story by Sheila Sarhangi
photo by Dana Edmunds
You could say that Abigail Langlas owes her career to the rain. The expert baker grew up in Hilo, where some 130 inches of water falls from the sky every year. Langlas spent much of her time as a girl indoors. “There wasn’t a lot to do, so baking was my hobby,” she says. When she reached the age of 10, she advanced from cookies to cakes.
At 20 she made another leap and enrolled in cooking classes in England. “I seemed to be good at it,” she explains with a humble shrug. She spent the next six years living in London and France, working alongside chefs at various hotels and in a patisserie. At 27 she returned to Hawai‘i and became a pastry chef, first for Alan Wong’s, then at the Honolulu Coffee Co.
Last July she opened Cake Works, at 2820 S. King St., out of a small building that bears a façade as curved as one of Langlas’ creations. Here she bakes an average of ten cakes a day to be consumed at birthdays, anniversaries and other cake-demanding celebrations; each week, another fifteen to twenty-five cakes are made for weddings.
But an ordinary bakery this is not. Langlas’ cakes are her canvases, her creative escapes. Take, for example, her self-dubbed “Mad Hatter” or “Alice in Wonderland” cakes. Picture four to seven layers, each at an angle and precariously stacked one on top of another. It’s a physics equation waiting to be solved. Other head turners include the “Leaning Tower of Pisa,” a 2-foot-high chocolate rum cake which offers another physics conundrum; a cake made into a Fendi purse of actual size and color; and a 2-foot-long convertible Mustang, replete with his-and-hers sugar figurines that resemble the car’s owners.
“I think a cake has to look and taste fantastic. Otherwise, what’s the point?” Langlas asks. True to that mission, all of her twenty-plus flavors are made from scratch, among them her best-selling red velvet cake, which is topped with a white chocolate/cream cheese frosting.
“I like to say good cake is sweet for the soul,” she professes, “because it can make you happy.”HH