When it comes to some food items, there can be too much of a good thing. However, this rarely applies to dessert. At King's Hawaiian Bakery & Restaurant in Torrance, the signature dessert is their Hawaiian paradise cake, so popluar that the cake's colorful layers also appear in cheesecake and bundt cake form.
We distinctly remember the first slice of Hawaiian Paradise cake we ever had, it was that visually overwhelming. Three layers of vivid sponge cake in the colors of guava, passion fruit and lime covered in whipped cream frosting. On top is a glaze, stripped in the same three colors. But the cake is more than just fun with food coloring, as each layer really does taste like the fruit it's emulating. Really.
For the layer cake, the most unmistakable flavor is guava. The funkiness of the tropical fruit is complimented by the tangy and citrusy notes from the layers of passion fruit and lime. As a fork cuts through a slice, the thin sweet glaze spreads throughout the cake uniting the flavors. The whipped cream frosting is not as ethereal as those found in Chinese bakeries, by the heft is well utilized as it keeps all three springy layers stuck together, and prevents them from bouncing off the plate.
Hawaiian food is anything but subtle and no member of the Hawaiian paradise cake family exemplifies this more than the cheesecake. The color striations border on cartoonish, making a slice appear almost plastic. As it turns out, the texture is actually light and the graham cracker crust is slight and barely sweet so it doesn't distract from the flavors in the filling.
For this reason, it is the cheesecake that makes the most of the fruity nature of this dessert. The creaminess tames the guava funk, allowing the passion fruit to become more pronounced while the lime keeps the whole thing from becoming cloying. Like most cheesecakes it is best when served cold, which sharpens the flavors to a point where the cake tastes almost like a fruity ice cream sundae.
While we hardly endorse the semi-homemade lifestyle, we can appreciate certain culinary efficiencies. That is why the Hawaiian paradise we have been picking up most often as of late has been the bundt cake. Out of the three, the bundt looks the least impressive at the bakery. It is sold without frosting or glaze and it comes encased in cling wrap. But it is not until we took it home and paired it with our favorite crème anglaise recipe that we realized that we had found the ideal way to enjoy a slice.
Although Kings Hawaiian calls it a bundt cake, the texture is more like an angel food cake but without the chalkiness that comes with most of the store bough ones. The crumb is soft and even a touch moist. When laid on the crème anglaise, it absorbs the sauce but doesn't become sodden. And although the fruit flavors are more muted in this version, they still manage to come through despite our tendency to dredge each bite in the sauce. And when all those tropical flavors combined, we realized why this piece of cake could be called paradise.