Otto Cake settles into new digs
BY NINA WU/ firstname.lastname@example.org
After moving from his previous space in Chinatown earlier this year, Otto Cake is bringing back old favorites and creating new sweets at his shop on 12th Avenue in Kaimuki.
Otto reopened his doors on the Fourth of July, which is symbolic because July 4 was also the day he opened the first Otto Cake on Smith Street in Chinatown four years ago. After he and an employee were assaulted by drug dealers in the neighborhood, Otto decided to relocate.
1127 12th Ave.
Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; also 10 a.m. to 7 pm.. Fridays and Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays
Customers will find a much more spacious storefront in Kaimuki, outfitted with the same tall tables and stools placed next to well-lit windows. Some familiar decor has made its way to the new shop, including the multi-colored, diamond-pattered drapes, vintage chandelier and colorful papier mache dots (inspired by a Gucci purse) on the walls.
On the counter, Otto still has his retro, red cash register — which still takes cash only.
The new kitchen in Kaimuki is more than twice the size of the old one, and Otto recently invested in a second oven to bake even more cheesecakes. He still has wholesale customers, including Soul de Cuba and Downbeat Diner.
Otto continues to make more than 200 different varieties of cheesecakes from scratch. The flavors rotate daily. He uses real butter, cream cheese and fruit — and stirs all of the batter by hand. His personal favorite is Orange Chocolate Chip, but plain is the biggest seller.
The latest new offering is Cookie Butter cheesecake, which is the first new flavor he’s introduced in the Kaimuki shop. This month, he’s also offering an Oktoberfest Chocolate Cheesecake. Pumpkin cheesecake will be available from now until the end of the year.
He also brought back popular items like cheesecake sandwiches ($5), along with carrot cake ($5), coffee cake and brownies ($2). Iced coffees, lattes, mochas ($4) and chocolate espresso shakes ($5) are also available, along with a new, fresh-squeezed, strawberry ginger lemonade ($2).
For Halloween — which also happens to be his birthday — Otto will offer an array of candy-inspired flavors, including Nestle’s Crunch Bar, Butterfinger, PB Cup, Raisinets, Snickers, Candy Corn, 3D (blue and red velvet) plus Caramel Apple.
Prices are $5 per slice; $15 for a six-inch cake; $27 for an eight-inch cake; and $35 for a 10-inch cake.
The Star-Advertiser sat down with Otto last week to chat about his new Kaimuki digs.
HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER: How do you like Kaimuki?
OTTO: I’ve never felt so welcomed anywhere in my life. I came in, just opened the door and it was like, “Thank you for coming here.”
I love this area. I actually had an art gallery at Workspace, so I kind of know this area. I’m sorry I didn’t come here to begin with. I think more people should look here before they look anywhere else.
HSA: What do you love specifically about Kaimuki?
OTTO: The foot traffic and just the way the shops are. It looks like before there was an Ala Moana, you know, like how you used to shop. It still seems to be here and it’s survived that long. It’s not a strip mall but how you went shopping back in the day. … It’s like a quant, little town.
HSA: What was the first thing you did when you moved into this space?
OTTO: Make cake, honestly. I left (Smith Street) on Friday and we moved on Saturday and I started baking on Sunday. And then we opened on the Fourth of July.
HSA: Has Kaimuki inspired you to introduce anything new?
OTTO: I’ve done a lot of flavors since I’ve been here because I’m not fighting something. … These are the flavors for Halloween. Pumpkin is here, too. I came up with candy corn because the slice of cheesecake is in a triangle and then I thought, well that would be perfect.
The cheesecake sandwich went away, but I brought it back, and the coffee cake is back and also, the carrot cake. And I’m hoping to bring more things back, like the pineapple upside down cake and cupcakes. I still have kids come in here and say I have the best cheesecake cupcakes.
The things I wanted to do, I can do here. When I got the cheesecake sandwiches back, I was ecstatic.
HSA: You’re an artist (and singer in the band 86List). Do you see cheesecakes as an art?
OTTO: Oh, yeah, I’ve had cheesecakes as pieces in shows. Dating back to ’92, I’ve been doing art shows with cake in it.
HSA: So tell me how you come up with new flavors.
OTTO: I run a lot and go to the gym. I run, and that’s kind of a selfish thing to do, is run, because all you do is think. I came up with maple bacon because I remembered something else that happened that day on this TV show, this kid was mad because the bacon got maple syrup on it.
You’re running and things just happen. Movies are an inspiration. I like smoothies and combinations of different things in smoothies and incorporate that into my cheesecakes. I had a smoothie with strawberry, lime and basil and I’ve always liked that — and I did that in my cheesecake. It was refreshing.
HSA: How did you come up with cookie butter cheesecake?
OTTO: Because I read an article that cookie butter was impossible to get at Trader Joe’s, and so I thought, ‘Oh, it’s hard to get, and I did.’ The challenge of actually getting it is what inspired me.