Saturday, January 19, 2008

Layer Cake Bakery - Irvine


Psst! There's a new Indonesian bakery in town. No, not really. It's just a bakery owned by Indonesians. But it is a good one started up by two sisters; one of them a trained baker who makes everything "from scratch." Those are their words, not mine.

She makes cakes slathered in cream cheese frosting, flaky croissants, and true Parisian macaroons. The latter looks like pastel-colored mini hamburgers, with a thin layer of flavored filling in between. But I like that they have cookies in actual cookie jars. One of them is called "Chocolate Sparkle"; a fat, crumbly thing packing a potent dark-cocoa wallop.

A browned, bulbous brioche called "Monkey Bread" is bronzed with cinnamon and sugar. Why is it called "Monkey Bread"? Maybe because to eat it, you tear one apart like a primate discovering use of opposable thumbs.

Their butter-crumbed cheese puffs has a coarse, granulated sugar topping that crunches between your teeth like crystals. The center of it is as hollow as a cavern, save for a small amount of salty cream cheese smeared on the walls.

As if you haven't already guessed, Layer Cake Bakery does European-style pastries, catering to the same crowd that Panera Bread panders to. The difference is that I'd actually pay for Layer Cake's products. And for the plaza it sits in, that makes two Indonesian businesses that don't do anything remotely Indonesian.

The other? Why, it's the Thai restaurant down the way called Thai Kitchen. No one in Irvine would've suspected they weren't from Thailand. And for a while, neither did I. That is, until one night when I heard them speak to each other.

But it all makes sense. In Irvine, French bakeries and Thai restaurants sell. Indonesian food? Not so much.

It makes one wonder: What else based in Irvine is surreptitiously fronted by an Indonesian? A food blog, perhaps?

Layer Cake Bakery
(949)786-0223
4250 Barranca Parkway, Ste. 1
Irvine, CA 92604

To read Chubbypanda's post on Layer Cake Bakery,
CLICK HERE
.

36 Comments:

At 11:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pardon me for the seemingly harsh comments, but the products are mediocre at best and the owner is rather unfriendly. What kind of shop owner never smiles and greets her customers? There are better bakeries and pastry shops around and my money will go there.

 
At 8:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thai Kitchen is owned and operated by Indonesian couple.
Even the cooks are indonesian.
Some of my friends used to work there.
Some of their food is more indonesian than thai.

 
At 9:38 PM, Blogger ilovepearly said...

mmmm.. I like to try some.

 
At 12:43 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

That chocolate cookie sounds yummy. But then, I am a woman, so I think that a love of chocolate is genetically encoded in me. The monkey bread sounds cool, too. Mostly because I like monkey.
It would be nice if they offered a few Indonesian baked goods, though, just so that people could try them. I would.

 
At 10:12 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Anon,

Hey, you have every right to want better service and a better product.

Anon2,

Which food is more Indonesian? I'd go back just for that. Also, word is that they're taking over El Conejo on Jeffrey and Walnut. It'll be their second Thai place in Irvine.

ilovepearly,

You should!

Juliet,

Tell me about it. And no one would even suspect it's Indonesian. Especially since some Indonesian baked goods sometimes have Dutch names.

 
At 10:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Elmo,
the food at thai kitchen, i think their fried rice is more "nasi goreng" and their royal thai noodle is more "mie goreng".
They have this dry noodle for lunch, I think I tried it once with my indo friend, and she said, taste like the one in indo.

 
At 4:24 PM, Blogger Cindy. Lo. said...

Wow I just stopped by that store the other day,
My friend was guessing that the girl is Singaporian,
I gonna go tell him that he's wrong!

 
At 11:58 PM, Blogger Chubbypanda said...

Elmo,

I love this place. I love it so much that instead of shelving my review, which is what I usually do when you scoop me (punk =b), I went ahead and published the one I've been working on anyway. Your readers can find it here.

I'm glad you like this place as much as I do. Hopefully it'll stick around for a quite a while yet.

BTW, in response to Anon2, although Thai Kitchen's owners are Indonesian, a recent article in the OC Register reveals that their chef is Thai. I make no comment about the quality of their food, but please explain why race equates to cooking skill. Does this mean Iron Chef French Hiroyuki Sakai can't cook French food? It doesn't. If you think the food at Thai kitchen sucks, then say it sucks. Race shouldn't enter into it.

 
At 10:06 AM, Anonymous inez said...

