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King Hawaiian cake has become a staple at luaus and summer barbecues across the country. The sweet, buttery flavors and soft, pillowy texture make this cake a crowd favorite. If you’re wondering what makes King Hawaiian cake so special, and how to make it at home, you’ve come to the right place!

Here’s a quick answer: King Hawaiian cake gets its signature taste and texture from the unique way the dough is made. Extra egg yolks and butter give it a rich flavor, while a touch of sugar makes the cake sweet and tender. Traditional recipes also call for Hawaiian breadcrumbs in the batter. The cake is baked in a cast iron skillet, which helps create the soft, moist crumb.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about King Hawaiian cake, including its origins, ingredients, and step-by-step instructions for making this iconic sweet treat. We’ll also share tips for customizing your cake and storing leftovers.

By the end, you’ll be an expert on all things King Hawaiian cake. So let’s get started!

The History and Origins of King Hawaiian Cake

King Hawaiian Cake, a delicious and beloved dessert, has a fascinating history that dates back to the 1950s. It was created by Robert Taira, the founder of King Hawaiian Bakery in Hilo, Hawaii. Taira, a second-generation Japanese-American, had a passion for baking and wanted to share his love for Hawaiian flavors with the world.

The cake was inspired by his mother’s homemade haupia cake recipe

As Taira embarked on his journey to create a unique cake, he turned to his mother’s homemade haupia cake recipe for inspiration. Haupia is a traditional Hawaiian coconut pudding that is known for its creamy texture and rich coconut flavor. Taira incorporated this delicious element into his cake, giving it a distinct and delightful taste.

The cake was named after Taira’s bakery and grew in popularity over the years

When Taira first introduced his creation to the public, it was an instant hit. The cake’s moist texture, tropical flavors, and the perfect balance of sweetness captured the hearts and taste buds of locals and tourists alike. Taira decided to name the cake after his bakery, King Hawaiian, to honor its origins and the hard work that went into perfecting the recipe.

Over the years, King Hawaiian Cake grew in popularity and became a staple in Hawaiian cuisine. It became a symbol of celebration, bringing people together to commemorate special occasions such as birthdays, weddings, and holidays. The cake’s unique combination of flavors and its association with the warm and welcoming spirit of Hawaii made it a beloved dessert nationwide.

It became a mainstream commercial product in the 1990s

In the 1990s, King Hawaiian Cake made its way from local bakeries to mainstream commercial production. The demand for this delectable treat spread beyond the shores of Hawaii, and it became available in grocery stores across the United States. Today, King Hawaiian Cake is a household name, enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds.

Ingredients That Make King Hawaiian Cake Special

When it comes to a delicious and unique cake, King Hawaiian Cake stands out from the crowd. This mouthwatering dessert is made with a combination of carefully selected ingredients that give it its signature taste and texture. Let’s take a closer look at the ingredients that make King Hawaiian Cake so special.

Breadcrumbs from King Hawaiian sweet rolls add signature texture

One of the key ingredients that sets King Hawaiian Cake apart is the use of breadcrumbs made from their famous sweet rolls. These breadcrumbs give the cake a unique and delightful texture that is both moist and slightly chewy. The use of these breadcrumbs also adds a subtle sweetness to the cake, enhancing its overall flavor.

Extra egg yolks give the cake a rich, creamy flavor

Another secret to the deliciousness of King Hawaiian Cake is the addition of extra egg yolks. These yolks not only contribute to the cake’s rich and creamy flavor but also help to create a moist and tender crumb. The combination of the egg yolks and the sweet roll breadcrumbs gives the cake a luxurious and indulgent taste that is sure to impress.

Butter enhances the richness and moisture

Butter, a staple in many baking recipes, plays a crucial role in making King Hawaiian Cake extra special. The addition of butter not only enhances the richness of the cake but also contributes to its moistness. The butter adds a luscious and velvety texture to the cake, making each bite a truly decadent experience.

Sugar provides sweetness to balance the egg yolks

Sugar, as expected, is a vital ingredient in any cake. In the case of King Hawaiian Cake, the sugar works to balance the richness of the extra egg yolks. It provides a necessary sweetness that complements the creamy flavors of the cake. The right amount of sugar is crucial in achieving the perfect balance and ensuring that each bite is a delightful combination of flavors.

Vanilla and rum extracts add depth of flavor

To elevate the taste of King Hawaiian Cake even further, vanilla and rum extracts are used. These extracts add a depth of flavor that enhances the overall taste profile of the cake. The vanilla extract adds a sweet and aromatic note, while the rum extract brings a subtle hint of warmth and complexity. Together, these extracts create a truly unforgettable flavor experience.

By combining these carefully selected ingredients, King Hawaiian Cake becomes a truly special dessert. Each bite is a symphony of flavors and textures that will leave you craving for more. So, the next time you have a special occasion or simply want to treat yourself, don’t hesitate to indulge in a slice of this extraordinary cake.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Making King Hawaiian Cake

1. Make the breadcrumb mixture and set aside

To start making a delicious King Hawaiian Cake, you’ll first need to create a breadcrumb mixture. You can use store-bought breadcrumbs or make your own by toasting bread and then pulsing it in a food processor. Set the breadcrumb mixture aside until needed later in the recipe.

2. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy

In a large mixing bowl, cream together softened butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. This process incorporates air into the mixture, resulting in a lighter and more tender cake.

3. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition

Add the egg yolks, one at a time, to the creamed butter and sugar mixture. Beat well after each addition to ensure that the ingredients are fully incorporated. This step helps to create a smooth and uniform batter.

4. Stir in extracts, salt, and food coloring if using

Stir in your desired extracts, such as vanilla or almond, along with a pinch of salt. These ingredients enhance the flavor of the cake. If desired, you can also add a few drops of food coloring to give your King Hawaiian Cake a vibrant touch.

