This Week in Cake

A new pastry chef at La Monarca and Caroline Kostiuk’s colorful pop-up in Chino

Good cake isn’t the easiest thing to find in L.A.–especially by the slice. That’s why we’re extremely excited by two pieces of cake news we recently uncovered. Here, have a bite:

Chef Maca Martinez comes to La Monarca

La Monarca has been on a tear in the past few years. From Huntington Park to Santa Monica, the boutique Mexican bakery founded by Ricardo Cervantes and Alfredo Livas now has six locations–the latest opened in Boyle Heights last December, and a Highland Park store is in the works for later this year. To complement the expansion, the local chain recently tapped chef Maca Martinez, the former culinary director for Loteria Grill Restaurant Group, to revamp its cake designs. There’s been no fiddling done with the recipes, which use all-natural ingredients and tend to be light and luscious, but the looks of La Monarca’s cakes, like their strawberry shortcake, dulce de leche, and vanilla layered with fresh fruit, have all been modernized and prettied up by Martinez.

“When you go to a party or an event, you’d like to take a really good cake, but you also want people to think, ‘Oh, that’s a pretty cake,'” Martinez says. “Ricardo has a great product, but it was missing something, and that little thing was their looks, so we worked together to find a way to make these cakes look their best.”

Martinez’s background in pastry made getting this job a real coup for the chef, who says she’s been wanting to get back into the sweets arena for a while. Together, she and Ricardo decided that each cake’s presentation should give customers a sense of what’s inside while maintaining its own distinct look. The use of fresh cream also complicated matters a bit, requiring that all decorating be done quickly to keep the cakes from melting.

“It took a lot of practice to do everything. Sometimes you have a very specific look in mind, but once you start working with it, you realized you don’t have enough time before it goes flat. It had to be pretty and fast,” she says. “I think people have appreciated the results.”

redarrowLa Monarca Bakery has various locations. Slices and whole cakes can be purchased daily. Advance orders are also accepted and encouraged.

Caroline Kostiuk will be serving rainbow cake at her pop-up this weekend.
Caroline Kostiuk will be serving rainbow cake at her pop-up this weekend.

Photograph by Caroline Kostiuk

Caroline Kostiuk hosts a cake pop-up at Dripp Coffee Bar

Last year, Los Angeles magazine introduced you to the Kostiuks, a family living “off the food grid” in Claremont–organic, backyard-smoked bacon and home-brewed beer included. Caroline Kostiuk, the matriarch who has become an Instagram sensation by posting gorgeous food photos (including those from the family’s “Sunday Baguette,” an weekly feast that usually includes husband Daniel’s homemade bread and an unbelievable spread of fruit, meats, and egg dishes), will be hosting her first Caroline Adobo Cakes pop-up at Dripp Coffee Bar in Chino Hills on Saturday and Sunday.

From what Kostiuk, a personal chef by trade, tells us, it seems there’s never been a better reason to drive to Chino. This weekend, the usual pastry offerings at Dripp will be replaced with Kostiuk’s creations, from traditional flavors like chocolate to the more adventurous rainbow cake, mango, and maybe even a tres leches. She even has a fudge-y option that uses ground hazelnuts in place of flour. All can be bought by the slice.

“I make cakes for my family and friends, and everyone is always asking why I don’t sell them, so I thought I’d try it,” says Kostiuk, who admits she’s a little nervous about making so many cakes in time but has been enlisting the help of her husband and three sons in the early preparations.

redarrow Caroline Adobo Cakes pop-up takes place March 28-29 at Dripp Coffee Bar, 13855 City Center Dr., #3015, Chino Hills, 909-628-6384