by Joan Conrow
Pastry chef Kristin Leikam strives hard to keep a focus at her bakery, Cakes by Kristin.
“You cannot do both breads and cakes,” Kristin says. “We’re not going to stretch ourselves too thin. We’re strictly sweets.”
“And who doesn’t like sweets?” adds her husband Aaron, a chef at Hukilau Lanai and 22º North before joining the bakery.
That includes cake, of course — wedding cakes, birthday cakes, cupcakes, slices of cake, even unfrosted cake tops — and select cookies and pastries. Oh, and coffee, Hawaiian varieties only, and each cup ground and brewed to order.
Everything has to be “sophisticatedly yummy,” to use the bakery’s motto.
“We put a lot of thought into our product,” Aaron says. “We have recipes that are dear to us.”
Some were inherited from great-grandmothers, or tracked down from childhood memories.
“We have a molasses cookie following,” he says. “With a lot of people, they evoke a lot of emotion.”
The Leikams like knowing their food has that kind of effect on folks.
“Our customers make it worth doing,” Kristin says. “For us, it’s all about treating customers with love and kindness, and giving them great, consistent quality. We make absolutely everything we can possibly make right here. It’s all from scratch.”
That approach has paid off, building both a regular clientele and word-of-mouth referrals.
“The word’s getting out,” Kristin says. “There are definitely people excited about what we’re doing.”
Kristin, who has worked in restaurants for 20 years, began on Kaua`i by making wedding and specialty cakes for Gaylord’s, Hukilau Lanai and a few private customers.
“It just started growing and growing,” she says. Kristin created the dessert and bread menu for 22º North and began baking there, while looking for a space of her own.
She found it last August, when Icing on the Cake, in Wailua’s Kinipopo Shopping Village, was looking to quickly close. Kristin bought the equipment and was immediately in the kitchen making cakes to fulfill orders placed with the previous bakery.
“It was just the right time for us,” she says. “We couldn’t have asked for a better, smoother transition, for both parties concerned.”
Aaron came on board in November, allowing them to stay open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. “That easily tripled our walk-in business.” she says. “I think we’ve really expanded.”
The couple met in a restaurant, and in the 15 years since have nearly always worked and eaten together, including on a seven-month-long zigzag across America, sampling the best regional cuisine.
“We saved our money and sold everything we owned except our cookbooks, cooking equipment and a few clothes,” Aaron says.
Ultimately, Kristin and Aaron would like to merge that love of food with their cooking and baking talents in a restaurant of their own.
“One day we’d maybe like to have a small cafe,” she says. “That’s like our long-term dream.”
In the meantime, there’s cake. For information call 823-1210 or visit www.cakesbykristin.com. Cakes require a minimum 48-hour notice.