Pastry Chef Elizabeth Belkind and long-time TV producer Lisa J. Olin teamed on Cake Monkey Bakery in 2007. Olin and I spoke way back in January, but I kept waiting until they locked down a retail space to write about their bakery. Upon further review, it was asinine to wait, which brings us to this post.
Olin had an idea to create individual layer cakes, but needed a professional baker to help execute her vision. She placed an ad on Craigslist and Belkind responded. Olin was already familiar with Belkind, who had been pastry chef at Grace, where she launched Wednesday Doughnut Shoppe. Olin found the wholesale kitchen through Craigslist as well.
The concept centers on individual sized layer cakes and gourmet versions of childhood snack treats like Sno Balls and Pop Tarts. “People love comfort food and their favorite childhood snacks,” says Olin. “Whenever a restaurant puts their own version of a Hostess Cupcake on the menu, people flock to it.”
Cake Monkey currently operates out of a commercial kitchen in Burbank, with the ability to deliver nationwide, until their brick-and-mortar retail bakery debuts next summer. Toward that end, Olin said on Thursday, “We’re in negotiations on a brand new space on Fairfax between Melrose and Santa Monica. It’s currently under construction and will have luxury apartments upstairs, retail and restaurants downstairs and free underground parking!”
Locking down a commercial space has been a struggle. “It’s challenging in this town to find space that fits with zoning laws,” says Olin. “It’s finding a place that’s available that’s zoned to be a food establishment. [Existing tenants] have time left and want key money, $350,000 just to take the space. One place on Beverly Boulevard didn’t have parking. The city required me to have seventeen parking spaces…It feels like the city of LA need to do something. Big coffee chains, when they take a place, they put in an exclusivity clause. They wouldn’t allow anybody else to come in that serves coffee or baked goods.”
Cake Monkey bakes everything to order and require 48 hours advance notice. Mini layer cakes top out at $7.50, including Cake Monkey Carrot Cake - spiced carrot cake with layers of caramel cream cheese frosting, topped with spiced pistachios; Cake Monkey Crunch Cake - banana cake with layers of housemade toffee crunch and milk chocolate frosting; and Coconut Cake - brown butter cake with housemade caramel, toasted coconut and shredded coconut frosting.
There are also snack treats ($3.50 and down), up-market takes on childhood classics like Pop Pies (similar to Pop Tarts) filled with a choice of Brown Sugar Cinnamon, Housemade Blueberry Jam or Apple Crumble. Yo-Hos (similar to Yodels and Ho-hos) features chocolate cake rolled up with vanilla cream, coated with bittersweet chocolate. Li’l Merri’s (like whoopie pies) are oatmeal cookie sandwiches filled with maple vanilla buttercream. Cake Monkey Moguls (like Sno Balls) features vanilla cake with home- made caramel filling, marshmallow frosting and toasted coconut.
There are currently three stores in Los Angeles that carry Cake Monkey Bakery snack treats. Silverlake Wine carries Peanut Butter & Marshmallow Cakewiches, Black & White Cakewiches and Yo-Hos. Gelato Bar in Studio City carries Pop Pies, Yo-Hos and Peanut Butter/Marshmallow Cakewiches. Artisan Cheese Gallery, also in Studio City, carries Yo-Hos, and both Cakewich flavors.
Here are Cake Monkey’s special Thanksgiving desserts. Order by November 24 and pick-up by November 26 @ 8 PM. Delivery is also available if you’re lazy.
HONEY BRAISED PUMPKIN TART ($40) – heirloom pumpkin custard topped with toasted marshmallow in housemade Graham cracker crust
DEEP DISH APPLE PIE ($35) – apples, brown butter and Vermont cider jelly baked in flaky, buttery double crust
PECAN DACQUOISE CAKE ($7 individual, $68 for 9” round) – brown butter cake with caramel buttercream and pecan dacquoise
APPLE CRUMBLE CAKE ($7 individual, $68 for 9” round) – burnt sugar cake with roasted apple filling, burnt sugar buttercream, crumble top
POP PIES – CRANBERRY, APPLE CRUMBLE or BROWN SUGAR CINNAMON ($3.50 each)
If you’re indecisive, or just like variety, Cake Monkey will bake a box of mini layer cakes, including Apple Crumble, Pecan Dacquoise and Dark Chocolate Mint. Box of 9 – $69, Box of 12 – $89.
Belkind and Olin will release a December holiday menu as soon as Thanksgiving passes.