In response to Chubby Panda -- gawd, I miss the original Iron Chef. Sakai was my absolute favorite. Kind of a badass, too.

Love both your reviews; can't wait to try it!

 
At 11:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For Chubbypanda,
I'm not saying that the food at thai kitchen aren't good.
Their food are good, but for my Thai tongue, still I know that the food not original thai.
And I'm sure they have thai employee, since my friends are waitress overthere.
But the cooks are not, because between my friends and the cooks, they speaking english (since the cooks are indonesian).
But the owner, Joe, eventhough he is indonesian, but he speaks thai, since he learns to cook thai in Thailand.
I often buy food overthere via my friends (with 20%off, is good for college people like me, since their portion relatively generous and they only use white meat).
I even love their version of tom kha, which is very thick (good thick).

 
At 2:40 AM, Blogger digkv said...

WOw thanks elmo for the info on the macarons. Those are my absolute favorite confection and so far I've been getting them at Paris in a Cup but the rude service their may make me switch over and try some of Layer Cake's. Have you had a chance to try any of them yet?

 
At 7:44 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Anonymous,

Nasi goreng sounds awesome. That's a start. Now if they only did soto and gado-gado. Then we'd have something!

Cindy,

Tell him not to feel bad, because it really takes an Indonesian to detect that distinct accent. To anyone else, it would sound like any other Asian accent. As soon as I heard her talk, I knew she was Indonesian: a fact she confirmed when I asked her.

Chubbs, inez, and Anon2,

Au contraire. The fact that they're Indonesian means that they are automatically better chefs and bakers! HAHA!! In fact, there ought to be an Indonesian Iron Chef! Only kidding about the first part. Half kidding about the last part. ;-)

digkv,

Unfortunately, I haven't. But I can tell just by looking at them: they're good!

 
At 10:29 AM, Anonymous Marvin said...

you wily indonesians, never know where you are lurking;)

How were the macarons? I've only had macarons once, and I didn't see what all the craze was about. But maybe I just need to eat more macarons.

 
At 12:13 PM, Anonymous Emily said...

pastel-colored mini hamburgers

Yes well, that is the most perfect definition I've read in a long time. Do they do the coconut flavored ones? Perhaps they have mango, pineapple, papaya...oh please tell us more!

Macarons are a passion here in France.

 
At 1:00 PM, Blogger Graziella said...

thanks for thre review. I might drive there during my break today at work( work by the airport). Oh btw, have you gone to Blackmarket Bakery? Rachel, the pastry chef there, is super nice and the pastries are heavenly. They offer baking classes also and sell a really cool looking shirt. YOu should check it out if you haven't yet. It's close to Agora Churasccarria.
www.blackmarketbakery.com

 
At 1:12 AM, Blogger SiBuduhMan said...

Well, (un)fortunately, I've seen the Indonesian version of Iron Chef - I don't really know if it's still on; I saw it about 2.5 years ago. Pretty surreal, if you ask me.

 
At 10:19 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Marvin and Emily,

Sadly, as of this writing, I haven't tried the macaroons. But they sure do look delish! They're officially called French Almond Macaroons. And these are the flavors they come in.

- Raspberry
- Mocha
- Pistachio
- Vanilla

Okay, I've convinced myself to try some today. Hope I remember to take a picture before I scarf 'em.

Graziella,

Blackmarket's close to my office. And I love that name! Gotta try it soon. Thanks for the tip.

Sibuhduhman,

Wow. This is a revelatory! Do they cook Indonesian dishes? My Bahasa Indonesia is rusty, so I will only understand a quarter of what is said, but I'd still would like to see that. I wonder if it is on YouTube?

 
At 10:49 AM, Blogger SiBuduhMan said...

I don't think there's anything on Youtube yet, but here's a blog that shows that I'm not crazy:

http://dancingblueseal.blogspot.com/2006/12/ironchef-jakarta.html

 
At 10:51 AM, Blogger SiBuduhMan said...

Let me try that again:

http://tinyurl.com/2h632l

That should work.

 
At 10:59 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Sibuhduhman,

Two words: FREAKIN' AWESOME. Get a load of that hat the female Iron Chef is wearing. Wild. Man, I wish someone captured it and shares it on YouTube someday. But for now, this tickles me to no end. Thanks!

 
At 1:32 PM, Blogger Graziella said...

