Flavors Include: Vanilla Chai Tea, Chocolate Bourbon Pecan and Nutella
By Korina Leong, Senior Staff Writer
Matt Arellano, Photographer
Kellie Miyazu and Rose Navalta, Graphic Designers
A new cupcake bakery has recently opened in the Manono Street Marketplace called Cupcakes, BOOM!
Hilo resident and owner Nikki Kekaualua explains that she is a self-taught passionate baker that felt Hilo needed, and was more than ready for, a cupcake shop. Cupcakes, BOOM! features a variety of flavors daily that gives them an advantage over other cupcake shops and the variety keeps their customers happy.
Kainoa Thornton, Hawai’i Community College Culinary graduate, is the Cupcakes, BOOM! baker. Thornton reveals that Hawaii Community College’s two year program has taught him everything he needed to know in order to be successful post-graduation in the culinary world. In the culinary program, the first year consists of working in the Hawaii Community College cafeteria in all possible positions. The second year consists of working in the cafeteria and cafe developing “show order cooking” and the third year students work in the on-campus gourmet restaurant, Bamboo Hale in all positions including creating three-course meals. He continues on to explain that the program requires hard work but that there are lots of opportunities and employers who inquire about possible student employees. Hawaii Community College’s chefs try to be helpful towards their students and even offer time to practice before and after class.
Although the program is designed to teach students versatility, Thornton always preferred baking and was more than happy to join the Cupcakes, BOOM! team. “The job is stressful but Nikki is considerate and allows us the freedom to try new ideas.” One of Thornton’s jobs is to collaborate on weekly menus. When time allows, Thornton also bakes brownies and their popular mini-cheesecakes. Thornton’s top three favorite cupcakes are vanilla chai tea, chocolate bourbon pecan and Nutella.
Tori Hiro graduated from the culinary program with honors and is Cupcakes, BOOM!’s decorator. She helps build and fill special order cakes as well as frost cupcakes with buttercream, icings and ganache. Hiro excitedly explains that working at Cupcakes, BOOM! was a great fit for her not only because she was able to work with her classmates but also because it has a great atmosphere where she is allowed to hone her skills and be as creative as she wants, especially when it comes to deciding what decoration will go on the unique cupcakes that Cupcakes, BOOM! offers. With the daily cupcake flavor change Hiro estimates that they have already tried about 100 flavors. Tori’s favorite flavors are the liliko’i, pine-berry (pineapple and strawberry) and the vanilla chai tea cupcakes.
When asked how they come up with such creative cupcakes, like the sweet lemon tang (lemon cupcake topped with lemon buttercream, strawberry drizzle and a lemon wedge), the cupcake burger (vanilla cupcake with a brownie center) and fruity pebble cupcake, both Kekaualua and Thornton divulge that anything and everything is an inspiration. All of the employees are already experienced, mixing various flavors. All that’s left is the fun part… trial and error. Some cupcakes aren’t always as popular with the customers, such as the carrot cake and lavender honey cupcakes, so they are no longer sold. Kekaualua is excited about the next new flavor that they will launch called the green goddess which will integrate the Naked drink. She hopes that this cupcake will exceed customer expectation. Kekaualua’s favorite cupcakes are the pumpkin, li hing mui mango and cookies and cream, but explains that the shop’s most popular cupcakes are liliko’i, Reese’s and strawberry.
UH Hilo agriculture and agroecology student Kodie Solis-Kalani enjoys Cupcakes, BOOM! because of the variety and creativity of the different flavored cupcakes. Cupcakes, BOOM! has brought a little bit of fun to Hilo and can’t wait to see what other flavors they come up with. Allie Burian, biology student, loves the concept of Cupcakes, BOOM and enjoys their cupcakes. Her favorite is the red velvet divine, “perfect amount of chocolate and the cream cheese frosting is on point.”
UH Alumni Lei Kawelohas frequented Cupcakes, BOOM! often since their opening and has also ordered a Finding Nemo themed cake for her son’s first birthday party. Her favorite cupcakes are the coconut and the red velvet divine. She enjoys the liliko’i flavored cupcakes as well but says it’s a little sweet for her taste.
Kekaualua currently employs three Hawaii Community College culinary graduates and has one UH Hilo intern.
She explains that the great thing about working with culinary students is that they are experienced in the kitchen and extremely easy to work with. If interested in being an intern at Cupcakes, BOOM! please e-mail your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fondant or cream cakes can be special ordered by calling (808) 430-1653. Their website is currently under construction but follow their instagram @cupcakesboom and facebook page http://www.facebook.com/CupcakesBoom for their weekly menu.