strawberries. It’s so light that one slice is barely enough — best to just get the whole roll. While La Palme D’Or may be superior for some classic sweets, Kulu Kulu offers more novel desserts. The playful “loco moco,” for example, looks just like a mini version of the iconic Hawai‘i dish, with a cream puff as the hamburger patty, caramel sauce for the gravy, and mango jelly and whipped cream shaped into a sunny-side-up egg.

From above, a decorative plate topped with half an intact rolled pastry dusted with sugar and with fruit in the center, and several slices laid out beside to show the interior
Strawberry roll at Kulu Kulu
Martha Cheng

Kona Coffee Purveyors | B. Patisserie

A pastry case with a variety of items and little individual labels, with workers behind
Inside b.patisserie
Martha Cheng

This cafe in Waikiki’s International Marketplace is also an outpost of B. Patisserie, the San Francisco bakery that helped make kouign amann famous in the U.S. Find the layered, caramelized sugar pastry in flavors including black sesame, as well as a liliko‘i bostock and a decadent chocolate-banana-almond croissant.

A pastry case with a variety of items and little individual labels, with workers behind
Inside b.patisserie
Martha Cheng

Nanding’s Bakery

Three long twisted pastries on a dark plate
Spanish rolls at Nanding’s Bakery
Martha Cheng

Fernando Paez (nicknamed Nanding) came from the Philippines to Honolulu in 1996 and started selling his baked goods at bus stops. Now Nanding’s Spanish rolls are so beloved they’re found in 7-Elevens across the state. But it’s best to get them straight from the bakery, where the soft rolls emerge warm, the molten butter of their salty-sweet centers quickly seeping through the brown paper bag.

Three long twisted pastries on a dark plate
Spanish rolls at Nanding’s Bakery
Martha Cheng

Diamond Head Market & Grill

Diamond Head Market is one of Honolulu’s most beloved bakeries. Locals come here for the blueberry cream cheese scones (more like muffin tops) and lemon crunch cake, another dessert Hawai‘i has popularized and made its own. To create the latter, soft cake is layered with lemon curd and topped with crushed toffee bits, making for contrast in textures and sweet-tart flavors.

Breadshop

From above, a plate with four different pastries
Breadshop pastry box
Martha Cheng

Owner Chris Sy, who was singled out in the Alinea cookbook for his dedication and perfectionism when he worked with Grant Achatz at Trio, applies that same focus to breads and pastries at Breadshop. In addition to a classic lineup of country breads and croissants, he also subtly folds Hawai‘i flavors into some of his burnished carbs, in items like furikake focaccia or a croissant with spinach and taegu (candied codfish). Pastries are available in boxed assortments, but during the pandemic, all orders must be placed in advance online.

From above, a plate with four different pastries
Breadshop pastry box
Martha Cheng

The Local General Store

A paper box sitting open to reveal a variety of baked treats and cookies
Pastry box from the Local General Store
Martha Cheng

Hawai‘i’s local fruits are an unfortunate rarity in Honolulu bakeries. Harley Tunac wants to change that. She and her fiance, Jason Chow, a butcher and Eater Young Gun, met at the now-shuttered Aina in San Francisco and returned home to Honolulu at the end of 2019 to start a butcher shop and bakery. The pandemic altered those plans, and now the two sell meat and pastries out of Kaimuki Superette on Sundays. Chow’s products find their way into Tunac’s savory treats, such as in a Kualoa Ranch ham and cheddar pastry and a house-made pork floss and scallion Danish. Check Instagram for the weekly menu, which might include Manoa Chocolate croissants, kumquat doughnut twists, or pirie mango buns.

A paper box sitting open to reveal a variety of baked treats and cookies
Pastry box from the Local General Store
Martha Cheng

Pipeline Bakeshop & Creamery

From above, an open cardboard box filled with five dark, sugar-dusted doughnuts separated by paper filling
Pipeline malassadas
Martha Cheng

If you get only one thing from Pipeline, it should be a malassada, fried to order. It’s more fluffy than doughy but still carries some heft, and it’s especially excellent dusted in li hing, a sweet-and-sour plum powder. If you have space for more sweets, try the cake bomb, a mini Bundt cake that comes in flavors like strawberry guava. Pipeline also serves an exemplary version of the beloved pumpkin crunch, which consists of a pecan crumble crust topped with a tall layer of pumpkin and an equally lofty layer of whipped topping.

From above, an open cardboard box filled with five dark, sugar-dusted doughnuts separated by paper filling
Pipeline malassadas
Martha Cheng

Related Maps

Nene Goose Bakery

At this neighborhood gem in Kailua, the green-flecked spinach shokupan (square, soft Japanese sandwich bread) is the first to sell out by early morning. The other get-it-if-you-can item at this family-run bakery is the mochi an pan, a baked bun filled with sweetened azuki paste and chewy mochi. If you prefer savory treats, try the salmon and spinach roll topped with cheese.