You should, you should then tell me about it....they close early but if you happen to have time on Saturday mornings, they have a stall at the Farmer's market at UCI....:)

 
At 3:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with "anonymous said". Layer Cake had a booth set up at the World Cultural event last year in Irvine and the people who were there, were unfriendly. I didn't even get a smile or even a "hi".

 
At 6:19 PM, Blogger digkv said...

Hey elmo,
I actually just went today and I actually found the people there to be very friendly so I'm not sure what everyone is talking about. Unfortunately, the macarons are not good at all- they taste more like meringues than macarons which was a huge disappointment- I guess I'm going back to Paris in a Cup. On a brighter note, the monkey bread, though dry was addictive and the thumbprint jam cookies were amazing. I'm certainly going to try this place again but not the red velvet either as I found the cream cheese frosting to be too cheesy- they needed to add butter.

 
At 1:03 PM, Blogger foodnalyst said...

your reviews are great! i'm from OC but am living in nyc for a bit and review cheap eats here. your blog gives great inspiration for trips home, tho!

 
At 1:28 PM, Anonymous Vinca said...

I stopped by this place yesterday evening and tried their almond croissant, chocolate cookie, raspberry & mocha macaroons. I also wanted to try the green tea white chocolate cake and pistaschio macaroon but unfortunately they were out. What I did try was decent, the almond croissant was filled with a creamy pudding-like thing, which was unexpected. It made the croissant moister, but a little soggy, and messier to eat. The chocolate cookie was good, but I was a little disappointed in the macaroons. Flavor was there, but I agree wtih digkv that the texture was more meringue than macaroon. Regarding service, I can understand the comments here. I had a chance to interact with 2 women. Both were helpful, but they weren't exactly chipper and neither gave me an enthusiastic greeting. One in particular had a rather sour look on her face, but hey, maybe that's just her natural expression. The other one seemed a little more cheery. All in all, the service didn't bother me too much. I'd probably go back just to give the green tea white chocolate cake a try.

 
At 9:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Desert is a luxury purchase. People buy it more because of psychological factor than of necessity. Either they are in a fancy mood or they are quite depressed that they need desert :). Either way it'd be nice to get the sweetness of the service as a companion to the sweetness of the desert. Your review is usually great, Elmo, and we are deeply grateful. However, could there be a possibility that your excitement to find an Indonesian's business skews your judgment just a notch?

 
At 11:40 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Graziella,

I'll have to try to catch them during lunch then. It's too hard to get up early enough to catch the Farmers Market at UCI, although I've always wanted to.

foodieanalyst,

Glad you found me! As an OC native you've got to get the word out that there are good eats to be found here. I get peeved when people say that we've got nothing but chains...

Anonymous, digkv, Vinca, and Anon2,

Oh well, I guess I don't have to try the macaroons now. It was actually the price that was holding me back. $1.25 can get me a whole banh mi!

But about the service:

At Le Croissant Dore (Vietnamese bakery in Little Saigon), one of my favorites (see my post), you'll be lucky if they even make eye contact, let alone a smile.

To me, it's a small price to pay. Their delectable fruit tart goes for $20 (tax included). The same pastry goes for $50 at Champagne French Bakery. They save their smile, I save $30!

In my experience, this brusque attitude seems to be the norm rather than the exception for Asian bakeries.

This is why I'm surprised to hear about your experiences with Layer Cake's service.

I consider them to be the one oddball; a bakery run by Asians who were actually nice to me.

During that visit (my first and only since this review), I was treated warmly (this was before she figured out I was also Indonesian -- a fact I revealed only after the transaction was finished).

As soon as we walked in the door, the girl (the sister who doesn't bake) greeted me with a smile, and proceeded to tell me about some of their specialties. I remember this because I actually had no intention of buying anything when I went in there. I came to browse (we were walking back from picking up something from the Susana's Tailoring -- GREAT tailor, by the way).

But because she seemed happy to see us and also very proud of their pastries, I felt obliged to buy some of their stuff.

However, Anon2 does make a well-reasoned and well-written argument. Could my judgment have been skewed since I knew they were Indonesian?

I'd like to think not, because I'm not particularly fond of Thai Kitchen (that's why I've never bothered to review them on the blog), and I've known for quite some time that it was Indonesian-owned.

This review was positive because I actually liked the pastries I bought.

I was debating whether I should've mentioned they were Indonesian at all. Their nationality is really moot when you think about it. But it proved too delicious an angle for me not to use, especially as a set up for the last line in my post.