5. Fold in flour alternately with milk

Alternately fold in the flour mixture and milk into the batter. Start with a portion of the flour, then add some milk, and continue until all the ingredients are incorporated. This method helps to create a smooth and well-mixed batter.

6. Fold in breadcrumb mixture gently by hand

Gently fold in the breadcrumb mixture by hand. This step adds texture and a slightly crunchy element to the cake. The breadcrumbs also help to retain moisture, giving the cake a tender and moist crumb.

7. Pour batter into a well-greased cast iron skillet

Grease a cast iron skillet generously with butter or cooking spray. Pour the cake batter into the skillet, spreading it evenly. The cast iron skillet provides even heat distribution, resulting in a perfectly baked King Hawaiian Cake.

8. Bake at 325°F for about 1 hour until golden brown

Preheat your oven to 325°F (163°C) and bake the cake for approximately 1 hour, or until it turns golden brown. Keep in mind that baking time may vary depending on your oven, so it’s always a good idea to check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, the cake is done.

9. Let cake cool completely before frosting and serving

Once the cake is baked, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool completely in the skillet. This cooling period is essential to prevent the frosting from melting when applied. Once cooled, you can frost the cake with your favorite icing or serve it as is for a simple and delightful treat.

Tips for Customizing Your King Hawaiian Cake

One of the great things about King Hawaiian Cake is that it can be easily customized to suit your taste preferences. Here are some tips to help you personalize your cake and make it even more delicious:

Substitute rum extract for a non-alcoholic vanilla extract

If you prefer to avoid alcohol or simply don’t have rum extract on hand, you can easily substitute it with a non-alcoholic vanilla extract. This will give your cake a rich and aromatic flavor without the alcohol content. You can find non-alcoholic vanilla extract at your local grocery store or online.

Add citrus zest or coconut flakes to the batter

To add a burst of citrusy or tropical flavor to your King Hawaiian Cake, consider adding some citrus zest or coconut flakes to the batter. The zest of oranges, lemons, or limes can add a refreshing and tangy note, while coconut flakes can provide a subtle hint of tropical sweetness. Mix them into the batter before baking for a delightful twist.

Frost with whipped cream cheese or haupia (coconut) frosting

While King Hawaiian Cake is delicious on its own, adding a layer of frosting can take it to the next level. For a creamy and tangy option, try frosting your cake with whipped cream cheese. The smooth and slightly tangy cream cheese flavor pairs perfectly with the sweet and fluffy cake. Alternatively, you can use haupia frosting, which is a traditional Hawaiian coconut pudding. The rich coconut flavor of haupia adds a tropical touch to your cake.

Decorate the top with pineapple slices or macadamia nuts

For a visually appealing and flavorful touch, consider decorating the top of your King Hawaiian Cake with pineapple slices or macadamia nuts. Pineapple slices not only add a vibrant and tropical look but also infuse the cake with their sweet and tangy flavor. Macadamia nuts, on the other hand, provide a delightful crunch and a buttery taste that complements the cake perfectly.

Bake in a Bundt pan for a different presentation

If you want to give your King Hawaiian Cake a different shape and presentation, try baking it in a Bundt pan. The unique ring shape of the Bundt pan will not only make your cake look impressive but also ensure even baking and a moist texture. Plus, the ridges of the pan will create beautiful patterns on the surface of the cake, adding an extra touch of elegance.

How to Store and Serve Leftover King Hawaiian Cake

Store tightly wrapped cake at room temperature up to 5 days

After indulging in a delicious King Hawaiian Cake, you may find yourself with some leftovers. To ensure the cake stays fresh, it’s important to properly store it. One option is to tightly wrap the cake in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and leave it at room temperature. This method allows the cake to retain its moisture and texture for up to 5 days.

Refrigerate up to 1 week for longer shelf life

If you anticipate not finishing the leftover cake within 5 days, refrigeration is the way to go. By placing the cake in an airtight container and storing it in the refrigerator, you can extend its shelf life for up to 1 week. The cool temperature helps to slow down the growth of bacteria and maintain the cake’s freshness.

Bring to room temperature before serving for best flavor and texture

When you’re ready to enjoy your leftover King Hawaiian Cake, it’s important to bring it back to room temperature before serving. This allows the cake to regain its original flavor and texture. Simply take the cake out of the refrigerator or remove the wrapping and let it sit at room temperature for about an hour. Once it has reached the desired temperature, you can savor its deliciousness once again.

Enjoy leftover cake for breakfast or dessert

Leftover King Hawaiian Cake is not just reserved for dessert. It can also make for a delightful breakfast treat. Pair a slice of cake with your morning coffee or tea for a sweet start to your day. The soft and fluffy texture of the cake, combined with its subtle sweetness, is the perfect way to kickstart your morning with a smile.

Use extra cake for trifle by cubing and layering with custard and fruit

If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can transform your leftover King Hawaiian Cake into a decadent trifle. Simply cube the cake into bite-sized pieces and layer them in a glass dish with custard and your favorite fruits. Repeat the layers until you’ve used up all the ingredients, and voila! You now have a stunning dessert that will impress your family and friends.

For more recipe ideas and inspiration, you can visit, where you’ll find a variety of mouthwatering recipes featuring King Hawaiian Cake.


With its sweet taste and melt-in-your-mouth texture, King Hawaiian cake has earned its reputation as a cherished Hawaiian classic. Now that you know the key ingredients and easy steps for making this iconic cake at home, you can share this special treat with family and friends. So next time you host a luau or summer picnic, be sure to bake up this crowdpleasing dessert. Aloha!

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