 
At 1:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see that you have a review on Wholesome Choice. But, have you tried the bakery inside Wholesome Choice on Culver? For the same amount of "unfriendliness", I'd personally rather buy my pastries there. The quality is quite decent although not a first class gourmet, the price is reasonable, service is what I expect from a grocery store Nazi (although I'd swear that there are no worse grocery nazis than in Ranch 99 in Irvine). No great expectation, no weird feeling, and I go home happy with the sweets that make me fat.

BTW, there are probably more OC Indonesians reading your blog than you'd ever expected :).

If you really fond to practice your Bahasa Indonesia, you can always go to any Panda Express. It is not what we call gourment, but you get to practice your Bahasa. Tons of Indonesian people work there in Irvine area. In particular, go to the Culver or Barranca branches. There is also an Indo girl who works at Thai Spice on Jeffrey x Irvine Ctr Dr. If you need more, I can give you more? Realtor? Body Shop? Sushi? If you want the info, let me know how to contact you in private and I'll let you know.

 
At 10:58 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Anon,

Wholesome Choice's pastries are good. A bit pricey, though, if I remember correctly. The best is that sangak...mmm. Hot and crispy from the oven. The drive home with that thing in the car is agony. In truth, by the time I get into my garage, the exposed part of the bread is nothing but ragged tears. The more stoplights I hit on the way, the more I munch.

Anyway, I go to that Panda Express all the time! No idea that those peeps were Indos. I did know that that Thai Spice people were. Actually they pegged me as an Indonesian first.

 
At 1:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny thing is I that I found out today that one frustrated girl that works at Pasta Bravo at Culver and Barranca is also an Indo.

BTW, since you've been scouting the Lil Saigon area, it is probably worthwhile to check the French style bakery on Brookhurst. I think the name is Paris something, it is a couple stores away from Van's Bakery on Brookhurst, not far from Westminster.

Van's is also not a bad place if you happen to know and miss Indo's West Borneo's Teo Chew style cakes. Thanks again for the reviews!

 
At 11:11 AM, OpenID nikkipolani said...

I just visited Layer Cake Bakery yesterday - store was empty and the gal taking my order was friendly enough. I had the turkey cheese croissant (one of the few savory things they had for lunch) and enjoyed it very much. Also purchased a chocolate and a plain croissant - both quite good. The pistachio macarons were divine!

 
At 3:33 PM, Blogger the girl and the geese said...

Hi Elmo,
I had the chance of eating at Layer Cake once before your review, and once after (what can I say, I was inspired to go back). Both times i felt like the service was great, a bit pushy but always ready to make suggestions and tell you about the products. Also, both times one of the owners gave me one of those chocolate cookies for free (apparently one of her favorites). I really have no idea what people are talking about when they say bad service-also I really enjoyed everything i tried there! from hummingbird cake, red velvet cake, banana truffle cake (a must try), and that chocolate cookie! (no worries, i shared =)) I am definitely going back here a lot more, if not just for the banana truffle cake! thanks for the review =)

 
At 5:29 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Anon,

I know exactly what bakery you are talking about. It's called Pierre Boulangerie and Patisserie. I've been there, and I liked it. I think I haven't blogged it because I always forget my camera when I'm there.

nikkipolani,

That crossaint sounds awesome. That's actually my favorite breakfast pastry. If it's stuffed with turkey or ham, maybe cheese...okay, I'm so getting this.

The Girl and The Geese,

Why didn't I get my cookie for free!? HAHA. Oh well. It was still worth whatever I paid for it.

 
At 9:59 PM, Blogger Vegasbuff said...

Terima kasih. Penemuan bagus.

The cakes sound great. I'm not too fond of the Asian style cakes, there doesn't seem to be much flavor to them, while the American style are better in texture but most frosting are too cloyingly sweet.

 
At 5:41 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Vegasbuff,

You're right. It's the frosting that always kills American style cakes. Too dang sweet!

 
At 1:39 AM, Blogger Menu Taster said...

I ordered some dessert here a week or two after it first open after having lunch at Pho Bac.

The red velvet cake is pretty good, but the icing is a bit sweet. However, the peach center pastry was good.

The best cake is the Triple Layer Berry cake from Sweet Lady Janes on Melrose. Everything - cake, berries, and icing (light & fluffy) is perfect. Yum!

 

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